Harvard Reacts to Close Election

In overwhelmingly liberal Cambridge, Bush celebrations were few and far between yesterday, but as one news organization after another called the race decisively for the President, Republicans responded.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Harvard Republican Club (HRC) spokeswoman Lauren K. Truesdell ’05. “It wasn’t as close as it was predicted to be.”

But the downcast mood of liberal students and faculty—felt in all aspects of campus life, from classes to meals to libraries—overshadowed the celebrations, leaving Republicans isolated in their ecstasy.

“Being in the minority on campus tends to temper one’s outward celebration,” said Christina L. Adams ’06. “Among Republicans there is a sheltered enthusiasm.” Overall, she said she felt relief—that her candidate won, but more that the election is over.

“Today’s mood has been pretty somber, everyone’s real touchy,” Truesdell said, referring to Republicans “under fire” on Adams-Schmooze. Heated debates on many house open lists yesterday signalled a continuing partisan fervor in the wake of the election.

“We respect the fact that [Democrats] worked really hard but now is our turn to celebrate,” Truesdell said. “People I am running into, they are a little bitter, but they’ll get over it.”

Jennifer H. Lee ’05 says she is a Republican, but many of her friends may not know that about her. She said she received many instant messages complaining, “This is the worst day of my life.” To which she simply responded, “Oh, I hear you.”

For the campus Republicans, it’s back to business as usual—though Truesdell said she expected last night’s board meeting to be “jubilant,” the real party is not until next weekend.

A LEAKY-EYED LEFT

The mood among Harvard Democrats was strikingly quiet.

“A combination of anger and disappointment. Sort of a shock,” said Paco J. Britto ’06.

“Funeral-like,” said Dems President Andy J. Frank ’05, who gathered with fellow liberals yesterday to watch Kerry’s concession speech.

College Dems Legislative Director Thomas M. McSorley ’06 sadly recalled having to erase “drunken stupor” from his daytime schedule. Others joked about fleeing the country.

But misery loves company, and College Dems found comfort in each other.

“Nobody had to mention why. Some would say, I’m having a bad day and we all understood why,” Britto said.

Sarah J. Watson ’06 recalled the “spontaneous expressions of angst” she experienced with other students in her classes.

Frank said that despite the defeat, the Dems will continue their involvement in local and campus politics, and pursue their role as leaders in idea creation within the Democratic party.

As for the party as a whole, Frank said the election will be a learning experience.

“This is going to force people to reflect and take on the hard work of reinventing the Democratic party for the future,” he said.

While Frank expressed fear for the future direction of the country, he pointed to small victories such as Kerry’s win in New Hampshire, a state where both the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club spent much time canvassing.

IN THE CLASSROOM

The election not only dominated conversations between classes, but during them as well.

From an academic perspective, Assistant Professor of Government D. Sunshine Hillygus, who teaches Government 1352, “Campaigns and Elections,” said the Bush victory had been expected by political scientists. Prior to the election, she asked her students to predict results in battleground states based on non-campaign factors such as party registration and economic indicators. Most of their predictions proved correct—a majority of the class predicted Florida and Ohio going to Bush.

Hillygus said that what her students learned in the classroom—such as the disconnect between actual results and exit polls—helped them interpret yesterday’s election results.

Though her students may not have been surprised by the results, Hillygus said she sensed dissatisfaction in a class composed primarily of Kerry supporters.

According to Hillygus, students pondered whether things could have been done differently, asking questions like “What can be done in the future? Does this predict that Democrats have little chance at national office for some time?”

In response to the country’s political focus, professors from non-political classes deviated from planned lectures to address the election.

After hearing that Kerry’s chances of winning Ohio were statistically insurmountable (but before he had officially conceded the election), Professor of Biostatistics at the School of Public Health Louise M. Ryan asked her students in Statistics 100 to crunch the numbers themselves.

She said the results sobered the class.

While Ryan said she was happy to have the opportunity for her students to compute real world numbers, she noted that many were absent after a long night watching election coverage.

“I stayed up late myself, but I still turned up for class,” Ryan quipped.

In Historical Study B-61, “The Warren Court and the Pursuit of Justice, 1953–1969,” Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School Morton J. Horwitz opened his class yesterday with a discussion of how Bush’s re-election would affect the Supreme Court, particularly Justice appointments and interpretations of cases such as Roe v. Wade.

COLLEAGUES

Though Horwitz said Bush would likely nominate conservative appointees, Julie Ann Crommett ’08 said the professor was diligent about not divulging his personal views.

Ryan said she too tried to hide her feelings in Stat 100, but questioned her success. “I felt I should be non-partisan but I probably showed I was disappointed,” she said. “I tried not to show it too much.”

“Colleagues I have talked to are mostly disappointed but I wouldn’t say shocked,” said Government Associate Professor Barry C. Burden. “There is less Monday morning quarterbacking going on today. In 2000, it looked like it was Gore’s election to lose. I don’t think that people now are trying to sense what Kerry did wrong. In this election, the voters spoke and their message came out strong.”

Hillygus, who teaches “Campaigns and Elections,” said that her pro-Kerry colleagues’ ability to correctly predict a Bush victory offered them some solace. “There was a little bit of consolation in that,” she said. “Political scientists got it right this time.”

—Staff writer Faryl W. Ury can be reached at ury@fas.harvard.edu.