Their reactions come upon the remembrance of one of the most contentious election cycles in recent years. It has been approximately one year since Americans went to the polls on Nov. 8, 2016 in order to elect the 45th president of the U.S. What followed the next day, on Nov. 9, shocked millions.
1 year after the 2016 election
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, early polls had placed Democratic Party nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead in the race to the White House. Clinton was expected to win the 2016 election in a landslide victory. Few could have anticipated the massive voter turnout that occurred for GOP candidate, the now-President Donald Trump.
During the early morning hours of Nov. 9, it was projected that Trump had won, state by state, the highest political office in the U.S. Thus, began the first year of American citizens closely scrutinizing the new president’s courses of action. The State News sought out members of the Spartan community in order to get a sense of their reactions to one year of Trump in the Oval Office.
Jeremiah Grant, a public policy senior at MSU, says that he feels the president has acted how he initially thought he would.
“I feel like he’s done as I expected him to — horribly,” Grant said. “His character as a person has always been a person who doesn’t deliver their word. It only does people the worst, antagonizes people and builds things off hate.”
Grant, who in 2016 supported candidate Bernie Sanders and later Hillary Clinton, believes that Trump has not accepted his role as the leader of the free world. He talks of a common concern that surrounded the idea of a Trump presidency.
“I would say his biggest flaw is that he isn’t a politician, and we elected someone that isn’t a politician to the biggest political seat in the country and arguably the world,” Grant said. “I believe that he doesn’t take anything seriously based on his responses. He made jokes about Puerto Rico in their situation. He came down a celebrity and not as a president.”
Grant made also made reference to Trump’s response to crisis in Puerto Rico, where inhabitants of the island were struck by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The island, with a population of just under 3.5 million people, remains in a state of recovery following the disaster.
“When Puerto Rico is owned by the United States — they’re one of our territories, so the economy that Puerto Rico is in — like their economy is so horrible because of United States sanctions and even things that his administration have started doing aren’t affecting them, and he hasn’t helped them yet,” Grant said.
With the past year’s events laid out before him, Grant believes that race relations in the U.S. are the most important issue to be addressed by our elected officials.
“It’s so many issues going on right now that involve different race relations in the United States, that shouldn’t be going on in 2017,” he said.
He recalls NFL player protests throughout the 2017 football season, which was brought upon by the players seeking to address injustices against minorities in society. The acts of protest usually involved a player or multiple players taking a knee during the national anthem prior to football games.
These actions caused a widespread uproar among some football fans, and those who believed that such actions were unpatriotic called for the suspension of players who continued to protest. Trump took to Twitter to voice his thoughts and used obscenities when referring to the players who refused to stand, while stating that those who were “disrespecting the flag” needed to be fired by their respective NFL owners.
“I feel that it was very disrespectful and out of line,” Grant said. “He still refuses to address the issue behind it, which he does have his right to feel about the protests and about the timing because of the national anthem, but you can’t address one side of it and not address the problem that caused it.”
After everything he’s seen from Trump in the last 12 months, Grant spoke starkly on what he expects to come of the Trump administration. He believes an impeachment is on the horizon for Trump but is also concerned for the state of the country if that were to happen.
“I do believe that he has reached a point where impeachment is not far off. I fear his impeachment, and not because that I want him in office, but I just believe that his replacement, Mike Pence, would be just as bad. ... I think his impeachment is coming, however, just scared for the fate of the country after his impeachment.”
Eli Pales, a political science and journalism junior, said that even while Trump has made a few promises that many Americans could agree upon regardless of political party, he hasn’t capitalized on any of them since the election.
“So, looking at even the things we may have agreed with going in, stuff like ‘draining out the swamp,’ as he would say … you can give him terrible grades across the board,” Pales said. “He’s filled his cabinet with people from Wall Street, people that are billionaires. You have the wealthiest cabinet in history, so if you’re looking at even the promises — things that generally all Americans can get behind — we can see that it’s been an utter failure.”
In Pales’s opinion, promises that Trump made during the campaign have not been fulfilled, much to his relief.
“Moving beyond that, when you look at the legislative accomplishments or lack thereof of the Trump administration, fortunately for us, the Trump administration hasn’t really been able to enact a single large piece of legislation yet,” Pales said.
For Pales, one key issue that President Trump has undermined is income inequality amongst Americans. Pales referred to a recently-proposed Trump-backed tax bill for an example, saying what legislation has been put forth by his administration has not been adequate.
“On top of that, his new tax plan that just came out yesterday gives the vast majority of tax cuts to the top 1 percent," Pales said. "If you're looking at the legislation he's proposed, it's been very obscurely anti middle-class, but in that way also very negative. I would say that his presidency so far has been nothing short of war against the middle class and a failure on the whole.”
Pales serves as the press secretary for the MSU College Democrats, a student-based political organization on campus. He sees one year of having Trump in office as detrimental to the standards of governing laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
“What we’ve seen is a decimation of perceived rights for individuals,” Pales said. “We’ve had an increase in deportations, we’ve seen rhetoric that suggests that people don’t have basic constitutional rights, we’ve seen increasing attacks on the press, and this is all very concerning considering the Constitution is the document that holds the country together. So, even from that angle then, we see a degradation of rights and freedoms that America holds dear and valuable and as a cornerstone of our democracy.”
Pales stated that while he hopes to enter the political field because of his concerns for America’s foreign policy, the past year’s events have led him to focus more on socioeconomic issues at home.
“For me personally, I mean on the whole, we need to worry about our inequality that we have in this country, racially and class-wise,” Pales said.
Patrick Reichel, a freshman in the James Madison College, doesn’t feel that everything President Trump has done has been negative, but he also doesn’ believe that the president has had a stellar first year.
“I'm going to preface this with the fact that while personally, at the time, I wouldn't have voted for the man,” Reichel said. “I didn't believe what he was promising the country, and what he was saying would have turned out well in the long run, and so far I haven't seen any real change in things.”
When asked if he could say one positive thing about the president, Reichel searched for an answer.
“There aren't really any that jump to mind,” Reichel said. “Not to say that everything he does is negative, but I can't think of really anything that stands out that was oh like, 'That was a great idea, great job, well done.'”
In his description of how he feels Trump’s first year has gone, Reichel took time to refer to the president’s conspicuous presence on Twitter as one element that he believes negatively defined the last year.
“One of them is that, simply put, he needs to be able to stay on message and stay within what he's supposed to be talking about because the biggest thing that he does is he'll take to Twitter and say something that either contradicts what everyone else around him is saying, his press people, whatever, are saying, and it creates a huge amount of confusion,” Reichel said. “He needs to be better at staying on message and presenting one message.”
Trumps presence on social media also plays a role in one of the key issues that Reichel believes most important for government leaders to address.
“I dislike his stance on the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency,’ Reichel said. “I'm not fond of his stance on the EPA because I feel like, cliche as this may sound, we have a very finite environmental bounty in the world that we have here in the U.S., and if we don't protect it we're going to lose it quick, and then there's nothing we can do about it.”
He further explained why the president seems to be firmly set in his political, social and economic stances, and how the president’s personal opinions are not expected to change.
“I feel like he should take time to actually understand the issue a bit more, like climate change and that. I feel that's also somewhat unlikely, just because people don't usually go out of their way to challenge their own world view, which I think is part of the issue," he said.
One year ago, as the results of the election poured in, Reichel admitted that he felt what hundreds of thousands of Americans felt at the same time: a sense of shock that gripped the nation. Many feared that the man who had ran one of the most intense election campaigns in recent years would not embody the sense of democracy that comes upon election to the president. Reichel pointed to political disunity amongst Americans before, during and after the election, and he feels as though that played a factor in the 2016 election.
“I felt disappointed that the decision made by the country was Trump, because part of my biggest issue with him, and part of my issue with politics in general, is that he's very emblematic of that issue in that politics have become far too personal,” Reichel recalled. “People have become far too likely to throw insults or personally attack people who have a different political opinion than them, rather than try and talk it out, and I feel sort of like it was a blow against political civility when Trump was elected, so I was disappointed in that.”
For Hannah Byrd, a sophomore media and information major, the president has done some good things during his tenure in office. She referenced increasing job growth and a drop in the unemployment rate as two fields that he has helped to improve, but also believes that these are outweighed by a negative performance in other areas.
“To be honest, I’ve been disappointed,” Byrd said. “I feel like I was hoping that if at least if he was going to be president, then we would have an increase in business. I thought that our economy would grow somewhat, at the very least, and though I will say I have seen an improvement there, I feel like the pros definitely don’t outweigh the cons in regards to what he’s been doing in other fields of his position.”
The cons, she said, included Trump’s outspoken presence on social media, among other areas.
“Especially with like, military decisions and his outrageous comments that he posts on Twitter ... I just think that it’s ridiculous,” Byrd said. “I think that that makes me lose respect for him as the leader of our country and you know, I feel like he’s the face of our nation, and if you’re the face of our nation, then you need to represent it as such. I feel like he’s not been doing that very well.”
Though Byrd says that Trump’s influence on economy and job growth has been positive, she is concerned with the manner in which the president is representing the U.S.
“The other thing I would say is I’m very proud of my country … I consider myself a very patriotic person, so to like, see my country represented in a certain way sometimes makes me worry.”
Byrd noted Trump’s response when it came to crisis in the U.S., ending on a final note of advice for the commander in chief.
“I feel like as your president, as a president, you should be there for your people in times of crisis and not necessarily tearing them down," she said.
Trump will finish his term in January 2021, whereupon he will be faced with the option of either running for a second term or stepping down from the political field. Americans return to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 to determine if either Donald Trump will be re-elected as president or if a new contender will become the 46th person to take the consequential oath of office.