Some people find themselves fascinated with sports, others celebrities, and some music. For me, politics has always piqued my interest. Politics has always been an integral part of my life. From 1997-2002 my grandpa, Dean Cooley, served in the Arizona State House as the representative in District 21 including parts of Mesa and Tempe.
Needless to say, I was very young at this time. However, I grew up in awe of my grandfather’s love of politics. His office displayed everything from a picture with Ronald Reagan to a Christmas card from Mitt Romney. Even more impressive was his vast collection of elephant statues from all around the world. To me, I was far removed from the world of politics, but everything about this world interested me – the candidates, the ideals, both parties, and most of all the debating. As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to experience everything my grandpa did.
However, as I grew older, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to experience the world of politics in a different viewpoint than that of my grandpa. I simply wished to report it, rather than to live it. In doing so, I’ve realized it will allow me to experience all sides and viewpoints of politics, in contrast to a one-sided argument. This was a key realization during this year’s election.
I followed the election from the bitter start. I fervently watched all debates, Republican to Democrat, and found key points in every candidate that interested me. In my home town, Taylor, Arizona, my friends supported everyone from Rubio to Johnson to Bernie to Trump. Oddly enough, being from a small town, no one really cared for Hillary Clinton. She just didn’t connect.
This was not the case when I arrived to college. Here, everyone had their own opinion, and everyone staunchly supported it. Since I arrived after the commencement of the primaries, the race was narrowed down to two candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Dorms were decorated with ‘I’m with her’, ‘Nasty Woman’, and ‘Make America Great Again’ propaganda. Everywhere you went, everywhere you looked, the election was inescapable. Hillary v. Trump took over not only America’s hearts, but their social media, conversations, and mindsets. The whole thing looked like a done deal; Hillary would win, Trump supporters would mourn, and life would go on. However, things didn’t go quite as planned.
The night of the election was a hectic one. I had the chance to experience both state political parties through the eyes of a journalist. Each one had a different aura to it. Both held the same end goal. As the night winded down, enthusiasm grew at the Republican party, and hope waned at the Democratic gathering. The unforeseen was about to happen. Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States. That was that. It was over.
I arrived home that night to crying, drunk, and dismayed friends. It seemed like the only sober people around were sleeping or Trump fans. Friends and family were all texting me in shock. I stayed up until four in the morning in awe of the news. As a journalist, the unforeseen had happened, the media was wrong. All I could really do was reflect on what had happened, wonder how, and learn from the mistakes.
The whole night seemed unreal. It was almost like a dream. Everything that was relevant for the past year was finally over with. All the debates, all the campaigning, over. Gone. A new page was about to be turned; one that includes a presidency under Trump.
Looking to the future, all I can say is this election is a great learning experience for not only me, but for America too. You have to look out for all outcomes, and not underestimate the underdog. In doing so, you’ll find a story you never would have before. I can also say, I’ve grown to better understand my grandfather’s passion for politics.
— Kendri Nicolls is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.