SWFL reacts to Trump’s election with surprise, hopefulness

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Southwest Floridians on both sides of the aisle expressed shock after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.

Florida Gulf Coast University sophomore Shawn Chirico proudly wore his Trump hat around campus Wednesday, but he admits he didn’t think this day would come.

“Before I didn’t know there was that many Trump supporters in this country,” Chirico said. “The silent majority just woke up and finally said ‘enough.'”

It’s a much different feeling for Democrats like Lucy and Tom Garner. The Charlotte County residents who attended this year’s Democratic National Convention took a gut-punch Tuesday. Still, they’re not hanging their heads.

“My hope is that the country can come together and we can move forward,” Lucy Garner said. “We still need to struggle and do our best and think about unity [and] what we can do to help others that think different but love this country.”

Trump spoke often of prosecuting Clinton if he were to be elected, but Jonathan Martin, a Southwest Florida delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention, can’t envision him following through with that threat.

“I don’t see him second-guessing what the Department of Justice has already done,” Martin said. “I think what you will see with Donald Trump is learning from the mistakes of our past and current administration and then moving forward to not allow those mistakes to happen again.”

Still, with more than two months before the country moves forward with Trump as its president following his Jan. 20 inauguration, plenty of time exists to look back and wonder about the origin of the surge of support pollsters didn’t count on.

Gabriella Roper, another FGCU student, voted for Clinton. But she had no idea her father wouldn’t follow suit.

“After the whole election, he was like ‘Yeah I actually voted for Trump,’ so it was very shocking,” Roper said. “He said that he just feels that Clinton, that she was like, that we couldn’t trust her as a president.”

Roz Lesser, the Lee County chairwoman for the Trump campaign, said she believes a stronger ground game made the difference.

“We called, walked and won,” Lesser said. “We were on the phones 12 hours a day. We were knocking on doors 10 hours a day.”

Social media also played a key part in the election. From Tuesday and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, 75 million tweets were sent worldwide, compared to 31 million tweets during the same period in the 2012 election, Twitter said.

Data showed online use of the word “panic” skyrocketed just before Trump clinched Florida’s electoral votes, while Google Trends showed an uptick in the number of people who started researching Canadian immigration. A Canadian government website about immigration crashed as users flooded it Tuesday night.

It all paints a picture of a divided America. Social media expert Dr. Jeffrey Riley said new technology provides an outlet for the expression of views that have traditionally been held close.

“Now they’re being broadcasted, they’re being published, they’re being put out, Instagrammed, Snapchatted,” Riley said. “… It’s not inventing any new behavior. … Its just broadcasting the existing behavior.”

Even children are expressing hard-line stances.

“Kids have taken strong views and strong positions,” said Katherine Root, an Advanced Placement government and politics teacher at Port Charlotte High School. “We definitely have clear Democrats, clear Republican supporters, Third Party supporters, non-traditional supporters.”

Still, Port Charlotte senior Tanner Braun, like many others, said it’s time for the divisions to heal.

“When it comes down to it, I think we really all accept that we are Americans at the end of the day, and that regardless of what our views are, things have to be done,” Braun said.

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