Some voters, stung by election result, stirred to new action

Published on November 29th, 2016

By Matt Sedensky
November 29, 2016
As seen in:
AP News

SF Gate
Portland Press Herald

NEW YORK (AP) — Three weeks out from a presidential election result that left them deeply dejected, many liberals now say they've been roused to action in new ways, from making donations and volunteering to considering political runs themselves.

Around the country, even as protests have waned, Democrats say the sting of loss has left an impact unlike any past race, stirring previously passive citizens to push beyond their initial tears and angry Facebook posts following Donald Trump's win. Though post-election fervor has spurred conservatives to action as well, the gut-punch of a presidential loss has particularly energized those on the left. 

Brad Goar, a 56-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, made a flurry of moves he saw as constructive responses. He donated to Planned Parenthood and upped his monthly gift to Bernie Sanders' organization; he joined the American Civil Liberties Union and began volunteering at an organization that helps undocumented immigrants. He even invited a couple who voted for Trump to join him and his husband at their home for drinks, appetizers and some airing of electoral differences, which was mostly cordial all around.

"I've never gotten my butt out of the chair before," Goar said. "But I see this as a dangerous turning point."

As some, like Goar, reached out to understand the political opposition, others have hoisted a sign in protest for the first time. Some have felt so rattled they say they're making more life-altering changes.

Brooke Streech, a 44-year-old Phoenix woman, is in the latter camp, having told her boss two days after the election that she would be quitting her job in finance. Her last day is Jan. 3, and while she isn't entirely sure what comes next, she's just certain she wants to be doing something that feels more meaningful.

Streech has weathered a divorce, and both her parents are sick with cancer. She isn't even a Democrat, but she found Trump's candidacy revolting and his victory among the greatest tragedies of her life. Even as she struggles to find her footing on what to do now, she feels she's been stirred like never before.

"It woke me up in a new way," she said. "I can only describe it as a moment of clarity."

Kerry Johnson, a 41-year-old New York woman, described it in almost identical terms. After getting over the shock and rage, she began a checklist of things she hopes serve as both a counter to Trump's rise and a reaffirmation of goodness in the U.S. She scheduled a platelet donation and is planning to take part in a planned women's march in Washington; she spent Thanksgiving helping at a shelter for women and children and is looking for longer-range volunteer opportunities. She says she's always considered herself "good-intentioned" but has been motivated to act in new ways.

"There is definitely an opportunity to play your role and move us forward," she said. 

On the winning side, Republican dominance in state legislatures has some conservatives rallying for a constitutional convention to consider amendments on congressional term limits or a balanced federal budget. Trump's victory is seen as possibly inspiring a new breed of candidates who ride populism to political office. And some conservative organizations including the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, and Californians for Population Stabilization, which seeks to curtail immigration, have seen spikes in donations since Election Day.

"The national talk is all of a sudden, people are becoming aware that immigration is maybe too high," said John Milliken, a 71-year-old in Westlake Village, California, who was spurred to donate to CAPS, as the California immigration reform organization is known. The retired pilot said even though he had voted for Trump "with a clothespin over my nose," he's found the president-elect has roused him and fellow conservatives to action in a way previous Republicans haven't.

For now, though, as Republicans revel in victory, it's often Democrats like Jasmin Chavez who are stirred to action. Chavez, is a 20-year-old sophomore at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, who fell asleep on election night before the presidential vote had been called, and woke up to Trump taking the stage in his victory speech. She thought it was a nightmare. Now, the naturalized U.S. citizen from El Salvador, who voted for Clinton in her first presidential election, has seen more students become interested in the League of United Latin American Citizens chapter she leads on campus, and she feels emboldened in her dream to one day run for Congress.

"I'm feeling very optimistic," Chavez said. "We've just got to be ready."

After the election, Tim Hammill, a 36-year-old in Bridgeport, Connecticut, said he felt as if he didn't recognize his country. He thought he didn't know 10 people who would vote for Trump, but his Facebook feed began filling with celebratory posts from all sorts of friends and acquaintances. He launched a blog, "My Life in Trump's America," and vowed to have conversations with those on the other side in hopes of better understanding them.

"I want to do anything I can to make sure the feeling I felt on election night and the next day never happens again," he said. "If we want to move forward and be less of a divided country we have to have these conversations. We have to talk to people who don't agree with us on everything."

Similar stories stream in across the U.S., often from younger Americans.

In Philadelphia, 25-year-old Keith Mui attended a forum on how to run for public office that drew so much post-election interest that the event ran up against fire-code restrictions and had to put people on a waitlist. In Los Angeles, 14-year-old Amellia Sones organized a Ventura Boulevard protest with a handful of high school classmates and others where she waved a "Stop the Hate" sign above her head. And in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Nicola Shackman-Ryden, a 22-year-old college senior, has begun organizing a community service campaign she hopes will bring students in touch with locals of differing political opinions.

"We're trying to find a way to actually unify this country," Shackman-Ryden said.


Sedensky can be reached at [email protected] or https://twitter.com/sedensky

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