I told you so. Those four words have been trapped in my mind ever since the news sources, one by one, declared Donald Trump the President-elect. I let out an exasperated sigh, disappointed in my fellow liberal brothers and sisters. I was disappointed when you wouldn’t listen to me before, and I’m disappointed that so many of you refuse to listen even now.
I didn’t say that Donald Trump would be elected President. I didn’t say that the electoral college would yet again contradict the direct popular vote, as it last did in 2000. I didn’t say we would fail to regain the House of Representatives and the Senate. I didn’t say any of that.
However, I warned my friends and peers not to underestimate the power, influence, and significance of the Trump campaign. I warned them to be so confident that Hillary Clinton would be able to secure the Presidency. I told them not to mindlessly label Hillary the “only logical candidate.” I urged them to understand that their reasons for voting against Trump were not universally held by many of our fellow Americans. I told them that this great country was angry. Not just you, but everyone. I tried to convey that while there are numerous problems with our country, each person prioritizes those problems differently. I implored them to try to understand the feelings, struggles, and fears of all voters. Others are hurting too.
We are not the only ones hurting in America, and our refusal to acknowledge others’ problems only furthers the steep polarization that has plagued the United States. The part of the population that voted for Trump was never any more comfortable with the current state of America than we were.
The reason we have democratic elections is to let all voices be heard, and this is exactly what this year's election did. The 2016 presidential election does not symbolize the rigging of our electoral system. It does not symbolize the beginning of the end of America. It does not symbolize that all hope is lost. No, this election consisted of a massive group of voters, who had been largely silent in the past, speaking up for what they believed needed to be fixed in a country that had worked against them for the last decade. And against all odds, their pleas shone through. Finally, the silenced portion of America had their voices heard.
Yet, in the aftermath of the election, we still refuse to accept the problems and challenges facing an astounding number of fellow Americans. The fear of refugees from terror-ridden lands coming into the country, the issues created by Obamacare, the government’s support of social programs that directly contradict strongly held religious views. These issues, and more, have not been accepted as legitimate problems. Protests have erupted throughout the country, and hashtags claiming “He’s not my president” have soared in popularity.
Let me make this quite clear. Our protests are only furthering the problem. We are creating violent, polarized communities. We are causing Trump supporters to feel unwelcome, just as Trump and his campaign have caused minority communities to feel unwelcome. If we think that we are causing a positive impact by protesting, we are gravely mistaken. People already know that we are angry. People already know how we feel about Donald Trump. All of this is quite clear. Our protests won’t make Trump supporters change their ideals. Our protests will not make Trump take a step back and consider the backlash he would get from his future policies any more than he would without these protests. He has been elected president, and our protesting will only lead to the hindrance of any form of cooperation and progress there could be in the future. He is our president, whether we want him to be or not. We can claim that he isn’t our president for the next four years, or we can accept the outcome of the election and work on ways to create progress and foster unity between our American brothers and sisters.
The election was a slap in the face, but clearly a much needed one. America has spoken, and I can only hope we’ll listen.
I’m sorry that Hillary Clinton lost the election. But there’s no time to mope around. There’s no time to protest. There’s no time to wish it were otherwise. Wake up, dry your tears, and stand up. Let’s get going, America. We’ve got a lot to do.
Haneul Ryoo is a freshman from Minnetonka, Minn. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.