On the other side of a presidential election that favored Donald Trump, area voters are expressing surprise and disappointment, but also some optimism, as they come to terms with the unexpected results.
“For me it was just an incredible shock,” said Lawrence resident Cynthia Haines. “I was watching the returns and I thought, ‘OK, things will start to turn at a certain point.’ And they never did. I just thought I’d go to sleep and wake up in the morning and that it was just a bad dream, but it wasn’t.”
Even if they were surprised by the results, others said they saw the outcome as an accurate reflection of a changing mood in the country.
“The people in politics wanted (Hillary Clinton), but I think that just shows that the American people were ready to move beyond traditional politicians,” said Tonganoxie resident Debra Fickler, an area health care worker who voted for Trump.
As predicted, Trump carried the state of Kansas with large margins. While the state’s historically Republican showing likely meant few voters expected Kansas’ electoral votes to go to Clinton, some said they cast a ballot for her on principle.
“A lot of what we saw during the election and media coverage was a notion of false equivalencies, like Hillary is corrupt and can’t be trusted because she used a private email server, but we have a candidate on the Republican side who is spouting xenophobic and racist remarks,” said Lawrence resident and University of Kansas student Ian Hierl.
“He’s talking about sexually assaulting women, he’s mocking people with disabilities, he’s generalizing about entire nations, he’s lying,” Hierl said.
Trump’s divisive language
Trump was heavily criticized for comments he made about women, immigrants, people with disabilities, Muslims and other marginalized populations.
Despite some of the divisive rhetoric of Trump’s campaign, some local leaders are hoping that people of all backgrounds will come together at the community level. NAACP chapter president Ursula Minor, who described herself as an optimist, said that she thought it was possible to overcome some of the polarization of the campaign.
“I’m still processing quite a bit of it; what it could mean and what it may not mean, I don’t know,” Minor said. “I just hope we can affect what’s around us and that any decisions made doesn’t come down and change things. I’d hate to see everybody still be so divided. It’s done, so hopefully we’ll be able to pick up and move on and still make this a good place to be.”
Minor said she thought that would take open-mindedness as well as ongoing dialogue between all members of the community.
Hierl, who self-identifies as queer, is also worried that a Trump presidency could mean a repeal of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision or abortion rights for women.
“My main fear is the long-lasting effects on the Supreme Court,” Hierl said.
Trump will appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice during his term, and potentially more, as three members of the court are in their 70s or 80s.
Clinton, though, wasn’t without her own critics.
Fickler said that controversies surrounding Clinton, including her use of a private email server while secretary of state, tipped the scales in favor of Trump. Still, Fickler said voting for Trump was “really hard” because she did want a woman president, but didn’t think Clinton was right for the job.
“I think it’s sad that it’s taken so long for a woman candidate,” Fickler said. “At the same time, I don’t think she was the right woman, in my opinion, just because of the controversy. There’s just too many questionable things that have happened in her past.”
The FBI investigated Clinton for her use of the private email server, but ultimately did not file any charges against her. Clinton was also the subject of a congressional hearing regarding four Americans who were killed in Benghazi, Libya, but was cleared of wrongdoing.
But the controversies and the elements of Clinton’s campaign that Hierl didn’t agree with still didn’t hold as much weight as Trump’s, Hierl said.
“My reservations against her are barely comparable,” Hierl said.
Fickler also said she didn’t think Trump alone could have a large effect on gender issues.
“We’re one of the most liberal countries in the sense of women’s rights, and what we can do and we can’t do,” she said. “I think people need to take a deep breath; the United States isn’t going to change overnight just because he’s president.”
Douglas County election map: President 2016Breakdown of votes for president, Nov. 8, 2016
Click precinct for details. (On desktop, select one layer at a time)
Source: Douglas County Elections Office unofficial results
During his campaign, Trump also vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That promise has some local health care providers that rely on federal ACA funding preparing to deal with major changes.
“I’m taking him at his word, that he will repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Beth Llewellyn, CEO of Health Care Access, a medical clinic serving the low-income and uninsured residents of Douglas County.
“That’s going to create a new kind of confusion in the health care marketplace and for health care providers trying to serve people,” Llewellyn said. “And for us, it intensifies the importance of us needing more help for a longer period from our community to care for folks that don’t have insurance.”
Also counting on some level of change, state hospital representatives are putting stock in other forms of support, most notably from new and incumbent state lawmakers.
“I think on the state level, we feel that there is going to be an excellent opportunity for folks in Kansas to continue to have conversations about numerous health care issues,” said Cindy Samuelson, vice president of the Kansas Hospital Association.
“As you know we’ve really been working on expanding KanCare, and I think there’s a better opportunity to be able to have a conversation about that as well as other health care issues in 2017,” Samuelson said.
Despite her ultimate decision to vote for Trump, Fickler admitted her decision wasn’t without its reservations, and that there were some doubts surrounding a Trump presidency.
“I think it’s kind of scary, because it’s someone who is not tested,” Fickler said.
Still, Fickler is hopeful about what Trump might accomplish, especially when surrounded with capable staff. Trump’s promises to bring back jobs also resonated with Fickler, and she said that it makes sense for someone who is in business to run a country.
“His whole emphasis of his campaign was really putting people to work,” Fickler said. “If you put people to work there should be less need for welfare, but you have to do it in a manner that doesn’t put the country in further debt.”
While Haines said she thought Trump had “lost good will” with the world, she wasn’t all negative. Haines said that after watching Clinton urge people in a concession speech Wednesday to continue working for what they thought was right, she was feeling more hopeful.
“She’s a real class act,” Haines said. “And we can whine about it all we want, but she really made the point that we’ve just got to come together as a country and say, ‘OK, half the country wanted this man, and let’s make the best of it.’”