Not everyone nationwide, nor on the Fairfield University campus, voted for the same person or agreed on who should win the 2020 Presidential Election. But on Saturday, Nov. 7, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. emerged victorious, after capturing at least 273 electoral votes, defeating incumbent President Donald J. Trump.
As reported in a previous Mirror article, a survey of about 200 students, conducted by Jack Martorano ‘23, found that a slight majority, about 54 percent of Fairfield students, indicated that they would vote for Joe Biden, while a smaller number, 45 percent, backed Donald Trump. 0.5 percent said that they would vote for a third party candidate.
For Grace Magilligan ‘24, voting for the former vice president was a no-brainer.
“He is more open to equality amongst genders and also racial equality. And I know a lot of people who are in the LGBTQ+ community and I know Trump is not a good choice who would represent and protect them, so, for the benefit of all people, I thought Biden would be a better choice,” Magilligan said.
Other students felt very differently about who would make a better president. One anonymous student said, “I wanted Trump to win the election. I didn’t agree, obviously, with all his policies, but I felt that the future of our country as a democratic society depended on it.”
Still, others did not vote for either of the two major candidates, deciding to vote for a third-party candidate instead. One such student was Anne Scenna ‘23.
“I didn’t really like either of the candidates. I honestly didn’t really have a preference,” Scenna said.
One thing that is clear is that most students were in agreement that exercising their right to vote is extremely important. A first time voter, Celine King ‘23 felt especially motivated to vote.
“I feel like this election in particular was really significant, like our vote really did count this time,” she said.
Ron Rodriguez ‘21 felt that sitting this election out was simply not an option.
“I believe it was a civic duty as an American to go out and give my opinion and have a voice,” Rodriguez shared.
Despite President Donald Trump having shocked the world in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton even though he was predicted to lose, many students were not very surprised to see him lose this time around.
“People are frustrated with Trump,” acknowledged Alex McFarland ‘23, who voted for Biden.
Other students, like Rodriguez, didn’t know what to think.
“To be honest, I thought it was going to be a split vote between Biden and Trump, because I was seeing a lot of support on campus for Trump, especially with the flags hanging around.”
And a few were somewhat caught off guard by Biden’s win, like King. “I was under the impression that Trump was going to win. I feel like there’s a lot of voters that don’t express that they’re supporters of him and then last minute they go to the polls and they vote for him,” King said.
Biden has stated that he will work to unite the country and begin to heal the divisions that some say have been sowed by President Trump. This comes as some in Trump’s column, as well as Trump himself, have been publicly casting doubt on the validity of the election process. Students overall were unsure of whether Biden could pull this off.
“I think that he could definitely work towards it,” said Magilligan. “I don’t think anything is going to be completely fixed in the next four years. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I feel like a good change like that is going to start with him.”
Others were a bit more pessimistic, like one first-year student who declined to provide his full name.
“I think our country is so divided,” he said. “I think there are some things they can do that can potentially bring the country together, but I think that we’re so divided that getting someone who is either far on the left or far on the right, it would be difficult to bring long lasting unity.”
Although the opinions expressed on campus were as varied as those of the general public, it seemed that the historic nature of the election, particularly that voter turnout surged to roughly 66 percent, the highest since 1900, was not lost on any of the students. Many of them said that they believed that turnout was so high this year in large part due to an increase in young people voting. “Maybe the reason for such a high turnout was that a lot more young voters decided to vote, where I feel like in previous years it was always the adults that were in tune with politics, the adults that were going to the polls,” surmised King.
In addition to conversations among students, the days following the election were also marked by conversations facilitated by faculty. On Nov. 4, a day after the election but before a winner was determined, Gayle Alberda, Ph. D and Jocelyn Boryczka, Ph. D, two politics professors at Fairfield, hosted a panel titled “Community Conversations: Election 2020.” The uncertainty surrounding the election, along with how democracy can move forward, was addressed.
“Democracy rests upon difference and diversity. It is how we navigate our differences that makes democracy strong, weak or nonexistent,” Boryczka expressed.
The two panelists also spoke about how they were hopeful about the process, regardless of what the outcome would be.
“I’m exhausted, but I’m hopeful,” said Alberda. “Not hopeful because I want whomever it is to win and that person’s projected to win or whatever. I’m not talking about that. I’m hopeful because the process is working. To see that the process is working, and working well, given the number of ballots, to me, that is just outstanding.”