It’s over. The 2016 election finally ended yesterday, and not a moment too soon. This election played out less like a healthy democratic process and more like a sick, twisted prank by some higher power, with the entire American populace being the unsuspecting victim. We’re all sinners in the hands of an angry God, and the past eighteen months of U.S. politics has been proof. If, two years ago, someone had told you that Donald Trump would be elected president in 2016, what would have been your reaction? An incredulous laugh? An intrigued glance? You certainly wouldn’t have believed it. Hell, just two weeks ago, a Trump presidency seemed to only be on the outermost fringe of possibility. Yet here we are. This is Trump’s country now, and we’re just living in it.
To reflect back on the events of the past year and a half, I spent a considerable amount of time asking the upstanding citizens of PVMHS for their thoughts on this insane, miserable election.
The first person I consulted was Mr. Jones, Peabody High’s lovable band teacher and a trusted voice of wisdom on any topic. “What will you remember from this election?” I asked him, as he sat at his desk in the corner of the band room. He nodded for a brief moment, then gazed off into the distance with the jaded thousand-yard stare of the disaffected voter. I could see the wheels turning in his head, reeling through every moment of the election --- the candidates, the primaries, the conventions, the scandals, the controversies, the vitriol, the madness --- trying to choose just one moment. “That we had no qualified candidates,” he said after an eternity. He added, “Bernie came close.” Ah, yes. It wouldn’t be a true election review without mentioning Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator whose long-shot candidacy turned him into a national superstar. Bernie won the admiration of millions nationwide, including 54% of PVMHS students, as was written in another excellent articleby yours truly. During the dead heat of the Democratic primary (AKA before Super Tuesday II, by which point every non-delusional person realized Hillary was going to be the nominee), Sanders’s support in PVMHS was palpable. Students roamed the halls wearing Bernie 2016 t-shirts and pins. The Biddy for Bernie Twitter account popped up and quickly became a hit. I remember “BERNIE” written in Haven from Hunger Thanksgiving Turkeys on the band room wall. Although Bernie’s run didn’t end in the White House, his national profile was raised more than he ever could have hoped. Just like the old saying says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.” Or you’ll land on a stage endorsing Hillary.
The obvious second person to interview was Larry Leavitt, who, in addition to being the best wellness teacher in Peabody, is the ultimate straight shooter. Anyone who’s had Mr. Leavitt is familiar with his teaching style: he gets up in front of the class, talks for forty minutes straight, and it’s the most entertaining thing you’ll hear all day. I'd recommend him over anyone if you ever need some straight talk. “What will I remember the most?” he repeated after me. He was packing up the cord to his projector after seventh period and looped it around his hand as he spoke. “The annoying, immature back-and-forth insults towards one another. They didn’t stick to the issues! Just talk about the issues. Don’t talk about the other person, how bad they are. Stick to the issues - what are you gonna do for the country? That’s all it is, make it simple. I liked some of Trump’s ideas, I liked some of Hillary’s ideas, but they wanted to waste time talking about how bad the other person is. You guys agree with that?” “Yeah,” agreed Evan Murphy, who was standing next to me. “Heck yeah!” said Mr. Leavitt. “Heck yeah,” said Evan, but a bit less enthusiastically.
I asked the same question to Bobby Sacramone, a junior in my Italian class, on November 7. “That Hillary is a criminal,” he responded instantly. (Someone behind him shouted “Yes!” in approval.) “Is that all?” “And she should have been arrested by now.” “Also, one last thing. How do you spell your name?” “Last name?” “Yeah.” “S-A-C-R-A-M-O-N-E.” “Thanks.” I walked a few feet to my right, where Kristina Lezenski, another junior, was seated. “Would you like to add anything to that?” I asked her. “Just the fact that I stole a Trump sign this morning,” she said. “That’s pretty savage. How’d you pull that off?” “I didn’t do it, I was just in the car.” Then Bobby walked over, and I realized things were about to get interesting. “I wanna ask a question now,” he said, addressing Kristina. “So you’re saying you have a Trump, uh, sign in your car? Does that mean you’re pro-Trump?”
“No,” she said, appalled at the suggestion. “I think that signifies that you are pro-Trump.” Just as things were getting heated, Daniel Pavasaris snatched the voice recorder out of my hand. “We must vote for Donald J. Trump so he can build a wall on the Canadian-Mexican border, so the Mexicans can’t cross into Canada!” Bobby responded, “There was no logic in that statement.” He paused for a moment. “But I like it.” Today, two days later, I checked back in with Bobby and Kristina. Bobby was jubilant. “I just want to say that it really worked out,” he said, sounding like Christmas came early. “Hillary Clinton will be in prison, and it’s a really good day for America. Oh, and weed is legal now.” Kristina, on the other hand, was crushed.
“I have nothing to say,” she told me, then looked away.
“I think this is the most… surprised I’ve ever been at an outcome,” I was told by Mrs. Byrne, one of Peabody High’s esteemed AP Biology teachers, as she sipped on an ice-cold refreshing can of Pamplemousse La Croix. “It’s the first time in an election I can recall, that I actually participated in, that the polls were very off. So, ‘surprised’ is the best word I can come up with for that.” Mrs. Byrne’s sentiment is shared by pundits and pollsters across the country, who are doing some serious soul-searching to figure out what went wrong. Just a few hours ago, FiveThirtyEight published the first of what will be many, many articles questioning the entire conventional wisdom about polling general elections. For reference, FiveThirtyEight predicted the 2012 election perfectly, and only got one state (Indiana) wrong in 2008. This year, they predicted that Clinton would win. Ouch. Trump’s victory is the second major polling mishap this year. The first was when the final polls of the Brexit vote showed that “remain” would beat “leave” by about 1 percentage point, but “leave” ended up winning by 4%. Between Trump, Brexit, and various Senate races (I still can’t believe Sen. Ron Johnson kept his seat in Wisconsin), pollsters haven’t had a great track record this year. Public trust in polls has suffered during 2016, a fact not helped by Trump’s routine assertions that polls were rigged against him.
“Alright Mr. Stark, what will you remember from this election?” I asked Zachary Stark, a sophomore, one morning during band. “Lots of pain. Lots of depression and bleeding out of multiple orifices. Um, just pure disappointment in me from my father and the rest of my right-wing conservative family. Life is great.” Zach and I made eye contact with each other for a few seconds. I nodded slowly, perhaps out of understanding, but probably just out of awkwardness. I turned to Erin Silva, a freshman seated next to Zach. “What will you remember from this election?” She began to formulate an answer, but Dilin Doroci, another freshman, interjected: “I’ll remember how Trump’s a [censored]!” She laughed and said, “I’ll remember nothing. Because this is terrible.” Leah Salem, yet another band freshman, had this to add: “I’ll remember the blind hatred that people have for each other.” Poignant stuff.
In all the interviews I conducted (including ones that didn’t make the final cut, such as a painfully awkward exchange with Mr. Casey, and a 45-second long audio recording where Sophia Brunet, Jenna Sousa, and Abby Berube fall into hysterics over this video), there was a unifying feeling of relief. No matter how ecstatic or upset someone was over Trump’s victory, everyone was glad that, after all this time, the election was over. Perhaps that’s the common bond linking Democrats and Republicans. After a long, hard-fought election, both sides of the spectrum are more than willing to shut up about politics. I’m sure there’s a much broader point here about unification as a country, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for that. And it’s still a mystery to me why Trump disregarded nearly every rule of modern political campaigning and was rewarded with the Republican Party’s strongest Electoral College performance since 1984. But whatever. I’m not salty at all.