St. Olaf Institute for Freedom and Community

St. Olaf College

Oles on the Election

We Must Keep Watching (Even if We’re Tired)

By Emma Whitford October 28, 2016

Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.

“Should I stay up late on Nov. 8 to watch the election results or should I just go to bed?”

I’ve been asking myself this question for a while now.

Hillary Clinton declared her bid for presidency on April 12, 2015. Donald Trump announced a month later on June 16. I, along with the rest of the world, have watched the two battle their primary opponents and then each other for 18 months. That’s one and a half years.

Don’t get me wrong, the election has been incredibly fascinating. My political science research class jokes about “excluding 2016 from the data set” because of how bizarrely the campaigns have operated. The Trump campaign has been especially abnormal. Not only is Trump a political outsider, but he’s the first Republican nominee that I can recall to alienate veterans and shows blatant disregard for traditional family values. His campaign has an incredibly weak “ground game” (local campaign and volunteer coordination efforts) and doesn’t raise money like the Clinton campaign does. Trump has the news media wrapped around his finger in such a way that it provides him all the free advertising he could possibly desire. Both candidates, but particularly Hillary Clinton, have been appealing to younger audiences through comedy news shows and T.V. cameos. My class often wonders if this indicates a change in American electoral politics or if 2016 is just a fluke, a freak year. With each scandal that emerges, lately concerning Trump, Nate Silver’s election predictions more heavily favor Mrs. Clinton.

In the early days of the election I imagined myself on election night sitting with my classmates, eating pizza, and watching Anderson Cooper tell me who is winning what states and watching maps zoom in and out of the television frame, breaking down vote counts by district. I’ve been thinking about live tweeting it. After all of the energy I’ve put into this election – volunteer hours, academic study, emotional stress – shouldn’t I be there for the end? Won’t I reap my reward then? Won’t all of the hypotheses that we discussed in class be proved wrong or right?

But I’m tired, and maybe I should just go to bed.

I could turn off my phone, close the blinds, and wake up the next day with a new president. After all, nothing would noticeably change. I’m a white, middle-class college student who will be able make a life for herself regardless of who’s sitting in the oval office. I understand that the outcome of this election doesn’t have a significant impact on me like it does many of Americans. I won’t be deported, I won’t be racially profiled, my culture or religion or community will not be scapegoated. I won’t have programs that I rely on taken from me. I would be well rested for my 9 a.m. political theory class and Nov. 9 would be business as usual. I’ve been watching the spectacle for 18 months. Isn’t it time to give myself a break?

Though it may be easy to look away, it would be dangerous for my country and for my fellow Americans that will be affected by the outcome of this election. So I will keep watching – on election night and every day after that.

About the Author

Emma Whitford is a junior political science major at St. Olaf college from Middleton, Wisconsin.