PhD student Chloe Doherty offers personal reflections on the emotional rollercoaster of the Donald Trump presidency.

I distinctly remember November 9, 2016. I woke up groggy from staying up late the night before, excited for the announcement of the United States electing its first female president, an announcement that never came. As I numbly walked toward my Chicago Loop office, I remember sharing looks of shock, sadness and fear with passersby, feelings that were an all too accurate foreshadowing of the years to follow.

Not even a month into his presidency, Donald Trump confirmed my fears, and those of the rest of the world, when he issued a ban on people flying into the United States from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all of which are predominantly Muslim. I remember squashing onto the overly packed blue line trains as local Chicago law students and lawyers rushed to O’Hare Airport in attempts to offer any type of legal support they could to stranded visitors and their families.

As Trump’s presidency continued, my own fears, and those of countless other Americans, increased as Trump promised to strip away basic rights like health care (I depend on a daily prescription medication) and declared war on immigrants (both my parents are immigrants).

Trump instilled fear as he continually dehumanised and punished the very people that America originally boasted to welcome with acceptance and freedom. He began his presidency with discriminatory practices like tearing innocent children away from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border under the Family Separation Act. He has only continued these prejudiced behaviours as evidenced by his complimentary labeling of neo-Nazi white Americans as “very fine people” in contrast with his racist condemnation and threats towards those fighting for black lives in the Black Lives Matter movements.

Trump’s antics over the last four years most certainly have increased fear both within Americans and within myself. But perhaps one of the most devastating realisations came for me in seeing that an all too large number of Americans appeared to agree with Trump. The election of a xenophobic bully as the leader of the United States permitted American citizens with the same views not only to voice those views but to practice them. The Trump administration not only has allowed this type of violence and intolerance come to light; it also has applauded and supported it.

The Trump administration has made America a scary and hateful country, and one in which I am ashamed to say I am from whenever I travel.

I distinctly remember November 9, 2016. But I also distinctly remember November 7, 2020 (and not just because it was last week). Joe Biden’s election as the 46th president of the United States is a welcome miracle (yes, miracle – after four years of Trump, I have become a tad cynical in our ability to elect an ethically-sound person to the White House). And in keeping with this (very) honest and personal account of American politics, I can say, Biden was not my first choice for the Democratic presidential candidate. Actually, he wasn’t even my second or third choice. (I take issue with several things including his conflicting past decisions and his being another privileged, old, white male.) I do, however, agree with many of his policies, and I especially developed a fondness for him after his very strategic choice of Oakland-born (what up, Bay Area?!) Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

I do not believe President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris (how nice of a ring do those titles have?!) will solve everything. In fact, I think it is, quite frankly, impossible, to restore the nation completely after four destructive years of Trump (which also included Supreme Court Justice appointments of an alleged rapist and a woman who does not defend women’s rights). But I do believe Biden and Harris can get us back on the right path. In tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden promises to follow science. (I can’t believe a president-elect’s belief in science makes me giddy with joy, but this is 2020.) Biden has just assembled his COVID-19 task force headed by 2014 surgeon-general Vivek Murthy and rounded out by several other distinguished doctors. Yes, doctors, not family members.

Internationally, I hope Biden’s belief in science and promise to invest in renewable forms of energy will reestablish the United States as a cooperative and strong member in the Paris Climate Change agreement, which Trump immediately pulled out of when he assumed the presidency.

While Biden’s election (hopefully) represents a move in the right direction, the fight is far from over.

Trump has yet to concede the election, and there are fears that he will not leave the White House quietly or peacefully.

Despite a 2018 federal judge’s order to reunite children ripped from their parents under Trump’s Family Separation Policy, 666 children are STILL separated as of November 2020.

The US COVID-19 statistics reach more devastating numbers everyday with the country just last week topping the world with over 127,000 cases reported daily three days in a row.

The US has an entire race of people that feel unsafe to leave their homes for fear that the very people that were employed to protect American citizens will target them. 

And these issues do not even begin to touch upon the complete restructuring the United States must undertake in its promise to provide a safe and accepting place for immigrants and its female, minority, and LGBTQ (to name a few) citizens.

Yes, the United States, and the rest of the world, still have a long way to go in attempts to recover from Trump’s presidency. However, I am optimistic, for the first time in awhile, that this election offers a glimmer of something I have not seen in a long time: hope.

Chloe Doherty is a PhD student in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. Originally from San Francisco, she has also lived and studied in Chicago, and has most recently completed a Master’s degree in Nice, France.

Image credit: Yalcin Sonat / Shutterstock.com