For SouthCoast Progressives, Worries Surface Over Trump Presidency

New York, Nov. 8, 2016 -- Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump cast their votes at their polling place at PS 59 Beekman Hill International on Election Day. Photo by Ann Singer/BU News Service
Written by Michael Sol Warren

By: Michael Sol Warren
Statehouse Correspondent / South Coast Today

On Tuesday night, Sade Smith, an African-American English major at UMass Dartmouth, needed a break from the tense national vote count and took a nap with hopes the trend would turn.

 “I went to sleep for a little bit, hoping that when I woke up this nightmare would be over. I saw the numbers; they were getting scary,” Smith said. “I woke up around 3:30, 4 o’clock, saw the notification on my phone and just kind of laid back.”

Across SouthCoast, supporters of Hillary Clinton are reacting with shock and concern at the surprise election of Donald Trump. After more than a year of controversial statements and predictions he would fail, his 11th hour victory on Tuesday left many Democrats and progressives reeling.

Labor officials worry about Trump’s record against unions, veterans talked about changes in the health care. Muslims spoke of concerns about public attitudes fired by Trump’s rants against them.

Walking on campus Wednesday, Smith worried that a Donald Trump presidency will lead to more discrimination against minorities, believing his campaign rhetoric has emboldened a subtle form of racism.

“People have been getting really brave with the way that they interact with minorities,” Smith said. “There’s been a lot of theory about modern racism and how it’s not people spitting on you on the transit home or shuffling away from you when you’re walking towards your car. But it might be those people not hiring you when you (apply) for a job or not understanding you in a classroom setting.”

Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, said Trump’s victory has the SouthCoast’s undocumented immigrant community on edge.

“I think more and more people are going to be underground and not come out,” Hughes said. “And that’s what my biggest concern is … that these crimes that are happening in these communities are being unreported because of fear of getting deported.”

 Despite Trump’s campaign pledge to deport every undocumented immigrant in America, Hughes is optimistic the new president will pass immigration reform that gives those undocumented immigrants a path to legalization.

“I really think that we will see an immigration reform [bill] within the first year of his presidency, because in the second year there’s elections again for Congress,” Hughes said. “So I think this becomes very political and I think Republicans want to be known as the party that finally did comprehensive immigration reform.”

Hughes said that community support for her organization has increased in the days since the election.

“People are calling me wanting to volunteer,” Hughes said. “They said ‘just call me and I’ll do anything.’”

Cynthia Rodrigues, president of the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council, said Trump will be much less sympathetic to union workers than Hillary Clinton.

“I could not believe that this country voted for a man with his background,” said Rodrigues.

Rodrigues doesn’t expect local unions to be too affected by the election, but she does think that labor will struggle on a national level under a Trump presidency.

 “I think as far as labor’s concerned, we’re not going to get anything passed,” said Rodrigues, who expects Trump to run the nation as one of his businesses, which she said doesn’t bode well for his treatment of workers.

Steven Rose, a part-time Uber driver who receives disability benefits from his time in the Navy, said he worries about how Trump will interact with foreign leaders.

“I’m scared of Trump. I’m afraid that he might start World War III,” Rose said. “It scares me [that] he’s going to see the leaders of other countries. How is he going to talk to them? He disrespected everybody in America.”

Trump has promised to make changes to Veterans Affairs Department, including the privatization of services. Rose worries about that,A too.

“Obama did a great job,” Rose said. “There’s no long waiting time to see doctors or operations or things like that.”

Jane Gonsalves, a former New Bedford city councilor, said she was upset and disappointed that Clinton lost her bid to become the nation’s first female president.

“I had supported Hillary eight years ago too, and I was very disappointed that we were unable to break that glass ceiling that night. I was so hoping for a woman president this time,” Gonsalves said.

 Gonsalves also said she was discouraged that American voters would support Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric.

“I feel like the values that Trump has espoused throughout the campaign, in word and in action, are so negative,” Gonsalves said. “So many people seem to be fueled by anger and hate that support him. That’s not what I want America to be, that’s not what I thought America was.”

Gonsalves is also worried that with Trump making Supreme Court appointments, the rhetoric could become reality.

“That’s what a big concern is to me, that the rights that we have fought for for women, for gays and for minorities will be rolled back by the Supreme Court if he gets to replace justices,” Gonsalves said.

If there is one bright spot for Gonsalves, it’s that Trump made sure to have a strong message of national unity in his victory speech.

“That’s what we need and I’m happy to hear that,” Gonsalves said.

Martin Bentz, a convert to Islam who serves as the communications liaison for the Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts, said that Muslims in the region are uneasy with a Trump presidency.

 “He unleashed a lot of fear among voters who are not particularly informed about Islam,” Bentz said. “We feel that people who are fearful of Muslims are more emboldened to show their displeasure.”

Trump used mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando to rationalize his call for a ban on refugees from Syria and other Muslim countries.

Bentz said that these ideas are unfair because Islam is a peaceful religion that does not condone any kind of violence.

He said that the local community has remained accepting of Muslims.

“In New Bedford, people have gone out of their way to show that they’re tolerant,” Bentz said.

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