Kingston-area reactions to Donald Trump’s surprise win ranged from jubilance and hope-filled to despair and dread the morning of the election results.
Several Clinton supporters approached refused to comment, citing that they were “too emotional” to talk about it, whereas Trump supporters were champing at the bit to opine on record.
Eric Benjamin of Rosendale, an Ulster County sheriff’s deputy, said he was “completely surprised. …Watching the news, polls and projections, I could see there truly was a movement.”
As for his thoughts on how Trump’s presidency would bode for law enforcement, Benjamin said, “Hopeful. He has made his commitment to law enforcement, I don’t think [Clinton] made that commitment.”
“I was in shock,” said Stephen Priest, 20, of Hurley and a college student. “I wanted Hillary to win. I feel scared, unsure. Everything is up in the air, it’s very ominous.” Priest’s top concerns were for immigrants in his life who might be here documented, or not. “What does it mean for those I am friends with, or work with, who aren’t from here and are immigrants? What will it mean for them?”
Jackie Robetson, clerk at Kingston QuickChek gas station, favored Trump in belief and faith that he will increase minimum wage. “A landslide,” he said, “The American people sent a strong message to the existing political system that we wanted a change, and Trump was the answer to that change.” Robetson cited “corruption” and attributed the demand for change to a non-working system that “doesn’t work for its people.” Robetson’s most intense focus is economics, he said. “We live in the most richest, powerful country in the world and yet we have this debate whether we should abolish minimum wage. It’s ridiculous in the 21st century. This generation of working class earns less than our parents did in the 1950s.”
Clarissa Kelder of Kingston, a vet tech at Hurley Veterinary Hospital, felt let down. “I was disappointed,” she said. “I feel like the presidency will be run based on hate, and that’s a little scary.” Her greatest concern, she said, are working-class families. “I just don’t think he will stand for the working-class family like [Clinton] would have. I believe our taxes will go up with Trump.”
Lindsay DuBois, a Kingston-based social worker, said she felt “sad” by the outcome. “I was very surprised that it seems our country doesn’t care about character or ethics, and people vote on a single issue rather than what’s best for our country.” DuBois was concerned to lose all the progress she perceives has been accomplished by the Democratic Party.
DuBois was impressed with Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday concession speech. “The speech was a little bit of healing because she showed so much grace and beliefs in values that she really left a message of hope and a mission to carry on.”
Manuel Garcia, of Guatemala City, a laborer living in Lake Katrine, said he was worried about what will happen with his family and friends who were here legally, or not. Garcia did not want to comment about his own legal status, but said he did work very hard to come to this country to provide safety for his family from a dangerous community, and assumed by Trump’s win that they might have to return, and feared for what could happen upon returning to Guatemala. He said he most feared losing everything he has gained for himself and his family while living here.
Karen Krom of Ellenville is physically disabled. She said she is adamantly not for Trump. “I’m concerned because of disability and Social Security. I’m afraid we are going to get screwed.” Krom explained that she suffers from several illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, and spends time in wheelchairs, feeling very vulnerable. “The way he talked about disabled people concerns me,” she said. “I have MS and it’s not a joke. And then he started trashing women; two things against him right there.”
The political reaction
For some political insiders, Trump’s stunning upset came as little surprise. Bruce McLean, treasurer of the Ulster County Republican Committee, said he saw the groundswell coming even virtually every poll showed Clinton taking the White House in a walk. McLean said that throughout the election season he’d heard from blue-collar voters, including Democrats and union members, that they were rooting for Trump.
“You just had to listen to the public and you would’ve seen it coming,” said McLean. “Everywhere I go it was Trump, Trump, Trump. The pollsters didn’t have their ears to the ground.”
Republican John Faso will have a front row seat to Trump-era Washington when he assumes his seat in Congress in January, having vanquished liberal Democrat Zephyr Teachout in the race for the 19th Congressional District. Faso spent the election season tiptoeing around the man at the top of the ticket, withholding an official endorsement and saying he was unsure if he’d even vote for him. On Wednesday, Faso said he took heart in Trump’s victory speech in which he promised to begin the work of uniting a divided country.
“We have to be respectful of differences and think about how we can work together to solve problems,” said Faso. “I think the tone he set last night in his victory speech was a good one and I’m hopeful we can have a very productive relationship with his administration.”
For Democrats, the election results were both shocking and deeply disheartening. At Teachout’s election night headquarters at the upscale Rhinecliff Hotel — where the restrooms were labeled “Bad Hombres” and “Nasty Women” — the mood shifted from ebullient to anxious to despairing over the course of the night. At 11:20 p.m., an emotional Teachout emerged from a private suite to concede the election. Her speech, as news of Trump’s seizure of Florida played on an MSNBC feed, channeled the mood of many in the room who saw more than a congressional district falling to the GOP.
“We took a beating, not just me, but the values of our democracy.”
For Jennifer Schwartz Berky, an Ulster County legislator who has emerged as a figure in Ulster County’s progressive left, a Trump win signaled something even worse. She noted that the president-elect had vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, a move that would likely scuttle the historic agreement.
“There’s so much, but that’s the big one for me,” said Berky. “It sets us well past the tipping point [of environmental disaster] for the sake of short-term gain.”
But for every note of despair from Democrats, there was a cry of defiance. Closing her concession speech Teachout, invoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election campaign where he faced determined opposition from monied interests determined to roll back the New Deal, and called for a continuation of the “revolution on the Hudson.”
“Once in a generation, we are called upon to restore American democracy,” said Teachout. “It’s urgent and it will take all of us. We may not have won this race, but we’re not going away.”