Why this first-time voter sees hope amid hurt

Obama to young voters: Sometimes you lose an election
Obama to young voters: Sometimes you lose an election

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Story highlights

  • Angela Pupino: Voted for Clinton but trying to understand Trump supporters' point of view
  • The anger and fear are real on both sides, but she believes healing is possible

Angela Pupino is a junior at American University and the fall writing fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. The views expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)I voted for the first time in the 2016 election. I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton, a presidential candidate I believed in, and a number of down-ballot races and local offices.

The election obviously didn't work out the way I had hoped.
    As a young woman who grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet in exactly the type of Rust Belt town that Trump's campaign successfully targeted, my relationship with this election cycle has been complicated. I have lived the economic troubles of the Rust Belt and understand its dissatisfaction with the status quo.
    Angela Pupino
    I understand why people I know support Donald Trump. I recognize that I spent much of this election cycle in my campus' liberal bubble, and I do not want to simply write off my community as hateful or uneducated. I feel compelled to try to understand their perspectives.
    Trump voters are people like my father, who works hard every day to maintain his cabinet shop and make a living for our family. They are people like my uncles who struggle to find work at all, let alone the type of work that lets them give their children a better life. People I know back home are angry, but to think of them as nothing more than bigots feels like a gross simplification.
    And yet, I am so deeply disturbed by this election.
    As a woman and a sexual assault survivor, my place in a nation that seems unperturbed by allegations of assault against a presidential candidate is still unclear. And that is concerning.
    I know people who feel like a Trump presidency threatens their very identity. For my friends who are Muslims, women, LGBTQ, immigrants, and people of color, the fear is very real. All day in person and across social media, they have expressed concerns that this country is no longer welcoming or safe for them, their families and their children.
    Why is Trump resonating with Rust Belt towns?
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      Why is Trump resonating with Rust Belt towns?

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    Why is Trump resonating with Rust Belt towns? 03:58
    They -- and I -- are afraid of the uncertainty this election result means in our lives. What will the next four years bring? Trump has built a campaign on messages that are xenophobic, racist and misogynistic. Given his victory and lack of opposition in both houses of Congress, I am worried about how his ideology will translate into governance.
    In his first 100 days in office, President-elect Trump has promised to work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, undo every one of President Obama's executive orders, begin mass deportations, and enact a ban on immigration from regions that are "terror-prone." Yet, despite my fears of a Trump agenda and the uncertainties my friends and I now face, conversations around me are slowly starting to turn to how we can move forward.
    Looking to the future is important to me. I'm a budding community activist and I know that movement-building and organizing is the only way to make sure the people most affected by public policies raise their voices to impact the national agenda. It is critical that those of us who want more progressive policies in place learn the hard lessons about voter turnout in this election cycle. Millennial voters, for instance, did not turn out in 2016 in the same way they did in 2012. The next successful presidential campaign should focus on mobilizing these voters.
    Just as important is the next step of beginning the difficult process of coming together.
    Students on my campus this week were opening their doors to each other. One of my professors took the class period today just to talk out our feelings. He told the class that we need to listen to each other if we want to heal. I agree. The atmosphere on campus is still tense, and I've seen bitter arguments between Republican and Democratic students across social media. We have a long way to go.
    These racial, economic and political divisions are going to exist no matter who is in office, but there are no easy answers for anyone today. Bridging these divides will not happen quickly or easily. The whole country seems tired. There's a lot of hurt on both sides.
    I, for one, am proud of my first-ever vote and of everything I did to push my family and friends to vote in the months leading up to this election. I see reason for optimism. My mom cast a vote for the first time in years. Early voting turnout hit record highs. Millions of Americans had their voices heard and exercised their power. And we can and should be proud of that.
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    So, today I am thinking about the future. I am thinking about all the work we still need to do. And while I am still uncertain, I am also hopeful.