Group remains divided on Trump, now looking to him for leadership
January 26, 2017
Amidst the many on-campus groups and departments voicing their dissent for the 45th President of the United States, one group gathered last week to celebrate his inauguration.
On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, the Santa Clara College Republicans club hosted a barbecue to celebrate the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
About 20 students along with members of local conservative groups gathered in the Locatelli Student Activity Center to celebrate, converse and watch the President take the oath of office.
College students across the U.S. are generally characterized as politically left-leaning, and Santa Clara’s students are no exception. However, there is a small minority of students and professors on campus that identify with conservative values and the Republican Party.
The latest election season brought unique challenges and strong opposition to an already small community of republicans on Santa Clara’s campus.
The Jan. 21 event included three speakers from the Santa Clara Republican Party’s central committee and the California College Republicans.
Vice-chair of the committee Robert Varich encouraged students to seek support from his organization, saying that conservatives are a minority in the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area at large.
Within Santa Clara County, 20.7 percent of voters cast ballots for Donald Trump while 73.3 percent of votes went to Hillary Clinton. More democrats voted in 2016 compared to 2012 and 30,000 fewer republican voters turned out.
Students in attendance said their club was divided on supporting Donald Trump. After the Harvard University College Republican’s publically announced that they would not support the GOP nominee for the first time since 1888, the question was discussed among Santa Clara’s chapter members. While usually the club does not collectively endorse a candidate, this noteworthy announcement by Harvard left them with no consensus on the issue.
The Santa Clara College Republicans have approximately 150 registered members, about 25 to 30 of which attend regular bi-weekly meetings. Of those regular members, two are female.
Santa Clara’s club is underneath the larger umbrella of the California College Republicans and looks to the organization to help foster growth as a chapter. Meetings typically consist of discussions based on a chosen topic and activities such as voter outreach and attending state conventions.
Club members represent a split-ticket of sorts. Some voted for Trump, others for a third party candidate and a few did not cast ballots. Students supported of a range of republican candidates including Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. But as it became clear that Trump would be the nominee, many members got on the “Trump train.” Less than half of the members were originally Trump supporters, but are now looking to him to fix what they perceive to be issues created by the Obama administration.
One unnamed executive board member of the club resigned when Trump was named the GOP candidate. “He originally didn’t want to lead the club with Trump in charge,” said Justin Azzarito, the club’s president. “However, (he) has now come over in order to be on the winning team.”
This election cycle has incited a deep divide among many Americans and there are signs of it on the Santa Clara campus as well. Many Republican students declined to be quoted by The Santa Clara, fearing backlash and ostracization from their generally left-leaning peers. Many students also said that in the past they have been criticized for publicly expressing conservative views.
At the inauguration event, Ivy Allen, state chairwoman of the California College Republicans, asked members to think of a time when they have experienced liberal bias on Santa Clara’s campus. Several students shared examples of situations where they felt that professors or the administration had vocally supported democratic agendas.
One student called a campus professor “very liberal,” because on election night he expressed excitement that “we (would) never have to hear Donald Trump’s name again.”
Following the Nov. 8 election, the student said that the professor apologized to the class and hosted an open dialogue about the results. The College Republican member said she did not find it to be an open discussion, but rather a place for other student’s “liberal tears.”
Allen went by encouraging students to expose this type of bias on campus through dialogue with other students and professors.
But students did not describe all political conversations to be negative or disrespectful. Members also said that other students and professors are very respectful and willing to listen, regardless of their political affiliation.
“I’ve had countless conversations in my dorm with those who know I am an outed-republican,” said a first-year student who wanted to remain anonymous. “It has led to interesting discussions and we are both respectful of each other’s opinions.”
These discussions included concerns about trade policy, healthcare, immigration, the economy and expectations of the Trump administration.
Unlike other schools, Azzarito hasn’t seen issues with protesting conservative views on the Santa Clara campus. The University of California, Davis recently canceled an event with Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right British journalist with Breitbart News, because of large protests against the conservative speaker.
Yiannopoulos was also invited to speak at the University of California, Berkeley on Feb. 1, where his appearance was met with resistance by students and faculty. The university asked its College Republican’s club to pay for security personnel, which the student organization could not feasibly afford.
The conservative commentator is known for his vocal criticism of Islam, feminism and social justice.
Azzarito said their chapter does not typically anticipate protests to their events because of their relatively small size and limited presence on campus.
“I really didn’t think anyone was going to protest us eating burgers,” Azzarito said, adding that their club is less active than others, such as Davis and Berkeley, who have dealt with protesters.
While the Trump administration has already faced opposition in its first few days in office, members of the Santa Clara College Republicans are now supporting the new commander-in-chief. According to Azzarito and other club members, this was expected.
“I get not supporting Donald Trump,” said one member. “I hope he proves me wrong on whether he’ll be a good president or not.”
Contact Sophie Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.