Clinton v Trump: what will you be doing on election night?

US scholars reveal how they will spend the night as arguably the most divisive election battle in recent history nears its conclusion

November 7, 2016
White House, US president
Source: iStock

On 8 November, the US people will go to the polls and elect a new president. It has been one of the most bitter and divisive election campaigns that the US has ever seen, with Republican candidate, Donald Trump, and Democrat, Hillary Clinton, pulling no punches in the battle to become commander-in-chief.

It was 12 April 2015 – some 20 months ago – that Ms Clinton announced that she would run, with Mr Trump announcing his candidacy in June of the same year. After a gruelling campaign, which included three explosive television debates and a series of scandals about both contenders, the end is finally in sight.

The election will have very real implications for higher education in the US, and will no doubt be of interest to scholars the world over. We asked six US academics to share how they will be spending election night, along with some of their hopes and fears about what might lie in store.  

Kori Schake, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

I’ll spend election night providing political commentary at a fundraiser in San Francisco for the Boston Review, an outstanding public affairs and literary magazine.

Being on the West Coast is always a little anticlimactic on election night, since much is already clear from eastern states before our polling places close three hours later. More than 40 million Americans have already voted, lots of new voters in states such as Florida and Nevada, and my guess is that Latinos are going to vote in unprecedented numbers and deliver the election to Clinton – as well they should. 

As a signatory of every anti-Trump letter from conservative national security leaders, I’m voting against my own party this election. But I’m worried that Trump could carry the popular vote, Clinton the electoral majority, and then he will continue claiming the election should be invalidated.

Dr Schake previously worked in the State Department under former Republican president George W. Bush. 

Angelia Wilson, professor of politics, University of Manchester

My election day 24 hours: early train to London; live on CNN Radio Atlanta; to Parliament to judge A-level student video competition about the US presidency for the Political Studies Association; back to Manchester with family and colleagues glued to the telly most of the night (bubbly?); quick nap; collecting snacks for “Celebrating the End!”. Lunchtime gathering for my American politics students; breakfast and the morning school run; and then teaching at 9am. 

Ideally, we will celebrate the election of the first woman president of the United States. But this election has been anything but ideal. So on 9 November, my students, as UK observers, will celebrate the end of a brutal electoral drama.

When Americans wake with the hate hangover from hell, they will have little to celebrate. The home of democracy, trashed by animosity and polarisation, stands in need of careful, attentive renovation. Sounds like a job for a woman.

Professor Wilson is originally from Texas.

Howard Segal, professor of history at the University of Maine

I'll be spending election night at the nearby Bangor, Maine, Hilton – headquarters of my congressional district’s Democratic candidate.

It's a rematch with the first-term right-wing Republican incumbent who beat her two years ago. The morning after, I'll be reading The New York Times for the kind of detailed coverage and results that one doesn't find on any of the American television programmes. My dream is that Hillary wins in a landslide, that the Democrats take over both the House and the Senate, but that, shortly before or after January 20 2017, Hillary is jailed for various illegal activities, with vice-president (elect) Tim Caine becoming the next president. 

Catherine Clinton, Denman endowed professor in American History, University of Texas at San Antonio

On 8 November, I will be glued to multiple devices to follow the fortunes of the candidates at the only poll that counts in this US election season. I will be in Saint Augustine Florida, the oldest continuous settlement on the North American continent – and Florida remains what we call a battleground state.

I have begun my Guggenheim Fellowship year on a road trip to conferences, archives and historical sites. I have just given my presidential address to the Southern Historical Association. But this President Clinton gets to retire in 2016.

Many of my generation – academic historians of a certain age – think that this is a critical contest for American women: I'm afraid it's a critical time for all Americans. I will anxiously await the outcome, visiting the fountain of youth, which was believed to have been discovered here along the Florida coast in the New World. I believe democracy is no longer young, but we should do everything that we can to renew its power in the world, in these times when oppressive and harsh injustices seem to flourish.

Many are wearing white to their voting stations to remind us that women only gained suffrage in 1920, and a vote is a precious thing to protect and maintain. American elections always give historians lots of material for their future scholarship: none more than this particular 2016 electoral season.

Professor Clinton is also currently international research professor at Queen’s University Belfast, and president of the Southern Historical Association.

Alan Ruby, senior fellow at the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, University of Pennsylvania

When the polls close on election night, I will be midway on a flight to the world’s largest (and much younger) democracy, India. When it lands, I hope to hear that there is a clear result that is accepted by the two principal candidates for US president, and that there will be a smooth transfer of power.

My biggest fear is that the rancour and divisiveness that has marred this election cycle will continue unabated with both sides unwilling and seemingly incapable of learning from – or even hearing – another point of view. This entrenched divisiveness is hard to reconcile with the notions of tolerance and equality that shaped the founding of the nation.

It would be wonderful if the new president re-emphasised the importance of e pluribus unum as a unifying principle for the community; something more than an odd phrase you find on dollar bills.  

Duncan Wu, a British academic who is Raymond Wagner professor of literary studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC

I'll be watching election coverage at my local cinema, the Angelika Mosaic, with the Chardonnay-swilling baby boomers, bankers, lobbyists and plutocrats of northern Virginia.

I will toke up on a cocktail of anti-depressants, Night Nurse and vodka beforehand, and hope that the morning after I will emerge jubilant in the knowledge that America’s first female president will take the reins, saving us from the blight of terminal Trumpery.

The nightmare scenario would be Trump triumphant, after which I would drive to work and give my students a lecture on revolution in the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

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