When the impossible comes: UMass students respond to a seemingly inevitable Trump victory

By Stuart Foster

Erica Lowenkron/Collegian
(Erica Lowenkron/Collegian)

As Donald Trump neared an improbable victory in the Electoral College on Tuesday night, the mood in the Student Union was something less than joyous.

At the site of a viewing party for the election results, most people had cleared the Cape Cod Lounge venue. Outside in the building’s hub, Mokhtar Malas sat nervously eyeing the return results in swing states Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

“I was really surprised by the results. Especially because the polls were showing Clinton would win the Presidency,” Malas, a senior Biology major, said. “I feel betrayed.”

“I’m not pro-Hillary, but I think she’d do a better job,” he added.

Kevin Makhoul, another senior biology major, was sitting next to Malas on the couch. Makhoul described his biggest concern as Trump’s potential Supreme Court nomination, including threats to repeal nationwide gay marriage and abortion laws.

“That’ll take us back decades,” he said.

Malas, a Syrian-American, said that he has many friends who are Muslims outside of the United States, who wish to come to America for higher education. Malas said he was concerned that Trump is creating unnecessary hatred against both Arabs and, more specifically, Muslims.

“He’s taking the country farther away from where peace is,” he said.

Malas said that he was not personally scared about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the country as an American citizen.

But Makhoul was less convinced. Makhoul said that minorities throughout the United States would be scared about the direction of a country voting for Trump, in the same way Americans were convinced Barack Obama’s election had led to a post-racial America.

“Even if you’re a citizen, the sentiment is becoming more anti-Muslim,” he said.

Makhoul added that he wished Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic Presidential Primary, adding that he thought Sanders would have definitively beaten Trump in the general election.

“I think the Democratic Party has to take a lot of blame for how this turned out,” he said. “Many of the states that led to this election being so close have to be directed at them.”

Makhoul’s brother, Peter Makhoul, is a year younger than his older brother and studying the same field, biology. He was sitting a few feet away from his older brother, talking to UMass students Mira Mehdi and Hind Aljarrah about the outcome of the election.

Peter Makhoul was mostly surprised with the election results, and said he thought it would have been entirely wrapped up in Clinton’s favor by midnight.

“There are states going completely opposite to my expectations,” he said. “What’s more concerning is the Senate is going entirely red.”

He added that he was concerned with the possibility of a Trump presidency co-existing with Republican control in both houses of Congress.

Aljarrah said that the success of Trump was surprising to her, as she had not seen as much evidence for his success in her personal life.

“What’s crazy is you don’t really see it going around,” she said. “On social media you don’t see people voting for him.”

Mehdi, a sophomore studying communication, argued that Trump supporters were less common in this state than others.

“It shows you how different the U.S. really is,” she said. “[Massachusetts is] one of the most democratic states in the country, but if you go to Kansas or something it’s completely different.”

Peter Makhoul, who said he has a number of friends in other states, argued that Trump voters tended to not be vocal about their support for him.

Mehdi was shocked by the outcome of the election, and said she was 110 percent certain Clinton would be elected President.

“These next four years are so important,” she said. “Everything from foreign affairs to climate change, everything is so important.”

Mehdi also negatively compared Trump to previous American Presidents.

“Think about how scholarly old Presidents were,” she said. “Now we have Trump who just tweets shit at Hillary Clinton.”

“It’s so obvious how he’s talking and manipulating people,” she added.

Aljarrah, a junior studying public health and Middle Eastern Studies, criticized Trump’s support for things such as “clean coal,” which she said is a fictional idea.

But Aljarrah said she understood the appeal of Trump in some ways.

“When he says all these things, (lots of people) don’t want to say them out loud,” she said.

Aljarrah and Peter Makhoul both said that as Massachusetts residents they had no practical impact on the American election, because of the importance of swing states in the Electoral College.

“At the end of the day it’s a democracy,” Peter Makhoul said. “You can’t blame people for voting for the policies they find correct. You can just ask why they still want these outdated policies.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.