I was thrilled when I saw so many people taking time out of their day on Monday to participate in the Day of Action. Every lecture I went to overflowed with people; people covered all corners of the room and stood four deep in the doorway. Sometimes we even had to move to a larger room. And it wasn’t just students, but faculty, staff, and members of the community who joined as well. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people in Frist Campus Center — and that includes for late meal.
But as with the other actions after the election, this inspiring, heart-warming moment tends to be followed by a deep cynicism. Where were all these people before the election? And where will everyone be in November for the New Jersey gubernatorial race? Or for the 2018 midterm elections? Or 2020? Or 2048, for that matter?
On the one hand, I think I have the right to be cynical. As an intern this summer in Washington, D.C., I spent my weekends in Virginia volunteering for the Clinton campaign with my mother. I reached out to friends and family in the area, trying to drag them along with me, and I made sure they continued to volunteer regularly once I came back to Princeton. I spent the fall trying to organize students to volunteer in Pennsylvania, driving myself and whomever I could persuade to go with me on the weekends. I coordinated weekly phone banks on campus, but barely anyone showed up. The whole process was like pulling teeth. And, quite frankly, I know I still could have been doing more myself.
And I realize that the many reasons for the prior inaction are completely understandable. I recognize that plenty of the people currently engaged socially and politically were not fans of Clinton or the Democratic Party for one reason or another, so it just wasn’t a cause they wanted to fight for. I also realize that a lot of people just didn’t realize the urgency before the election. To many students, Trump seemed so out of the box that it was assumed he could not win; plus, the expert polling predictions ranging from a 70 percent likelihood of a Clinton win to 85 percent made people complacent. The fact that the race in Pennsylvania was tightening didn’t seem compelling enough, I guess. Part of me understands all of this, and so I can persuade myself that my cynicism is misplaced.
But then I remember. The truth is that we were facing a lot of problems even before this election. Deportations, drone strikes, police brutality, gun violence, rising economic inequality — the list goes on and on. Many of the issues people are now organizing around are not new; people have been organizing around these issues for years, even if most of us here in the Orange Bubble haven’t necessarily been.
I suppose there is an increased sense of urgency after the election. It’s understandable; what’s at stake flashed before everyone’s eyes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that way too. And this reminder is on the news every day. And of course I’m glad activists have been able to focus this energy into good, progressive work to help improve the community and the world. Hopefully this burst of energy will only continue to grow and the positive change is just beginning a never-ending journey upwards. And with a constant negative news cycle, with a rightly hyperbolic nonstop coverage, perhaps people will be regularly reminded of the need to speak out and act.
I just can’t help but wonder, though: How long will it actually last? And will it be enough?
Marni Morse is a politics major from Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.