Election uncertainty causes stress for community members

The U.S., including Lewis & Clark community members, looked to the capital as results from the election came in throughout the week. Photo by Nicholas Nerli

Students, staff and faculty from Lewis & Clark anxiously waited over four days as ballots from the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin trickled in during the presidential election. 

CNN called the race on Nov. 7 for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate and former vice president. Victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania propelled him over the 270 electoral vote margin to win. Biden also won Nevada later on Saturday and leads in Georgia with a slim margin of over 10,000 votes. 

Tallies for North Carolina are expected Nov. 12, with President Donald Trump leading by a margin of about 77,000 votes. On Nov. 11, media outlets projected Trump as the winner of Alaska’s three electoral votes.  

Even before the count in swing states began, LC administrators expected a community-wide struggle with mental health. 

Contemplative and Spiritual Life Coordinator Jeanne Lilly hosted a “Loving Kindness Meditation” over Zoom as part of the kick-off to election campus programming on Nov. 3.  

Lilly acknowledged that, due to demographic factors like race, gender and sexuality, the outcome will affect some LC community members more than others. She encouraged attendees to give themselves and others grace.

“It is my hope that a meditation that reminds us of our connection to each other might be helpful,” Lilly said. “Sometimes, we don’t recognize how stressful this really is.” 

Hours later, students experienced that stress firsthand, gathering at the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) in-person watch party or tracking returns with their pandemic “pods.” Following coverage from The New York Times, the ASLC watch party took place at J.R. Howard Hall and the Miller Center for the Humanities.

Phoenix Cox ’24 was one of the ASLC senators who monitored one of the election night watch party’s rooms.    

“It was nice to be able to watch the election together and commiserate,” Cox said. “It was mostly people trying to distract themselves, via Animal Crossing or friendship bracelets, while occasionally looking at the screen and following along.”

Clad in masks and six-feet apart, one pod watched the election broadcast for three hours in the Platt Hall common room, the table strewn with takeout food and neglected homework. 

Aligning with an estimated 96.4% of LC respondents in The Pioneer Log’s recent poll of likely voters, Emily Wagner ’23 voted for Biden. However, Wagner dislikes both candidates and voiced her frustrations as CBS reported the results. 

Wagner is not officially registered with either party. 

“My political affiliation, based on the way I grew up, (would be) generally Republican, but that is not always consistent,” Wagner said. “Not that I have LGBTQ views that are Republican. It’s mainly my views on drugs.”

Rowan Moreno ’23 also “settled for Biden.” Moreno is registered as a Democrat, but does not ideologically align with the party.

“I do consider myself farther left than Democrat just based on how I view the world and my own experiences as a queer person and a Latine person,” Moreno said. 

On the other hand, Manu Skora ’23, an unregistered libertarian from Ohio, voted for Trump based on his response to COVID-19. 

“It seemed like Trump really wants to return things back to normal, and Biden wants to keep everything shut down,” Skora said. 

The stress of the extended counting period in swing states impacted Moreno’s schoolwork. 

“I’ve been constantly checking the polls and it’s super frustrating to see nothing has changed,” Moreno said on Nov. 5. “I will admit that I have even checked them during some of my Zoom classes just waiting to see even the smallest increase.”

Moreno was distraught about how Trump’s immigration policies would affect their family, which includes many immigrants from Mexico.

“Having heard their experiences, and having had the election directly impact some of my family members, has definitely influenced my vote,” Moreno said.

All week long, affinity groups, including Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Feminist Student Union, Great Expectations and Gente Latina Unida LC sought to create safe spaces for marginalized students to debrief the election together. 

At the Graduate School of Education & Counseling, Liv Siulagi facilitated virtual art therapy sessions open to anyone from LC’s three campuses. 

“My specific art therapy open studio is focused on processing political trauma and specifically anxieties in 2020,” Siulagi said. 

Siulagi welcomed students on both Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. 

“I ran a studio the night after the election. A lot of people just wanted to (process) alone, and I think that can be really mentally challenging,” Siulagi said. “The next night we had a bigger turnout, and I think it felt much more relieving for people.”

Siulagi will continue to offer a virtual artistic space for members of the LC community with persistent political anxiety. “

“So much of our lives are alone, and this shouldn’t be something we go through alone,” Siulagi said.

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