Donald Trump’s triumph is only the start of a slew of changes

Looking ahead as a wild election cycle ends


Trump delivers his victory speech early Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

By Aishwarya Jayadeep

There was always a picture of the current president hanging up on a wall in the front office of my elementary school. For several years, it was of the same man, smiling in front of an American flag.

Then came January 2009: Seven-year-old me walked in to deliver the attendance sheet for my class and did a double-take. The portrait had changed.

I’d known, vaguely, that a new person was elected president. The name “Barack Obama” had been hanging on the periphery of my awareness for the last few months. But it wasn’t until I caught sight of his picture hanging on the wall that the transition of power really sank in.

And now we’re here. In late January 2017, some second-grader will walk into that office just as I did and notice a photograph of Donald Trump hanging on the wall.

Trump’s Tuesday victory was a huge shock to some and an equally huge cause for celebration for others. Many didn’t expect him to win Pennsylvania, which, according to the LA Times and other news outlets, had been touted as Hillary Clinton’s “firewall” — but he did. Most polls didn’t predict he’d win over Wisconsin — but he did. Ohio, North Carolina, Florida — all swing states called for Trump as the map of electoral votes went red.

But, well, that was Tuesday. Now what?

According to NPR, Trump’s plans for his first 100 days in office include repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and replacing it, cracking down on illegal immigration by building a wall on the US-Mexico border (a wall I’m sure we’ve all heard a lot about) and “cancel[ing] every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.”

This last point is especially important — executive actions, memorandums, and orders happen to include DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and its cancellation would mean immigrants who arrived in America illegally under the age of 16 could be deported. Children and teenagers who’ve spent their entire lives in the United States, who feel just as American as legal immigrants who’ve done the same, would be forced to abandon their lives.

The building of a wall which, so far, despite Trump’s best powers of persuasion, Mexico will adamantly not be paying for, suggests he isn’t about to let people back in anytime soon. As for people coming in from other countries, Trump has, according to CNN, backtracked on his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the US. However, he still wants to restrict immigration from places he’s dubbed “terror countries”, i.e., countries with predominantly Muslim populations. In fact, Trump himself admitted it was essentially the same as a Muslim ban, just tweaked because “you can’t use the word Muslim”.

Trump can also significantly impact landmark decisions like Roe v. Wade simply based on who he appoints to the Supreme Court. According to ABC News, since Trump will be nominating a person to replace Justice Scalia, if any more of the aging justices step down, he could determine whether there is a Republican majority on the Supreme Court. With a Republican majority, Trump’s (and, to a larger extent, vice president-elect Mike Pence’s) views on abortion could completely illegalize it. After all, according to the BBC, Pence “strongly opposes” abortion, even when it poses a threat to the life of the mother.

But it’s not just Trump and Pence’s goals, as life-altering and life-endangering they may be, that worry me. No, it’s also that Donald Trump, a man who has bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, who has been accused by several people over the years of sexual assault, who has repeatedly tweeted or said racist remarks, calling entire groups of people rapists or terrorists, has won over so many supporters.

Don’t get me wrong: maybe not all Trump supporters are actively racist or gleefully sexist. But alarming numbers are — just take a look at all the vitriol spilling out on Twitter. A Trump victory will tell Americans, will tell people worldwide, that it’s okay to put down others based on their appearance, to advocate hatred and suspicion. That it’s okay, because you still have a shot at becoming “leader of the free world” while you’re at it.

What does that say about the state of the free world?

I understand there’s nothing I can do now to change the fact that a Trump presidency is imminent. I didn’t (well, couldn’t) vote, but I do (well, can) accept the results.

Next time I visit my old elementary school, the role model whose portrait will be hanging on the front office wall, the person who the kids walking in will think of when they declare, starry-eyed, that they want to become president, will be Donald Trump. And that child making that declaration is still within us, the part of our minds that firmly believes the president of the United States will care about every single one of us.

Trump’d better not let those kids down.