Young progressive NYC voters were stunned with the results of the presidential election.
Some young women expressed alarm as to whether Donald Trump’s election presaged an acceptance of sexual assault. Young LGBTQ people worried about a rollback of their civil rights. And their hopes of the American dream, if not dashed, are dampened.
Rob Aquino, 25, a filmmaker and waiter from Williamsburg, went to the art store Wednesday morning and made a sign reading “I am gay. I am in love. I am terrified.” Holding it aloft in Union Square, he was repeatedly embraced by a series of passers-by, some sobbing, who told him, “You are loved,” or, “I want to give you a hug.”
“That’s (been going on) all morning,” he said. “I woke up this morning holding my boyfriend and crying. I don’t know our future. The future I saw for myself — a transgressive, progressive future — is compromised,” Aquino said. The election “lit a fire under my ass to finally make a stand. I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said of standing with a sign.
While grateful for the support of other New Yorkers, Aquino noted that “it’s a privilege I can live in NYC. As a white male, I finally feel the distance (and marginalization) that people of color and trans people have felt all along,” he said.
According to a CNN exit poll, 54% of voters 18-29 voted for Hillary Clinton with 37% casting ballots for Trump, though New York City’s young people likely supported Clinton in significantly higher percentages.
Clinton’s platform to provide a free college education to anyone from a family making less than $125,000 a year prompted the support of many young voters.
Young people’s sense of alienation was particularly sharp in that many, like Aquino, supported Bernie Sanders originally, and reluctantly switched to Hillary Clinton after her primary win: Having already compromised their ideals, they were crushed to be overruled by a majority with a stingingly more conservative view of the world than their own.
“My college plans are more of a dream now,” said Derek Strawder, 18, a recent Cinema High School graduate and Sanders supporter who voted for Clinton.
Strawder, who lives in Parkchester, said a four-year school is “unrealistic if you don’t have money.”
While disappointed, he said his new plan B is to attend a community college — though he knows he needs a four-year degree to achieve his goal of becoming a psychologist. But he said he will keep voting. “Being a minority in this city, you need money to obtain power, but obviously, our only power is to vote,” said Strawder, who is African-American.
For young women, the loss by a female candidate they perceive as clearly qualified to a man with no government experience and multiple business failures was deeply personal.
They feared losing reproductive rights and a resurgence of misogynistic behavior, given Trump’s bragging about grabbing women’s genitals and the complaints of many women that he had groped them.
“Control over your own body is not a given anymore,” Brigid Squilla, 22, a sales associate who lives in Bushwick, somberly observed.
Men in states such as where she comes from, Pennsylvania, “are sick of being P.C.,” and have had their sexist beliefs and behaviors validated, she opined.
“As a woman, I fear for my safety,” added a saddened Sara Marquez, 22, a college student who lives in Woodlawn.
“Being a woman is scary right now. It is really upsetting to have a leader who promotes sexism and thinks it is OK. I feel really unsafe,” said Amanda Stewart, 24, a Bushwick actress.
Ciara and Chantel Tubens, 21, twins from Williamsburg who both work in day care, said they might have registered to vote had Sanders won the nomination, but didn’t bother to after Clinton won the primary.
While they did not vote, they were still frightened by the outcome. Trump “is a big blabbermouth. He could offend,” other national leaders, prompting a war, said Chantel. But, she added, she could not vote for Clinton: “I don’t want higher taxes. That would be devastating,” she said.
The city’s young Trump supporters, however, were jubilant. Long a minority in a liberal city, they were delighted to savor a rare victory.
“I supported Trump from the start,” said Michael Connelly, 23, a waiter from Broad Channel who wants to deter undocumented immigrants from coming to the U.S.
“We need to make sure people in this country are safe and I feel that Donald Trump will make sure of that,” he said.
- With Nicholas Morales