From murder hornets to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was one of the most chaotic years in recent memory. But, the first few weeks of 2021 have proven that it’ll take more than a new year to put an end to this turbulence.
Just this month, Americans have seen right-wing extremists storm the Capitol building, watched Donald Trump get banned from nearly all social media and be impeached for a second time, and inaugurated a new president.
Miami University students come from a variety of backgrounds and hold beliefs across the political spectrum, but they can all agree on one thing: The past few weeks have been a whirlwind.
Sophomore psychology major Sidra Capriolo said she’s been feeling a variety of emotions lately. On one hand, she was excited to see the Democratic Party take control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency, but on the other, she’s worried the party won’t deliver on its promises.
“It’s nerve wracking because Democrats have been saying for a while that they’ve wanted to do certain things, but they had excuses – they’ve had Mitch McConnell, they’ve had Republicans, they’ve had votes that didn’t pass,” Capriolo said. “I think this is kind of a turning point because Democrats are either going to finally live up to what they said, or they're going to show that they weren't being serious about what they wanted to do.”
Capriolo said she also views this as a turning point for Republicans, who have splintered between those who continue to support Trump and those who have turned against him, like Senator Mitt Romney.
Junior political science major Taylor Armstrong, the chairman of Miami’s College Republicans (CRs), said he’s seen this type of division within his organization well before this year. Despite this, he said even those who support Trump within the organization don’t buy into the narrative that the election was stolen and still condemn the storming of the Capitol.
“Even before this, we had a block of anti-Trump Republicans – Mitt Romney Republicans, you could say,” Armstrong said. “Some people would label them RINOs (Republicans in name only), but that's Reddit rhetoric. Obviously we don't use that type of labeling, because at the end of the day, we're all Republicans.”
First-year business economics major Evan Gates also noticed this splintering, and he said he worries it’ll lead to a rise in far-right extremist sentiments that have been seen on Miami’s campus before.
Last week, Gates saw a sticker on a trash can near Upham Hall that read “China Owns Biden.” This sticker’s style mirrored that of the Patriot Front stickers that have been plastered across campus on multiple occasions.
“I think [far-right groups] are going to continue trying to reassert their presence on campus,” Gates said. “Part of it has been reactionary to Black Lives Matter protests, but there’s definitely a white supremacist undercurrent on campus.”
Gates said he feels Miami has not sufficiently responded to these types of incidents, which allows them to continue happening. He also said that, while the official statement Miami released in response to the storming of the Capitol was better than nothing, he was unsettled by the fact that President Greg Crawford didn’t personally sign it.
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“The lack of [Crawford’s] signature holds weight,” Gates said. “People might not immediately believe it, but when the president of the university puts his name under the email and says ‘we condemn white supremacy on campus,’ that's different than [VP for Student Life] Jayne Brownell.”
Capriolo expressed similar disappointment in Miami’s response but said she’s come to expect underwhelming communication from the university.
“There’s a kind of running joke with a lot of us [students] that Miami doesn’t want to offend its donors who might be white supremacists,” Capriolo said. “That's not to say Miami itself is a white supremacist institution, but they don't want to openly condemn white supremacy because it could be considered partisan.”
Sophomore political science major Jake Kravitz said while he understands the dissatisfaction students are feeling about the statement, he doesn’t think Miami could have done much more.
“As a public institution, Miami can only do so much,” Kravitz said. “I know some people would like to see more, but I don’t know what else the school could do.”
In contrast to Capriolo’s excitement about the future of the country, Kravitz expressed fear about what lies ahead.
“Honestly, with the election being as close as it was after these past four years, I’m losing a bit of hope for who we are as a country,” Kravitz said.
Armstrong, on the other hand, expressed optimism about the possibility of unity between the two parties during Biden’s presidency.
“I just hope things get done, and I think that's something all of us can agree on, whether we voted for Biden or not, whether we’re Democrats or Republicans,” Armstrong said. “We're all willing to work to make America, our state, our communities and especially Miami a better place.”