The late U.S. representative and civil rights leader John Lewis once said, “The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.” The 2020 presidential election has been on the minds of most Americans for the past several months. The contentious campaigns of Republican incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden have only created further division between the right and the left in the United States. The Anchor has previously covered election news, but what about life on campus? How have Hope College students on both sides been affected by this season of difficulty? To find out, The Anchor spoke with Juliana Struyk (’23), Secretary of Hope Republicans, and Liam Diephuis (’23), Treasurer of Hope Democrats.
For some, election day was surreal. Many Americans had been anticipating this day with excitement and/or apprehension for a long time. Struyk spoke of the work Hope Republicans had been doing in preparation for the election: “It was weird that the day had arrived. I’ve had this date circled in red pen since March of last year. We poured a lot into this election, which made it surreal that the effects of our hard work would be revealed soon.” Diephuis, like many other Americans this year after the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, voted by mail-in ballot. He talked through his own election day experience, saying that it “felt very normal, it felt weirdly like any other day. I had already voted, but I helped a friend at the polls. Later that night my friends and I were all watching the election and anxiously waiting for the results.”
A significant factor in this year’s historic election was the greatly intensified use of mail-in ballots, which added pressure to ballot counters and lengthened the amount of time it would take to count votes. Mail-in votes also trended more blue than red in battleground states, and therefore there were states flipping back and forth between red and blue as this past week went on. Struyk said the constant flip-flopping “definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. I have to admit I checked the New York Times and 270towin.com about every half hour or so to catch any movement.”
For some, the definition of American values was entangled with the results of this election. Struyk spoke of her excitement that so many Americans turned up at the polls this year: “This election saw a record-breaking amount of voter turnout, which I think is absolutely amazing. The fact that Americans across the world remained heavily invested in this election, despite the circumstances, was a testament to how much we value the USA as a democratic republic.”
The results themselves were contested, as ballots are still being counted and now recounted. Many news sources around the world have projected that former Vice President Joe Biden is soon to become President-Elect. Diephuis spoke of his anxiety watching results trickle in. He noted that “it was close; closer than any of us would have liked.”
Throughout this election season, Hope students have been encouraged to value dignity, respect and love during political discourse. “This season modeled the importance of conversation in tense environments,” said Struyk. “Humans should interact with others regardless of their stances. With conversation comes learning, and regardless of if we agree with their opinions or not, we should still seek to be exposed to others’ ideas and love them for who they are.”
Many other students are relieved that this season of stress and anticipation is close to being over. Diephuis explained, “It’s a relief to be able to go back to life without this election hanging over our heads. Now that this has been decided, I hope that we can move on and focus on what unites us all.”