I agree, but as long as media outlets are determined to make this about teachers and students, I see two narratives missing. First, somewhere in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania, is a high school in which students are ecstatic over a Trump win. Where they’re saying “Wow, I had lost all hope! The media was so sure he was going to lose!” and consoling the despondent Hillary-voting teacher, “Don’t worry. Trump’s going to be great! This is how my uncle felt when Obama won.”
Also missing are any examples of GOP-voting teachers talking to students about the election, particularly that unicorn Trump-supporting teacher living in a blue state.
Hey. I can help there. (Note: this this piece gives some additional context to some conversations below.)
Wednesday morning I came into work with maybe two hours sleep and some mild trepidation layered over the euphoria. It’s one thing to be a cheerful loser while students view you as a curiosity, secretly somewhat impressed that their teacher is a defiant non-comformist. Quite another to be the only Trump voter in the school after Hillary’s catastrophic, wholly unexpected loss.
My ELL class, immigrants all, was buzzing at the results. Charlotte was upset. “Hillary wanted to make life better for us.”
“But so does Trump.”
“No,” Charlotte sighed.
“Yes. Donald Trump wants to make life better for all Americans, just like Hillary does. ”
“But Hillary wanted to make it so more people could come in to America.”
“Not everyone wants that,” said Julian. “I think many Americans don’t want that.”
We watched Hillary’s concession speech. CNN reprinted lines on the screen, and I pointed them out, repeating key words.
“Why ‘not lose heart’?” asked Marshall, confused.
“Heart. Passion. Ganas?”
“She is telling her supporters to not give up. To keep in their hearts their ideas, to continue to working for their beliefs. That’s what you all should do. That’s what America offers, right?”
I was walking from my ELL classroom to my regular class when I ran into Chuy, whose support had remained steadfast despite his activist girlfriend.
“I TOLD YOU!”
Chuy had, in fact, told me Tuesday morning he was sure Trump would win. I had smiled, told him I hoped he was right, secretly thinking I’d be pleased if he kept it close. “I doubted. You called it.” We bumped fists. “I’ll stop by later,” he promised.
In my brief advisory class, Sasha the drama queen, who the gods have granted me as a student three times, flounced in with a pout.
“I can’t BELIEVE you voted for Trump!” she announced.
“Hey, I’m a Republican. It’s kind of what we do—you know, vote for Republicans.”
“But Trump is EVIL!”
“You were fine with me voting for him yesterday, when you thought he’d lose.”
I suddenly noticed another student, Marjorie, who just saw me in this once-a-week class, realize the import of our conversation–realize that I’d voted for Trump. What I remember most is the purity of her shock. Maybe later she’d be disgusted or angry, but for now the dominant factor in her reaction was that never once had Marjorie considered, for a single moment, that she might know a otherwise totally normal person–a teacher, no less–who voted for the orange demon.
Devon said, “Remember the first advisory day? You told us that Trump would probably lose, but that it was weird how close it was.”
“Yeah, I told my dad you said that,” said Jesus. “My dad said Hillary was a bad candidate.”
“I don’t think candidate quality matters these days,” I said. ” We only get two choices. Hillary couldn’t openly appeal to Trump voters without risking the loss of media approval. At the same time, she couldn’t do more to appeal to win enthusiasm for young voters by making promises that would lead to criticism.”
“Yeah, but Trump didn’t care about making everyone happy. I guess that’s the difference.”
I laughed, genuinely surprised. “Yes. That’s right. He didn’t care. OK, you’re right. She was a terrible candidate.”
I ran into Abdul in between second and third block.
“Hey! You still American?”
“God, don’t depress me! But at least I’m a citizen. We’ve been ragging on Omar, nyah, nyah, Trump’s going to deport you!”
You know how they say smiles fade? Mine was wiped clean. “Hey. That’s not even funny. Is Omar worried about that?”
“Well, you know what Trump says about Syrian refugees.”
“Yes, but that’s about reducing future refugees. Omar’s here now. Look, is he worried? Is his family worried?”
“Naw, we’re just giving him sh**. They won’t kick anyone out, right? If they’re legal?”
“Right. Tell Omar to stop by, ok?”
All those stories about students teasing immigrants–did anyone ask if in some instances, the kids teasing were also immigrants, razzing their friends goodnaturedly? Oh, don’t be silly, Ed. The media wouldn’t distort a story like that. (Omar did stop by, to ask me if I’d write him a letter of recommendation and edit his application essay about the pressures his parents were forced to put on him and how he’d developed a tremendous facility for languages. He seemed fine.)
Many snickers in my algebra 2 class as I explained how to test regions for systems of inequalities , which took me a while to figure out.
“…so you test. Is (0,0) on the true side of the border or the false side?”
“Ask Trump,” Eddie snarked.
“Yeah, ask Trump whether I’m born on the right side of the border,” said Elian, more seriously.
“I’m sorry if you’re worried, Elian. And to anyone else worried. But I think things will turn out well. Now, let’s focus.”
“I can’t focus. Trump’s gonna kick me out of the country.”
“You don’t focus, Eddie, I’m gonna kick you out of the classroom.”
“See, already you’re marginalizing me!” Eddie does deadpan hysteria very well.
“It’s true. I’m marginalizing Eddie’s fears that he’s faking because he’s a citizen. SAD! ” Eddie grinned.
After I’d released them to work, Mark ambled up. “So what do you think Trump will do?”
“I hope he appoints a good judge, and rolls back some of the executive orders. Past that, I don’t know.”
Peter came up to me quietly. “You voted for Trump, right?”
“I think the anti-Trump demonstrations are….idiotic. Totally insane.” I nodded.
“Oh, hell yeah,” said Mark. ” I didn’t want him to win either, but it can’t be that bad. Those people are crazy, wasting time, whiners.”
In pre-calc, class began with an announcement reminding students that a walkout would result in a zero grade.
“Total waste of time,” Antonio said.
“It’s so depressing,” sighed Janelle. “We could have had a female president!”
“Not for me,” said Teng. “I won $500 betting on Trump!”
I commiserated. “I only ever voted for one other president who won.”
“No. Hillary’s husband.” Pause as they absorbed this.
“And cheer up. You’ve lived through an amazing moment in history. Every powerful institution in this country wanted Trump to lose. The leaders of academia, almost every owner of a media publication, television or print, our political leaders. Business largely rejected Trump. Even most Republicans in the media rejected him. Most politicians kept their distance. He had few advisers. Trump’s supporters were insulted and mocked–or at best presented as….”
“Total losers living in little white towns with meth addicts and hillbillies” finished Morgan.
“Exactly. Last night I was tired. I hadn’t voted yet. Trump was going to lose my state anyway. Everyone was saying the exit polls were showing a huge Clinton win. So why bother voting? It wouldn’t make a difference. But I literally…I mean this, I literally thought ‘I want my vote to count.’ So I went and voted.”
Leah, always imaginative, spoke up. “It’s like….all the other Trump people did that too. Instead of staying home.”
“So Hillary voters didn’t care as much,” Kenny said.
“Trump convinced voters to care. He screwed up in a million ways, he was rude and obnoxious and you can’t really take anything he says literally, but he never backed down when all the cool people on TV, in the movies, in the media, in the universities were laughing at him, mocking him. It made him angry, he often responded in infantile ways, but their hatred never stopped him from understanding what his voters cared about. He went everywhere and asked for votes.”
“People are treating it like an earthquake. ” argued Inez.
“Yeah, but an earthquake is a natural event. A powerful one. We are living through an epic moment, where ordinary people created an earthquake, defied the will of the media and most of our leaders, simply by showing up and voting. What you should take away most of all from this is that earthquakes are possible in politics. You’ve now seen one.”
“I’ve spent a lot more time than you guys have, feeling sad my candidate lost. You focus on the good where you find it. So Hillary lost. Feel sad about that. But feel good that elections aren’t all about turnout and commercials and interest groups. Sometimes, every so often, an election turns on ideas. No one in the media, in academia, or our businesses really liked Trump’s ideas. They tried to shut them down. And they failed. Because people came out and voted for Trump’s ideas.”
“So sometimes ideas really do win.” mused Teng.
“Yeah,” Adriana agreed. “It’s really…epic.”
“Epic?” snorted Gita. “Hillary won more votes! Trump’s a racist!”
“Yeah, well, no one said epic was perfect, yknow? So let’s look at inverse functions and turn our thoughts away from epic wins.”
The Thursday after the election, I was standing in front of my trig class, explaining angular velocity, when I suddenly stopped and said “There he is.” Hustled across the room to the left door, opened it, and hollered.
The beefy senior had just strolled past, and turned. “What? I’m not out of class, I have a pass.”
“That’s not the point. It’s TWO DAYS and you don’t stop by to celebrate? I’m pissed.”
He grinned, came back towards me. “My mom called me in sick yesterday because I stayed up all night watching returns! Can you believe it?”
“I really can’t.”
Last weekend, I was in a different, equally blue, state for my grandson’s first birthday party. A successful salesman in a roofing and windows company, my son has only Trump co-workers and only Clinton friends and family (save me). A colleague showed up in his MAGA cap, and my son steered him over to me for safety and celebration.
“I’m a gambler, you know? And when Florida’s returns were nearly done , when you could see Michigan and Wisconsin ahead, North Carolina won, it was like a $100,000 hit on 20:1 odds. That’s how good it was.”
Yes. That’s how good it was.