Against all odds, against most predictions, Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.
FiveThirtyEight, a website famous for analyzing polls and statistics during American elections, predicted that Hillary Clinton had a 71.4% chance of victory, seizing 302 electoral votes, while Donald Trump would win 235. Yet the reverse happened: Trump won with 306 electoral votes against Clinton’s 232.
And so ends one of, if not perhaps the most, divisive, polarizing, negative, election in modern American history
I think it’s important not to understate how divisive this election was. Exit polls show the distinct divide in voting between gender, race, income and inequality. For instance, while 58% of whites in the polls voted for Trump, 88% of blacks, 65% of hispanics and 65% of Asians voted for Clinton. The gender gap hasn’t been this wide since 1976, with Clinton holding a 12% lead among women, and Trump with a 12% lead among men.
This is key because demographic blocs can hold distinct views on issues such as the environment. A survey from the Pew Research Centre show that American women are about 20% more likely to believe that global climate change is a serious problem and requires serious lifestyle changes. As I discussed in my previous blog, we already know that environmental issues are also feminist issues. So as I watched the election unfold, it was almost comical to see the differences between Clinton and Trump (both of whom received the majority of votes in their respective genders) in regards to their environment platforms.
With the rise of Trump and Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the future of America’s environmental policy does not bode well. Despite the risk that climate change poses to the global economy, not to mention human survival and the planet, the advancements made under the Obama administration will be attacked and potentially reversed. When the president-elect believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China,wants to bring back coal industries, pledged to eliminate federal spending on climate change and cancel the Paris Agreement, it’s hard to feel optimistic.
But now more than ever, in the face of polarization, political participation is needed. Although Trump won the majority of the Electoral College votes, he only received 47.51% of the popular vote, while Clinton received 47.65%. The country remains split, almost at the 50% mark. If Trump and the new Republican-led federal government wants to improve Congress' historically low approval ratings and achieve stronger national unity, it will have to appeal to the other half of the country’s population who feel disenfranchised, angry and scared.
Ultimately, it will be up to citizens on both sides of the aisle to break the gridlock, and there’s no better time than in this moment, while evidence of America’s cultural divide remains fresh. Rather than sulking over the results or basking in victory, now is the time to hold politicians accountable and engage in the conversation, especially with the other half the country with whom you disagree. If you care about an issue such as climate change or gender inequality, educate yourself, become active in the movement, pursue meaningful conversation and communicate with your elected representatives, ensuring that they know our expectations and that they are held accountable for their actions.
Dialogue won’t occur if no one communicates. Change won’t happen if no one acts.
Caroline Nguyen is an intern at GreenPAC and a fourth year student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a specialization in Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies and a minor in French. Outside of class, she works for Canadian federal government and currently manages an environmentally sustainable and student-run café on campus, seeking to encourage local and green food service in the community.
Read Part 1 of Caroline's blog series here.