By David Jordan
It was a night of surprises.
At the election watch party at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, the overwhelming favorite was Hillary Clinton, and students formed a long line to pose with a cardboard cut-out of the Democratic nominee.
Early in the evening when the main dining hall was standing room only, as every state announced in Clinton’s favor, thunderous applause erupted from the crowd. Many were optimistic that Clinton would be named as the president-elect before midnight, hoping they would still have a chance to study for midterms.
Curren Mehta, a junior studying business, was the only supporter in the room of about 250 people wearing clothing in support of Donald Trump, the now iconic “Make American Great Again” baseball hat. He was reluctant to support Trump after the primary, but ultimately could not vote for Clinton because of his distaste for her economic policy. “I read a lot about both of their tax plans, and Clinton’s just couldn’t work,” said Mehta.
This year he was the only member of his family, who voted for the Republican nominee even though his father is the one who influenced his fiscal conservative ideals. During the event, his younger sister, also a University of Chicago student, came over and chastised him for wearing Trump clothing to the event.
video by Wen-Yee Lee and Kelly Calagna
Josh Parks, a member of the university’s College Republicans, said a lot of his conservative friends opted to stay home, expecting the results would not turn out in their favor.
“They said they did not want to come and get mocked,” added Parks.
The room was still exulting in Clinton’s prospects.
But the mood dramatically shifted after CNN projected that Donald Trump would win the state of Florida and its 29 electoral votes.
“I was definitely pessimistic, but this is shocking,” said Mehta.
For the largely Democratic crowd, optimism gave way to anger and frustration as Clinton’s path to the White House narrowed and faded.
Sophomore Anya Marchenko was frustrated that anybody at her school could have voted for Trump.
Although she respects differing ideologies, she sees Trump’s rhetoric as far too racist and misogynist for any person seeking the presidency in 2016. “I think people are legitimately questioning people who voted for Trump, and where their moral compass is pointing,” said Marchenko.
Sophomore Emily Moos was in nearly in tears as she saw Trump make significant gains in the electoral college. She had previously interned at the Democratic National Committee, and even though she initially supported Bernie Sanders during the primary, she had grown to be excited about the prospect of a Clinton presidency.
Friends were coming over to her table to console one another, joking that they were unsure whether they should start drinking or take an Ambien to help them sleep. “I really just don’t know at this point. It would go against all of my values,” Moos said about the prospect of a Trump presidency.
On a group text with her family, relatives were contemplating where they will move when Trump is inaugurated. “They’re saying Canada, the UK, Australia,” joked Moos. But through her exhaustion, she added, “I am not going to leave, I am going to stay here and fight.”
The event was only able to book the space through midnight that evening, well before the announcement that Wisconsin would put Trump over the 269 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency.
But even as the hall began to clear, students knew that Trump was going to win. “It’s obvious, but I’m so upset,” said Moos.
As the decorations were being taken down, a young woman grabbed the cardboard cut-out of Clinton for herself. “I just don’t know what is next,” she yelled to a friend as she folded the image of the candidate into thirds and braced herself for the walk home.