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Oles on the Election

Students from St. Olaf College in Northfield, in conjunction with the college's Institute for Freedom and Community, write about their perspective on the presidential race.

Why millennials dislike Trump

A CNN post popped up on my feed recently, stating that millennials are more conservative than we may think. As a member of the College Republicans, a very small group on campus, I was fairly shocked by the headline. But according to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, millennials are more likely to call themselves a conservative than either of the two generations before us were. So this lead me to ask what seemed to be the obvious question: If millennials are more likely to identify as conservatives, why do they seem to so passionately dislike Trump? Granted, I go to a small, private liberal arts school in Minnesota. My experience with campus politics is no doubt very different from others. Nevertheless, I speak from my experience on why I think our college culture breeds anti-Trump activists. 

1. The PC Way

College is all about political correctness. With PGPs and safe spaces abounding, students in college today are trained to be careful. From day one, every teacher includes a "Statement of Inclusion" on his or her syllabus. Students include their gender pronouns in the signature of their emails. Say you’re not a feminist and you immediately become a misogynist. The list goes on. It has been ingrained in the mind of every recent college student to use extreme caution when speaking, as to not offend someone.

Donald Trump is quite clearly the opposite of this. His unfiltered railing and ranting is like nails on a chalkboard to our college-trained ears. When he says he wants to "deport illegal immigrants," college students hear racism. His sexist comments from the 90’s are enough to sway a young person's vote. And when he talks about corporate and individual tax cuts, we can’t help but start to chant "we are the 99 percent.” College students are taught to be extremely cautious about what they speak and write. Trump, with his unfiltered banter, is just too far from what we think is right.

2. We Are All Social Justice Warriors

Everyone must have a cause. College students are expected to campaign for and adamantly help and protect those we decide to be “disadvantaged.” And to show how charitable and selfless we are, we slap a sticker on our laptop or pin a button to our backpack. But even these small, small gestures of recognition of a cause instantly boost our egos. We tell others we’re involved with charities because we’re changing lives, but we all secretly know it’s just because it will look good on our grad school application. Nevertheless, we still see ourselves as social justice warriors; heroes to the disadvantaged everywhere. 

Trump, with his focus on American values and the American economy, is a disgrace to our socially aware selves. Our laptop stickers cringe when we hear “lower taxes” and the buttons on our backpacks try to escape at the sound of anything vaguely capitalistic. Because anything that benefits America, we have been taught, causes terror and hardship for the rest of the world.

3. Patriotism is Frowned Upon

"Make America Great Again" is irrelevant to college students because we can't believe that America has been or ever will be anything but selfish and greedy. I'm reading a book for class right now on how capitalism is causing climate change. Last year, we discussed how the Constitution set us up for failure. I've even heard students chastise one another for claiming that America is the greatest country in the world. Because what's focused on in the college classroom is not the insanely cool experiment that is America, but the horrific greed of the western world. Claiming America is superior to any other country will immediately mark you as naive, and probably a racist, too. 

I say all this tongue-in-cheek, of course. I love my school to death. But there is no doubt that my classes and professors consistently push a liberal agenda in their teaching. So even if students do think they align more with conservative values, they would never be able to vote for Trump. He’s the butt of teacher’s jokes and the epitome of everything we’ve been taught is wrong with the world. But we’ll see, come November. Maybe there are more Trumpers in hiding than I think.

Kathryn Hinderaker is a sophomore at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is a Political Science major with concentrations in Management and Media Studies. She is originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Coming to Terms With Our Nation's Divide

It has been a tough week coming to terms with Tuesday's election results.  While there has been no shortage of outrageous and terrifying current events in my lifetime, none has been so personally devastating as this.  Mass shootings and police brutality and terrorist attacks all represent the violence of a few, or a different group.  The election of a man that has preached divide, resentment, and intolerance struck me harder not because Trump would be President, but because it meant that almost 50% of American voters thought this was a better course for our country than we are on.  It is easy for me to distance myself from individuals with malicious intent, but far more difficult to come to terms with such deep-seeded mistrust from so many of our own people.  I felt like I had been betrayed - that every progressive success and bit of social equality achieved in the past eight years had been overwritten in one night.

While I am surrounded by a generally left-leaning population, I did not consider myself oblivious to the general feelings of the nation.  I had taken every legislation passed by the Obama administration as proof that our country was becoming more tolerant, more progressive, more unified on controversial issues.  In my mind, the people were leading this movement and the government was simply following along, writing it into law.  The results on Tuesday showed me otherwise.  They show a deep divide in the country, that many people would rather see a return to the past than pressing onward.  This was certainly a wake-up call for traditional politics.  Trump was able to win because he appealed strongly to a crowd who felt their voices were not heard and they turned out in droves to ensure that his was the vision of America that would drive the next four years.

I read an article that referred to Trump as rural America's brick through the window of our elites and city-dwellers.  There is a feeling that our government targets only cities for growth and small towns feel neglected.  In recent years there has been an even greater trend toward urbanization as factory jobs are outsourced, innovation and economies of scale drive out the small-time farmer, and low-price superstores like Walmart replace local business.  Many towns have seen this type of decline and see the promise of jobs as their number one priority.  Without jobs, their communities will not hold together.  Trump appealed to these people in a way that Clinton, with her focus on the environment, social justice, and equality, could not.

For many Trump supporters, his promise to Make America Great Again struck a chord with their wish to reinvigorate their own communities and hark back to a time when unskilled labor was valued.  This feeling, not Trump's words of hate, was what appealed to the country on a large scale. What drew out voters en masse to elect a man with no clear experience was specifically that: he was outside of the political system that they saw as ignoring their needs, or even silencing them by dismissing their opinions as invalid.  I personally have been guilty this election of believing that any Trump voter must be as bigoted as their candidate appears to be.  While I disagree with their choice, this election, they made their voice heard loud and clear.

I am terrified that Trump will follow through on many of his claims, separating families of immigrants, taking away healthcare from those who are unable to afford it, and further alienating Muslims, refugees, and the LGBT community among the many "others" he laid out in his campaign.  It is crucial that concerned citizens work in every way we can to ensure that these groups are taken care of. President Obama and Secretary Clinton stressed that we must stand behind President-Elect Trump and recognize the legitimacy of the election's results.  The people have spoken, and this election more than any in recent history has revealed a huge divide.  As Hillary's supporters fought to ensure that the voices and needs of less powerful groups were heard, they must now recognize that this issue extends to Trump's supporters as well.

Certainly there is time for grieving this week, and by no means am I attempting to legitimize any wrongdoing on Trump's part in this race or as our future leader; any speech or policy that is hateful should be criticized and fought. However, the key as we seek to move forward as a nation is to recognize that all people need to be heard.  Including all voices in the democratic process by understanding every group's unmet needs can help prevent such drastic resentment and division, and help start the healing that our country so greatly needs.