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Sunday, October 1, 2023

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College Republicans divided over Trump for president


The UH College Republicans chose not to endorse Trump in the 2016 election, stating “the best thing to do was to take no stand.” | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

For UH College Republicans, the stakes of the 2016 election have never been higher.

It took former presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, dropping out of the 2016 race for political science senior Karen Ben-Moyal to even contemplate endorsing Donald Trump, an action she never anticipated doing.

Although Ben-Moyal considers herself predominantly conservative, there are issues in which she differs from the Republican Party such as abortion and same-sex marriage. She did not take the decision to endorse Trump lightly.

Tough decision

As a recruiter for the UH College Republicans, Ben-Moyal felt moved to make a difference in the political environment around her. When the organization decided not to endorse Trump in May, Ben-Moyal left her position to become UH chapter coordinator of Students for Trump.

“I saw freedom of speech on college campuses slowly becoming obsolete,” Ben-Moyal said. “I saw people being bullied, shamed, mocked by their friends at school and their professors all because of who they were voting for.”

For Ben-Moyal, it was important that her fellow Republicans be confident in expressing their opinions. When she started admitting her support for Trump on social media, however, she encountered uncensored insults, harassment and even threats from her professors.

“I never had a prejudice bone in my body, but when I claimed to be associated with Trump and his campaign, I was automatically classified as a racist, anti-Semitic, sexist lunatic,” Ben-Moyal said. “I found these insults sort of humorous because of the fact that I was a female, Jewish, Israeli-American who had gay relatives and mixed views in general.”

Students’ aggressive judgement of Ben-Moyal made her feel even more aligned with Trump. She discovered a correlation between the media’s treatment of the presidential candidate and Republicans in general.

Ben-Moyal chose to keep an open mind and weighed her options despite the many political upsets that Trump has encountered. Supplemented by her belief that U.S. news outlets were biased against Trump and that the alternative presidential candidate — Hilary Clinton — was a criminal, Ben-Moyal’s increased her perseverance to drive the Republican Party forward.

Since the UH chapter of Students for Trump was established, the growing organization has reached 25 members of varying ethnicities and backgrounds — some are former Democrats, others Libertarians or conservatives and others are first-time voters.

When members aren’t throwing debate watch parties at Calhoun’s Rooftop, they’re going door-to-door to gain support for their organization.

They used to pass out flyers and put them on billboards, Ben-Moyal said, but passersby would either rip them off or laugh at the organization’s members. The organizaiton has stopped posting flyers entirely.

Even so, Trump’s UH supporters haven’t lost hope.

“We all have to live with the stares and anxiety we get when we are gathered together watching a presidential debate in our (Make America Great Again) hats, but it’s OK,” Ben-Moyal said. “We now know that we are not alone. We have each other to lean on.”

No proper candidate

In the countdown to Election Day, tension has risen since scandals in both parties have spurred citizens to vote. According to a New York Times poll, Texas’ early voting participation has drastically changed since the 2012 election.

In 15 of Texas’ largest counties, the number of early voters has risen 42.6 percent.

Following Trump’s incendiary remarks about women and the FBI reopening its probe into Clinton’s classified emails, voters have begun demonstrating urgency.

History senior Matt Wiltshire, who has been the director of public relations for the UH College Republicans since May 2014, said that the organization’s members decided not to endorse Trump because he did not align with UH College Republicans’ ideals.

Made up of social conservatives and Libertarians, capitalists and protectionists, foreign-policy hawks and isolationists, classical liberals and neocons, the UH College Republicans considered Trump a “highly-polarizing figure,” Wiltshire said.

For Wiltshire personally, the decision to not endorse Trump was one of academia.

“Being an advocate for conservatism requires studying philosophy, economics, philology and history, just to name a few disciplines,” Wiltshire said. “Donald Trump has neither a conservative character nor an understanding of the principles that animate those who fight for liberty.”

Wiltshire, who resigned his position in the Student Government Association as associate justice of the Supreme Court after the #RemoveRohini scandal, also refused to support Clinton. Her corruption is so apparent, Wiltshire said, that his Democratic friends proclaimed as “old news.”

“We’ve had bad presidents before,” Witlshire said. “We’ve had incompetent presidents before. Never have we had someone so overtly corrupt that they threaten to upend the trust our society holds in historically apolitical organizations such as the FBI.”

When comparing the two candidates, Wiltshire considered Trump’s scandals largely personal and Clinton’s as political. Therefore, he wasn’t surprised by the election’s negative tone.

As an advocate for former presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, Wiltshire would prefer to see neither candidate win.

“Barring a miracle, on Nov. 9, nobody will have won — America will have lost,” Wiltshire said.

Possible ‘beginning of the end’

Pre-business sophomore Andrew Teoh, who identifies as an independent — fiscally conservative and socially liberal, was leaning right during the primaries until Trump rose in the poles.

“I was almost certain that I would be voting Republican regardless of whom the nominee would be,” Teoh said. “While I agree with some of his stances, Trump has no action plan and hasn’t demonstrated a willingness to learn.”

“If the rest of the world ever associates U.S.A. with Trump, I would be embarrassed,” Teoh said.

As for the fate of the American people following the 2016 election, Teoh predicts a drastic change in the nation’s history.

“We may finally see the beginning of the end of the modern two-party system,” Teoh said. “That alone may be the only good thing to come from this election cycle.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Karen Ben-Moyal is a member of the UH Mock Trial Team. She is not. 

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