I vividly remember the evening that the 2016 election results were revealed. I was on campus, having just finished with my last class for the day. As everyone was discussing the election with anticipation, I was eating dinner in the cafeteria with some friends of mine. We were cracking jokes about how Trump was going to win. They were only jokes, of course. After all, there was no conceivable way that he could actually land a victory. What a ridiculous idea. No, he was the butt of our jokes and nothing more; a convenient and easy target and an occasional source of entertainment, but certainly not our future president. I was sure of that, certain of it, even. I knew it for a fact. We all knew it. The very notion of him becoming the next president, becoming our president, was completely absurd.
As the results were beginning to approach, we all headed to my friend’s dorm room. Someone had their computer open, monitoring the results as they started to come in. We didn’t pay them too much attention at first, though, as there was little point in doing so if we already knew who was going to win.
Everyone had been saying that Trump would lose. Saying it ever since he first announced that he would be running. And we believed it. We had no reason not to. Sure, he had his supporters, but they were in the minority. He didn’t have the numbers to pull through. That’s what the polls said. That’s what everyone said. And we believed it. We had to believe it. Because the alternative was much too horrifying to take seriously. And then the numbers started coming in.
Our friend informed us that Trump had won his first couple of states. We joked about it, feigning fear that he would win. Then he won another one. And a couple more. And more. And more. Our fear slowly turned real, our smiles gradually faded, our laughs became nervous laughs, and we started considering the idea that he might, just maybe, have something that resembled some semblance of a slight chance.
That’s when he started gaining the lead. He was ahead. He was doing it; he was actually winning. But that would surely change. Things were about to turn around any second now. Of course they were. Weren’t they?
At this point, all of us had a laptop or a phone out, checking various news sites. We could hardly believe what we were seeing. We pulled up various social media platforms to see what other people were saying, and we found the internet in a state of utter chaos. Some people were in a state of panic and disbelief, while others hailed the arrival of their new leader. Wars were being waged in comment sections everywhere. The Canadian travel information page shut down due to too much traffic.
Then the final results came in. He had officially done it. He’d won. Donald Trump was the next President of the United States of America; this man was the leader of our country. A momentous occasion, to be sure.
I know that there are plenty of people who see the events that transpired that night in a completely different light. That it came as no surprise to them that he won, that it was always clear that he stood a chance, that the media was just misrepresenting the facts. Some people weren’t surprised in the slightest that he had won. But I wasn’t one of these people. I was shocked. I never saw it coming. I never thought I’d live to see the day. Our first orangutan president.