One GW College Republican says Trump victory a chance "to see what kind of party we want to be."
By Kristen Mitchell
For months most polls had shown Republican nominee for president Donald Trump trailing his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the polls, but students gathered for a GW College Republicans election night watch party were hopeful as results started to pour in.
After a hard fought campaign Mr. Trump was leading the Electoral College early on and contested Senate races were tilting in the party’s favor. Students checked their phones for updates on social media and took pictures with photo booth props featuring Mr. Trump’s hair while they waited for updates on the Fox News broadcast projected on a large screen. Cardboard cutouts of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were staged around the venue.
Cheers erupted throughout the City View Room at the Elliott School of International Affairs when North Carolina went for Mr. Trump, and students chatted excitedly as the returns in Florida and Ohio become increasingly favorable.
Hours after the GW College Republicans party ended Mr. Trump announced his victory to the nation after a concession call from Ms. Clinton.
Freshman Nicole Finkel said as a conservative, she often feels she is in the minority at GW. Early on in the primary she favored candidates with strict conservative values like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and liked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. As the country started to move toward Mr. Trump, so did she.
“Our country needed a change from the typical politician, and that’s exactly what he was,” she said.
Watching the results come in Tuesday evening, Ms. Finkel said she started to get excited about what she was seeing. She stayed up to watch the race officially go to Mr. Trump.
“I knew it was an achievement for our party, and I was proud of the decisions that we as Americans made that brought us to this monumental moment,” she said. “It was definitely a historical moment.”
Ms. Finkel is excited to see what the future holds, and if Mr. Trump’s vision of increased border security, stricter immigration policies and stronger ties with global allies come to fruition.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store, and if he lives up to all this promises,” she said. “Of course I’m already planning to go to the inauguration, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Mr. Trump has been a polarizing political figure in an untraditional election cycle. The GW College Republicans declined to either endorse or denounce the candidate, said executive director Jake Barnette, a junior in political science. He personally didn’t support the candidate and focused his attention on the Senate race in his home state of Maryland.
“We needed to allow people who feel Donald Trump is the true Republican in this election to have space here,” he said.
When he cast his ballot, Mr. Barnette wrote in the name of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. He said moving forward, the Republican Party and the country need to evaluate the kind of person they want to be president.
“I want to see us redefine our platform and what kind of party we want to be,” he said.
The party also needs to reevaluate how they engage millennial voters, Mr. Barnette said. During the Republican primaries, Mr. Barnette favored former governors running for the office, but he didn’t feel that any of them embodied his views.
Liam Gorman, a sophomore majoring in political science and economics, supported Mr. Trump. He viewed immigration and border security as the most important issue in the country. He was drawn to the candidate because of his position on policy issues.
Mr. Gorman said he doesn’t respect the “never Trump” movement that arose in the Republican Party this year when party loyalists like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney said they would not vote for Mr. Trump. He hopes the country can move forward, united under the president-elect.
“Your politics don’t create your personality,” he said. “People need to build personal relationships instead of arguing on social media.”
After the results came in, Mr. Gorman said he was surprised by Mr. Trump’s margin of victory in the Electoral College. It’s fascinating to see that his message resonated so well with voters in typically Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he said.
“I wonder if he will follow through on the stuff he said. I think it’s going to be an unpredictable presidency,” Mr. Gorman said. “I hope he will follow through on certain aspects of his platform.”
Supporter of Mr. Trump freshman Tom Crean said before anyone had announced their candidacy he predicted the eventual nominee would be Sen. Rubio, but said Mr. Trump “has brought some of the issues I care about to the forefront.”
Mr. Trump was underestimated, he said. A large, silent group of people would vote for Mr. Trump on Election Day, Mr. Crean said, but wouldn’t voice their opinion fearing backlash for supporting the polarizing candidate. As the dust settles on a tense election, people need to turn their attention on governing, he said.
“We need to look at the future and focus on the things we can all agree on,” he said. “We need to focus on getting those things done.”
There’s also a message for the next generation of political leaders, many of whom may have voted for the first time in this election.
Putting aside candidate preference, in regard to the overall tenor of the campaign, the lack of substantive policy discussions and the media frenzy, Danny Hayes, associate professor of political science, said:
“There aren’t many people who are going to come out of the 2016 election feeling good about American politics. And that's understandable. I guess my hope would be that it’s our students and students of their generation who can help turn that around.”