I remember sending in my first column for “The Arena” last September. When the Daily accepted my proposal, I think I let it get to my head. I figured I would drop knowledge bombs and be the campus Nate Silver crossed with Jon Stewart crossed with Brad Pitt. But this election process made me feel more like Seamus Finnigan in “Harry Potter,” struggling to convert water into rum.
My boldest prediction of the whole term made me look like a moron. On Nov. 1 2015, I titled my column “Rubiowning it,” completely confident in Marco Rubio’s candidacy for the Republican ticket. He proceeded to have arguably the worst debate performance in modern history in New Hampshire and was out of the running by March. We went from “Rubiowning it” to “Rubi-uh-oh” to “Rubiover” (sorry, puns are my everything). I guess I jinxed it.
I don’t blame myself for making such a bold statement. Rubio reflected everything I figured a Republican candidate would need. He hailed from a competitive state (Florida), was fairly young, had a bipartisan record and spoke Spanish. I firmly believed in the “party decides” thesis — that the elites of a party nudge forward candidates they find most electable. Despite the norm, Trump won only a small handful of party endorsements before he clinched the nomination.
But even once Donald Trump won the Republican primary, I was confident he had little to no chance of actually winning the presidency. While studying at the University of Oxford this semester, I attended a speech by a so-called expert in American politics. He seemed as sure of Hillary Clinton’s victory as he was of the sun rising the next day.
It is clear that Americans were — to put it nicely — ticked off. Voters wanted something different from the status quo and were willing to vote for a man hardly qualified to play the board game “Risk.” This anger is certainly not isolated to the United States; the Brexit referendum is proof of similar anger in Europe. France and Germany both have big elections in the upcoming year, with the far right having a shot at the presidency in the former and a shot at a large parliamentary presence in the latter.
Considering this is the my final column of the term, I believe a sentimental note is in order. I hope those isolated pockets of “The Arena” fans (anyone beyond my mother is a plus) have enjoyed reading this column as much as I have enjoyed writing it. From writing in Carm’s dining hall to London’s famed Gatwick Airport and even a cheap-rate hotel in Dublin, I have had a blast. I am sure that for many, your ever-faithful columnist included, this election was a first chance to vote for the president. I hope my column convinced you to engage with our democratic system, no matter how you feel about its outcome.
It is pretty remarkable how much I personally have changed throughout this process. Donald Trump’s election has put asterisks next to just about everything I thought I knew about politics. Our next president campaigned on erroneous and twisted statements, any one of which could have ended a political career. But the beast that is the electoral process spat him out as our president, and with that we must cope.