Movements for, against Trump unsure if momentum will continue

With President-elect Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration on Friday, many daring protesters are gearing up to show their disdain for the direction they believe America will head in under a Trump administration.  Being at the tail-end of a widely unpredictable election, there’s an underpinning of revolution for many young, politically engaged voters across the ideological spectrum who want to turn outrage into political change.  However, questions about how millennials will remain politically engaged in the coming years have surfaced.

Political science professor Molly Andolina believes the presence of activism prevalent in the 2016 election by millennials is going to continue to expand due to the demographic’s desire to invoke change.

“I think young people are truly impassioned to make a difference in a world that they see as full of problems — internationally and domestically, socially, politically and economically,” she explained.  “In my research, we find youth are mobilized to action by a sincere desire to effect change — not because it’s cool or because they want to build their resumes.”

Protesters in Chicago in the weeks following Donald Trump’s election. While thousands came out into the streets then, some groups wonder if the movement has run out of steam. (Photo courtesy of Ben Alexander / FLICKR)

Andolina cites current circumstances facing millennials today as being the “driving factor” in their becoming more politically active and engaged.

They are the first generation in recent years to not expect to do better than their parents socioeconomically, and those who are lucky enough to get a college degree, are carrying more debt while others are having trouble finding a job in the marketplace, Andolina said.

“I want to make change at the local level,” Adewale Emmanuel, a 2009 graduate of DePaul, said.

Emmanuel believes whatever happens at a national level is relevant and important, but doesn’t feel affected as much.  He plans on remaining active and engaged at a local level in order to make changes and “perfect” what’s going on within his community.  “I see what’s going on in Chicago and I want to be part of the solution.  I want to do something.”

Looking back at 2016, there was plenty of action from various social and political groups at DePaul that did their part to increase political awareness and engagement by holding bi-partisan debates, setting up tables in the Student Center, handing out fliers and even chalking.

Thousands in San Fransisco, California marched in the streets against Trump following the election. (Photo courtesy of Ben Chun / FLICKR)

Sociology professor Michael Bennett recalls the shakiness that reverberated throughout his classroom on Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump was elected President, an outcome many didn’t anticipate. 

“In both my classes last quarter following the election, students were devastated,” he said.  “(They) really didn’t believe that Donald Trump could be elected.  Once he was, you had those who were totally depressed, and then you had those who had the resolve to get more involved.”

Bennett believes that as policies begin to roll out and certain groups within the millennial demographic feel the effects, there will be an uproar in activism.  “Let’s say, for example, whatever happens with the repeal of Affordable Care Act, which affects millennials, unless the Republicans present a plan that is equally as friendly to millennials, you’ll see more activity by millennials around issues like that,” he said.

Utilizing social media as a tool for garnering support has been a tactic used by campaigns that are seeking to keep the public up-to-date and informed on social, economic and environmental issues that aren’t as widely publicized, but call for the public to remain active, empathetic and hungry for change.

Felipe Bascuñán, a digital cinema and film major and member of DePaul Socialists, explained that the use of social media to inform the masses within a short period of time has had an impact on exposing crisis such as DAPL, but getting out, rallying and being engaged is helping make an extreme difference.  “For months that had been going on and no major outlets were covering it, so the ways people got informed about it were through social media,” he said.  “However, we shouldn’t overstate that, and we shouldn’t see social media as a substitute for bodies in the street.  But as an organizational tool, it’s extremely helpful.”

Youth representing a host of different groups protesting the Trump election in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Kati Danforth, junior mathematics major and member of DePaul College Republicans (DCRs), believes the use of both media outreach and person-to-person engagement has been especially helpful in terms of exposure for minority political groups, such as DCRs, who fight to keep conservative voices known and relevant. 

“We’re being heard because we’re forcing ourselves to be heard.  And I think that is a good thing because if we go quiet, there’s no voice to speak for any other side on campus,” she said.

Danforth believes staying engaged and educated is necessary for those who desire political change.  “With how you’re able to connect to people so easily, I think to not be involved is just a huge mistake,” she said.  “Being here in America allows you to reinvent yourself on a constant basis. If you don’t like what’s happening, reinvent it in some manner, and educate yourself on what polices are going to be enacted and what’s actually going on.”

Jack McNeil, president of DePaul Democrats, believes staying engaged is a matter of finding issues youth can change in their local communities.  “I think our focus is to work with those elected officials locally and get people involved in more professionalizing the field,” he said.  “There’s a lot of college kids who want to be involved in politics, but don’t really know what to do in an off-season, so if we can find ways to get them to intern at different consulting agencies and learn some skills, that will be really useful.”

The skills millennials will learn through these opportunities will be useful if they want to stay involved in politics, and want to maximize their involvement in the next election cycle, he said.