The Rice University College Republicans will decide at their first meeting of the year on Sept. 8 whether to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The Rice College Republicans chapter is part of a larger Texas and national Federations of College Republicans, both of which have endorsed Trump.
College Republicans President Jake Blumencranz said conservative students are divided on the candidates, but Trump does not seem to have much support.
“I have seen more [students] against Trump than for him, but we will all find out this week in the coming vote,” Blumencranz, a Brown College junior, said.
Former College Republicans President and current board member Sam Herrera said the decision could be contentious either way.
“[W]e want to be very careful, because we are against alienating anyone in our club,” Herrera, a Duncan College senior, said. “We’re open to all viewpoints, and taking a stance one way or another could very well do that.”
In addition to Trump supporters on campus, some conservative Rice students are considering casting their votes for the Libertarian Party candidate and two-term governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, though many students are still undecided. This phenomenon is not limited to Rice: Young voters across the country are hesitant to support the Republican candidate. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that Trump is polling at less than 25 percent among voters under 30.
Robert Stein, a professor of political science, attributes Trump’s poor polling numbers among young voters in part to millennials’ weak party loyalties.
“I suspect the incidence of young conservatives not voting for Trump, at Rice and elsewhere, is largely due to the candidate himself and weak partisan ties young voters have for either party,” he said.
Stein said third-party candidate Gary Johnson was likely to gain from this disconnect.
“[Young conservatives] rely on their evaluation of the candidates’ conservative values, leaving Trump short and someone like Gary Johnson closer to these voters’ values,” Stein said.
One Trump supporter is College Republicans Vice President Kyle Sheehan. Sheehan, a Lovett College junior, describes himself as fiscally conservative and a noninterventionist on foreign policy. Sheehan prefers Trump’s stances on foreign policy to those of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s.
“He’s more noninterventionist than Clinton in a lot of ways,” Sheehan said. “He was always skeptical of intervention in Iraq.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed to have opposed the invasion of Iraq, though PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking organization, rates Trump’s claims of early opposition to the Iraq War ‘mostly false’ and says that Trump did not oppose the war until after it had started.
Sheehan is also in favor of Trump’s stance on immigration and increased border security.
“I’m open to some immigration reform, but with the qualification that there should be no pathway to citizenship,” Sheehan said. “I also believe there should be some kind of fine or penalty associated [with] getting legal status.”
Sheehan said he is very likely to vote for Trump, despite his frequent controversial statements.
“At this point, I’ve come to ignore Trump’s little squabbles with people, so the little day to day stuff doesn’t sway me much anymore,” Sheehan said. “It would have to take something criminal or a meltdown in the debates or some kind of large financial impropriety, something extreme.”
Matt Terrill, who identifies himself as a socially and economically conservative, also supports Trump. While Trump was not his first choice — he originally supported Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — Terrill said that Trump understands conservatism.
“I think he understands one of the basic principles of my view of conservatism: Whatever you earn, you get to keep as far as taxes go, and if you fail then that’s too bad,” Terrill, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. “Having a safety net for society is important, but I think he understands that the safety net isn’t supposed to be a hammock.”
Terrill said he expects that Trump will work to balance the budget chiefly by reducing spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“I hope that the entitlement programs are cut drastically and we get the federal budget under control,” Terrill said. “I’m really big on having the biggest and most badass military, but even if we have to cut the military some, [that’s OK]. Whatever we have to do, because we’re going to have to pay for it.”
Juliette Turner-Jones, a conservative Duncan freshman, said she is likely to vote for Trump in November because she believes he will appoint justices to the Supreme Court with a conservative view of the Constitution.
“I’m interested in the long term,” Turner-Jones said. “If someone [liberal] gets in office and is able to sway the Supreme Court, that’s detrimental to our nation as a whole.”
Blumencranz said he is leaning towards supporting Gary Johnson, and opposes the College Republicans potentially endorsing Trump.
“I will be advocating for the club to not endorse Trump, not only due to the fact that I personally object to his candidacy, but also that I find him to stand against some of the very foundations and principles that RUCR advocates for,” Blumencranz said.
Nick Leisle, a Duncan junior who identifies as a libertarian, plans to vote for Gary Johnson in November. Leisle said although the odds are stacked against Johnson, he does not believe a vote for a third-party candidate is wasted.
“A wasted vote is voting for someone you don’t believe in,” Leisle said. “I hope my vote [for Johnson] indicates that neither of the candidates from the major parties represent me as a person.”
Gary Dreyer, a Hanszen College sophomore who describes himself as a social centrist and a fiscal and foreign policy conservative, also plans to vote for Johnson. Dreyer, who previously voted and campaigned for Marco Rubio, said Trump’s lack of commitment to free trade, as well as comments not in full support of NATO, pushed him to support the libertarian candidate.
“There are two issues where I cannot negotiate,” Dreyer said. “The first is free trade. I will not vote for anyone who openly supports protectionism. The other one, I will not vote for anyone who openly disparages the NATO alliance and says the United States should withdraw from it. Given that, I cannot possibly vote for Donald Trump.”
Jacob Behling, a Duncan junior who previously supported Rubio, said he does not support either major party.
“I can’t see myself voting for Hillary, and I can’t see myself voting for Trump,” Behling said. “I’m looking to go into oil and gas, and I know that some of Hillary’s [environmental] policies would hurt the industry.”
Behling said he is considering voting for Gary Johnson, but does not believe he can win.
Jacobi Lockett, the College Republicans secretary, who identifies as a social and fiscal conservative, is also unsure of who she will cast a ballot for in November.
“I’m one of the Never Trumpers,” Lockett, a Martel College senior, said. “I’m going to vote. I don’t like the thought of voting for Donald Trump because I think that’s kind of irresponsible, but I certainly won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton. I also don’t like the thought of voting third party, because that’s kind of throwing your vote away.”
Herrera describes himself as socially moderate and fiscally conservative. He voted for Rubio in the primaries, but is undecided about the general election. He said he does not believe Trump is qualified to be president.
“Being president of the United States is definitely something that requires political experience,” Herrera said. “Running the country is not like running a company. And if we’re being objective, he hasn’t done a stellar job running his company. I don’t think he has the credentials for [the presidency]. It’s a huge gamble, and what’s at stake is the country.”
Herrera also questioned Trump’s proposed economic policies.
“His anti-free trade stances are a huge turnoff for me,” Herrera said. “Wanting to take out NAFTA, the TPP, his whole economic protectionism is not conservative at all.”
Herrera criticized Trump’s comments about the Hispanic community.
“The deal breaker for me was his attacks against the Hispanic community in the U.S.,” Herrera said. “I’m Hispanic, and I understand [that] it’s rhetoric and that he’s appealing to his base, but it really does spread hate and xenophobia, things that for me are extremely perverse.”
The College Republicans’ first meeting and endorsement vote will be held at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 in Sewall 303.