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November 5, 2020

Awaiting Election Results, Student Groups Look to Future


A gargoyle statue on Cobb Gate dons a mask.

Han Jiang / The Chicago Maroon

As election results trickle in, student advocacy groups and organizations affiliated with political parties are charting a path forward. 

Some student groups, including the Phoenix Survivors’ Alliance (PSA), Students for Disability Justice, and Active Minds, are planning to hold grieving spaces over the next few days for students to process the election.

Many of these grieving spaces were planned in anticipation of a Trump victory. But PSA representative Kelly Lo said that the rape allegations levied against both candidates—particularly the general dismissal of Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden—meant that the space to grieve will be needed regardless of outcome.

“Survivors of sexual assault are currently being asked to vote for a rapist to prevent another rapist from coming to power. They’re being asked to vote for their own protection, and their own rights, and they're being asked to do that in a very traumatizing way, where they have to vote for someone who they know has harmed people,” she said. “There is really no way for survivors to win.”

Many survivors of sexual assault were re-traumatized and triggered by being pressured to vote for someone they don’t believe in, Lo said, making it all the more important to carve out a supportive space for processing the past few months.

“This is a time where many of us are grieving, alone; and it’s a time where many of us want to grieve together, to hopefully support each other, and move forward in a way that makes us feel less alone.”

PSA’s virtual “grieving space,” set to go live later this week, will be a private Facebook group where users can anonymously submit their thoughts and reactions to the election. 

Organizers with several left-leaning student groups, including Graduate Students United, UChicago Student Action, and Tenants United Hyde Park (TU) told The Maroon that they have no specific plans for activism in the days following the election. Representatives from UChicago Mutual Aid said that in the event of a Republican victory, the group will make resources available to students as specific needs arise. Similarly, John Hieronymus of TU said that the group is taking a “wait and see” approach, simply making sure that members are safe as they engage in any activism.

A representative from the College Republicans (CR), who preferred to remain anonymous in anticipation of “online backlash,” said that CR does not plan to significantly adjust their programming in light of the election results. Asked what the club would do if Trump claims a premature victory on election night, he said that the club will proceed as usual, and will simply debate the President’s claim at their weekly Thursday meeting.

“We're a Republican group on a college campus. We don't wield any form of political power,” he said. “What happens happens; it doesn't change what we do.”

But this election has spotlighted a deep division within CR. “The club opinion on whether or not Donald Trump is the right person to be elected tomorrow is very, very split,” he explained. “It’s probably close to 50/50.”

This is consistent with the club’s usual state of internal disagreement, which often prevents them from making public endorsements or statements on issues. 

“We don't really have a unified opinion on things,” he said. “[The UC Dems] are a much more ideologically centralized club than we are.... They are considered to be centered around like the democratic socialism aspect of the Democratic Party. And we are not at all centered around being Trumpist.”

There is no such reluctance to act within the UC Dems, who have been doing twice-weekly phone banks and weekly guest speaker events. Lauren Cole, executive director of UC Dems, said that in the event that Biden wins, the club intends to keep their foot on the gas pedal. 

“Best-case scenario, we still recognize that more work needs to be done within the Democratic Party,” she said. 

The club intends to shift its focus to local politics after the election, a sphere in which they think they can make the most change. This plan to change gears means that a Trump victory also won’t significantly change their programming going forward.

“It's gonna be very hard for us as an organization to affect any of Trump's policies, but it will be easier for us to talk to our state representatives, or state legislatures, and get things done that way,” Cole said.

In the short term, regardless of outcome, they intend to allow a moment for recovery from a hectic election cycle before resuming activities again.

“We've had a lot of mobilization efforts. That means, post-election, we are trying to just give everyone a little bit of space,” she said. “If it does go the way we want it to, good; we can take a breath. And if it doesn't go the way we want it to, then we can give everyone a little bit of time and space to feel what they need to.”

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