Millions were shocked. Millions were terrified. Millions were speechless. Millions were also overjoyed. Me? I was hungry.

“But how could hunger be your primary emotion while you watched a hatred-fueled demagogue win leadership of our country?” a fellow liberal might ask, on the verge of tears.

Well, like anyone, I get hungry when I’m bored, and on the night of Nov. 8, bored and unsurprised is exactly what I was. I’m not saying I would have predicted the outcome, but nobody should have been surprised by the percentage of voters who cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump. In our liberal coastal bubble, it’s easy to forget the vast swaths of the country containing people who feel left behind by our political system, which tends to ignore small towns and rural areas. While some of these Trump voters may have been racist, misogynistic and/or generally full of hate, many of them simply saw Trump as a way to finally make some kind of change. Their votes were last-ditch efforts to wrench power from snobbish political elites and moneyed interests; the types of people and policies often associated with Hillary Clinton.

These voters were not necessarily looking for Trump, but they yearned for someone like him who would stand up to a tide of stagnant partisan politics, the same reason Bernie Sanders enjoyed a huge amount of support earlier this year.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the votes, Trump is now our president-elect and people have a right to be scared. After his promises of deportation and distaste for women and basically every minority, anyone who is part of a marginalized group is probably not feeling great right now. These groups have vocalized that feeling all around the country, including on Cal Poly’s campus and in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

While the fear is justifiable and First Amendment rights are undeniable, this form of protest is not the way to make things better, nor is it an effective expression of discontent. Propagating slogans like “Not my President” and “Dump Trump” only further undermines the dignity of our democracy. This is probably not the type of behavior we should engage in as a country, especially after electing someone so outlandish. Trump won the election fairly, so he is your president, and mine. To deny that fact is to deny your status as a participant in
our democracy.

These protests are perhaps the most hypocritical action for the liberal masses to take. The people who disparaged Trump a few weeks ago for saying “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win,” are the ones who are now refusing to accept the result because Clinton didn’t win. Speak your mind, sure, but make sure you understand the precedent you set. Clinton, after coming to terms with the result, advised her supporters against the actions many are currently taking.

“We must accept this result — and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president,” Clinton said in her concession speech the day after the election. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.”

The transfer of power may not be the doomsday scenario everyone seems to expect. If the American people are motivated, they can turn this into an occasion for progressive change instead of a huge step backward.

Trump’s victory may throw a wrench into the system in a positive way. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich posted the following message on Facebook the night of the election: “The American power structure — both in the Democratic and in the Republican parties — has been dealt a severe blow. The moneyed interests rigged our political-economic system against most Americans. And now the backlash has begun.”

Only time will tell, but if this election is the pebble that sets off an avalanche of reforms— i.e. an end to the two-party system, new rules on campaign finance, more complete voter engagement — then we might not look back on it so negatively four years from now.

Let me be as clear as a shattered glass ceiling; I do not think Trump will be a good president. I do not think he is a fitting representative of our country. But Washington is overdue for a shake-up and that is exactly what it got.

Don’t protest the fact that a fool happened to win the election. Instead, fight for civil liberties, environmental protection and social programs. Don’t lament the next four years as a lost cause. Seize them as an opportunity to elevate reason and compassion above rhetoric of hatred and fear.

“Easy for a straight, white male to say,” the fellow liberal responds. “Maybe you have nothing to fear in a Trump presidency, but anyone not like you is legitimately concerned about maintaining their basic human rights.”

You’re right, fellow liberal. I can’t speak for everyone. But I can still hope that when others speak, they speak in a manner that effectively advances the causes we all hold dear and does not respond to hate with hate.

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