Campus Experiences Mixed Emotions in Wake of Midterm Elections

A huge win for Democrats. A sign of support for Trump. Headline after headline, hot take after hot take, the outcome of this year’s midterm election is slowly coming into focus. Democrats took the House of Representatives, but lost several seats in the Senate. A number of key governorships flipped from red to blue, but a few high-profile elections resulted in a Republican win—and some are still too close to call. What does all of this mean? About a hundred different things, depending on who you talk to. The Argus decided to talk to Wesleyan students to see how the midterms have affected them, and to get their opinions on everything from DC statehood to standing in Fayerweather waiting to vote.

Payton Millet ’21 lives in California, but decided to register in Connecticut after speaking to a campaign representative in Middletown.

“I was approached by a canvasser from outside of Wes who was working for the campaign of Middletown’s representative in late September,” Millet said. “He brought up the idea of changing my registration to Connecticut because it was a purple county and my blue vote doesn’t count for much in California, and he kinda seemed like he wasn’t gonna take no for an answer… So I did it, and it took like three minutes. Next thing you know, I’m crossing my fingers at Fayerweather, hoping the registration went through. And it did, so I voted…It was a remarkably painless process.”

That painlessness was not an experience that everyone shared.

“It felt good to vote for the first time, because I was doing my civic duty,” said Nick Wallick ’22. “Just being in the town hall and submitting my ballot made me feel like I did my part. I stood in line for about two hours, because they had problems with the registration of Wesleyan students. I was the second to last person to vote.”

The long wait times Wallick mentions were not limited to Middletown— in an election with some of the highest voter turnout in decades (around 48 percent, according to The United States Election Project), many polling places around the country were completely overwhelmed by citizens lining up to vote. That’s not to mention the districts with broken machines and problems with ballots, which reportedly caused hours-long wait times in some of the most densely populated towns and cities. Many opted to avoid this issue entirely by voting absentee in their home state. Caroline Salim ’21, a Maryland native, explained what the process of voting for the first time was like, living so far from home.

“This is the first time I voted, and it’s hard to stay connected to my state when I’m not living in it,” Salim told The Argus. “I was just getting blurbs from my local news app.”

Camilla Lopez ’19 also voted absentee, and described keeping up with campaign updates from her home state of Texas throughout the past few months.

“The Senate race between Beto and Cruz seemed to ignite a lot of Texans, especially young people, Latinos, and Democrats,” she said. “When Beto was first running he seemed like such an underdog but in the past month Texas Democrats really had some hope. I was refreshing different websites with the live results all of Tuesday night but after a few hours when Cruz began to lead I began to lose hope. It was disheartening to see Texas continue to be red, especially with such a conservative right wing Republican, but on the bright side I do think there is some hope in Texas and Beto in the future.”

This mixture of disappointment and positivity was echoed by a number of other students as well.

“I think the results are upsetting but unsurprising—I’m glad the Democrats won the House (obviously), but wished that they had done better in local and Senate elections…” wrote Elias Benda in a message to The Argus. “[In Connecticut] I’m glad that the Dems took a clear majority of the State Senate and the Governorship but am scared that the margin for that was so thin.”

For many students, including Benda, this election meant more than just the number of seats that were flipped.

“As someone who was born and raised in DC, I really care about the politics there,” Benda wrote. “But the lack of national representation makes me vote in Connecticut. At a time when voting rights are so pertinent of an issue, I find it really offensive that nobody talks about the 680,000 people in DC who don’t have any say as well as like the four million other American citizens who live in [U.S. territories] and have no voice in either the House or the Senate…I care about [Connecticut] because that’s all that I have.”

Students at the University also shared what this election meant to them personally, especially what the midterms might have meant as a rebuke to the way identity politics have changed under the Trump administration.

“All of my friends back home also seem to be upset with the results, but continue to have some hope with the two newly elected Latina congresswomen from Texas and progressives around the country,” Lopez said, speaking more personally about what the Texas results meant to her. “My parents are progressive Latinos and were also upset with the results. However, after the 2016 election and rise of the right wing my parents lost a lot of hope in the state and country. They voted but didn’t think Beto had a real chance after witnessing the hatred and bigotry in Texas. Conservative values are still ingrained in a lot of Texans, many white Texans but also a significant amount of Latinos, as seen with the voter demographics.”

Other students talked about the way the election, despite not being the sweeping wave of progressive values that some may have expected, still meant a lot when it came to moving the country forward.

“All the results weren’t that shocking,” Salim told the Argus, speaking about both her own home state of Maryland and the outcome of the election nationally. “I’m very pleased with the House, but I didn’t think we could take the Senate. But I’m also happy with the amount of POC and women who took their seats, which is very inspiring and really, really cool.”

With mixed results, it would be easy for students at the University to fall into pessimism. But most seem to have come out of the midterms with at least some hope for the future.

“Baby steps,” Salim said, smiling. “Baby steps.”

 

Spencer Arnold can be reached at sjarnold@wesleyan.edu.

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