Apprehension and Celebration: GDS Seniors’ Election-Week Experiences

Photo by Fiore Petricone

Daniel Goldblatt was sitting on the couch with his family the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7, repeatedly refreshing the New York Times website, when the presidential election was called. For Goldblatt, along with the majority of Washingtonians, Joe Biden’s victory was a welcome development. “It was a happy moment,” he said. “We had a little celebration, it was a lot of fun.”

“One thing that I’ve noticed in my neighborhood is that people are flying American flags all over the place, and all of a sudden this is not a symbol of hatred, which is a really good feeling,” Goldblatt said. “People are actually proud to live here.” Goldblatt is one of four GDS seniors whom the Bit interviewed before and after election night.

“I think that on election night, it will look like [President Donald] Trump won, but once all the mail-in ballots are counted, Biden will have won and Trump won’t accept the results,” reported Miranda Aebersold-Burke two days prior to the election when asked to predict how the night’s events would unfold. 

In the coming days, she watched as her projection proved accurate. “On election night, my parents were watching the votes being counted and I was hiding in my room,” Aebersold-Burke said. “I had to keep reminding my parents that those weren’t the final counts.”

The night before the election, Jonah Sachs offered a similar perspective. “A lot of people think it’s going to be definite tomorrow,” Sachs said, “but I don’t think we’re finding out for a pretty long time.”

Indeed, election night left many observers with a feeling of uncertainty. “Trump was looking way better than the polling,” Goldblatt said. “That was definitely a stressful night.”

When asked how each outcome would affect the GDS community, Alex Gulino responded, “If Trump does end up winning, I don’t even know what the majority of students would do. In 2016, when I was in 8th grade, the majority of the people in my grade were devastated, and that was before they really understood how crucial [the outcome was].”

Gulino’s insight reflects the idea that many GDS students were more enthusiastic about the prospect of getting Trump out of office than getting Biden in. “I don’t know if I would say I was excited about it [Biden’s presidency], because I think he’s flawed, but I was very relieved by the news,” Aebersold-Burke said. 

“Biden will be a boring president, as the president should be,” she said, adding, “Trump was constantly in the news and on everyone’s mind, so I think the day-to-day life might change in that you’re not constantly worried about what the president tweeted.” She spoke with a tone of relief: “In general, I think day-to-day lives will improve.”

Gulino echoed the sentiment that for many students, the election came down to a Trump win or a Trump loss. That is, the majority of people’s positions were determined by their feelings about Trump, rather than about Biden, who was seen more as a side effect or alternative. “A bunch of the people I’ve been talking to just feel like it’s [a question of] who is going to be worse,” Gulino said before the election. “If Trump does win, it will be talked about for a long, long time. If Biden ends up winning, I feel like it will be talked about for the first few weeks, maybe a few months, but then it will kind of go away. [The Trump presidency] has been a constant topic.” 

“People in the LGBTQ+ community will be happy to know that more rights won’t be taken away from them,” Goldblatt said. “People who depend on Obamacare will know that their health care won’t be taken away. My guess is that it probably won’t affect our lives all that much, but GDS is also a very privileged community, so it’s easier for us to say that than many other people.”

The week of the election was stressful for everyone, regardless of their desired outcome, but at long last conclusive. Emotions and frustrations continue to run high as the transition between the two administrations mirrors the tension that pervaded the country in the first days after the election.

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