What’s Next?

Cartoon by Luke Benicase.

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer

After a trying election cycle for voters on both sides of the aisle, businessman Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday. Roll up your sleeves, America, because there’s serious work to be done if we want to preserve the social progress we’ve made over the past century. 

While Trump has drawn such divisiveness in his campaign rhetoric, we at The New Paltz Oracle urge the American people to continue the fight for the progress that so many before us have made sacrifices for. While we must be confident in checks and balances to some degree, we cannot afford for groundbreaking legislation and policies to be overturned that negatively impact the lives of religious and racial minorities, women, survivors of sexual abuse and the LGBTQIA+ community. Trump needs guidance, and we need to voice our values and concerns with pride and conviction. 

This all starts with our political involvement as young adults. From our town board to our state senators, every level of government can make an impact in the lives of others. The potential financial and social impact of the decisions made by local, state and Congressional representatives is tremendous. Yet there was the impression that most Millennials didn’t know who they were voting for on the ballot aside from the presidential candidate of their choice. Some did not know who the 19th Congressional winner, John Faso, was, or some thought Zephyr Teachout was the name of a publishing company. Millennials, as well as every other generation of voter, should have spent the time researching down ballot candidates and referendums. 

That argument is exclusive to New York state alone. Massachusetts had a measure that passed to legalize recreational marijuana, as did California and Nevada; all successful efforts bolstered by a significant amount of Millennials turning out to vote. By contrast, educational referendums, like the failed legislative efforts in Massachusetts concerning charter schools, did not get nearly as much traction or attention and it certainly showed. An attitude like that toward voting is both dangerous and inexcusable. Voters should be responsible for being as educated on the issues as they can be.   

This election also proved that Millennials, (ages 18-29), vote alike. As was the case of the Brexit election in June, where young Britons predominantly voted to stay, (75 percent), rather than leave, (25 percent), the European Union, Millennials overwhelmingly voted for Clinton, (55 percent), over Trump, (37 percent). However, Millennials simply do not participate at the same rate, (19 percent), as older generations of voters (69 percent in 2012), which undermines the causes they support.  

We agree with Hillary Clinton’s assessment in her concession speech: we owe Trump the chance to lead. Trump is no longer spewing outlandish ideas for the sake of getting elected as the oval office will soon be his. Come Jan. 20, his Inauguration Day, we hope that he will show the American people that he is dedicated to the promise he declared during his victory speech early Wednesday morning. 

“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me,” Trump said to a crowd of his supporters in New York after the win. “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

We at The Oracle are not scared of Trump. Instead, we fear the vehement hatred and blatant bigotry he and his tactics have elicited from the American people. As this election has unfolded, our country has stood witness to a disregard for the safety, well-being and quality of life of the general American public, both on a national and a local level. These are not matters to be taken lightly, nor are they actions that we as members of this great nation should condone or tolerate.

Our diversity is what makes this nation already the greatest country in the world, and we must show our unfaltering support and love toward our fellow American citizens that feel paralyzed with fear over the reality of a Trump presidency. We are Americans, and we still hold and possess the rights afforded to us as citizens as valued and valid. Continue to participate in activism for causes you believe in.

As Trump noted in his speech to his supporters, now is the time for America to bind the wounds of division. He needs to show effort and determination to unite the entire nation, so that no matter who you may be, you will feel nothing less than safe and secure in the land you call home. It will take a lot of followed-through promises to even gain an ounce of the trust of his non-supporters. Many, many bridges have been burned and it will take an eternity to truly have them built up again.