As 2020 election results continued to pour in early Thursday morning, students at the Claremont Colleges anxiously awaited the outcome of the close race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden.
Many Democrats expected a “blue wave” and a shot at taking back the U.S. Senate and retaining the House.
“And that just hasn’t happened,” Sasha Rothstein HM ’24 said. Democratic challengers in key Senate races have lost, and after the second night of counting ballots across the country, the future of the presidency looks no more clear.
As a first-time voter, Rothstein was excited to exercise her voting rights in a presidential election. But the recent state of uncertainty concerning election results left her feeling confused and frustrated.
“Is an America, where this election is so close, a country where I want to live?” Rothstein said.
Due to a substantial increase in mail-in voting this year, election returns have been significantly slower, causing stress for many voters watching from home.
The prolonged uncertainty, especially compared to a relatively decisive 2016 presidential election, has left Drey Diggs PO ’24 feeling anxious.
“For one thing, I’m used to knowing. In 2016, even though it took a little bit longer, by the morning, everyone was sure of what was going to happen,” Diggs said. “Now, it’s just been confusing and frustrating. Not just to not know, but to not know when we will know, has been really hard.”
Olin MacIntosh SC ’24 isn’t minding the wait, but is worried about what thin margins could mean for a final presidential call.
“The slowness of it is fine, but the process that might end up happening if Trump rules that he wants a recount or if mail-in ballots after election day don’t turn out to be valid, that is a bit anxiety-provoking,” MacIntosh said.
MacIntosh thought recent events, like a surge in COVID-19 cases, would have more heavily influenced the first two nights’ voting returns.
“I felt like I should just assume the worst but in the back of my mind, I kind of thought that Biden would win by a landslide, just because I expected this country was better than it is. And I assumed that, because it was a tight election in 2016 and everything that’s happened in the last four years, the only thing possible is his support would’ve declined,” MacIntosh said.
Like MacIntosh, Kayla Solomon SC ’23 said she wasn’t expecting the race to be as tight as it has been, but she remains hopeful.
“This election is incredibly stressful, and the fact that both candidates are so close makes this experience even more exacting than I thought it would be,” Solomon said via email. “However, I loved to see the student advocacy throughout the 5Cs with this election, all the events give me hope that our country will get through this election on our feet.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016 and how well Hillary Clinton was doing in the polls, and obviously how she did not win. And looking at [this year’s] polls, I was expecting at least a few percentage points in favor of Trump because that’s just how it’s tended to work out with him,” Diggs said.
Students reflect on potential Trump or Biden victory
Rothstein said a Trump win, in her mind, would carry severe implications that could directly impact the future of college students.
“It’s a loss, where hundreds of thousands of Americans could continue to die due to political ineptitude, where you face a massive economic crisis that would impact every college student today, their job prospects, my job prospects,” Rothstein said.
“If we get the results and there’s a loss, I think that would just utterly extinguish any hope I have for the future of this country.”
Conversely, Diggs argued that there would not be a significant difference if Biden were to win over Trump.
“If Biden wins … I still feel like a lot of things are going to stay the same for a lot of people, especially [with regards to] the issues which are really important right now, like Black Lives Matter,” Diggs said. “And those things look like they’re not going to change either way.”
MacIntosh agreed with this sentiment, noting that although a win for Biden would be beneficial in some aspects, it would not be a cure all.
“There’s a lot of work to be done if Biden wins. I think it’ll be great in terms of healthcare, police reform, LGBTQ protections and hopefully packing the court,” MacIntosh said. “One thing that scares me about Biden is people deciding that that’s done and we’ve fixed everything … I hope that Biden winning doesn’t stop people from continuing to fight the way they have the last few months.”
Schools provide resources to cope with election stress
To help students cope with the likely anxiety around election results, several of the 5Cs have implemented programs aimed at relieving stress.
Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services have provided 7C students with support sessions throughout the week to deal with election-based stress.
Pomona College offered several Zoom sessions to keep students and faculty engaged — from informational debriefings to line-dancing lessons. The politics department student liaisons created a Slack channel to keep the Pomona community up-to-date on the latest election news.
At Harvey Mudd College, the student-led Living Learning Community created an election Discord server, and some students reported having a reduced workload from professors.
Claremont McKenna College’s CARE Center hosted two Zoom sessions for students to debrief, one on election day and one the day after.
Pitzer College had a Wellness Wednesday hosted by Assistant Dean of Students & Case Manager for Election 2020 that was advertised via email to all Pitzer students. First-year president Lila Feldmann PZ ’24 also held Zoom office hours on election day to provide support for first-years.
Scripps College’s Laspa Center held office hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.