Within the past few months, numerous College Republican chapters have refused to support the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. According to a recent Inside Higher Ed article, The Harvard Republican Club, Penn State College Republicans and other College Republican organizations have chosen to abstain from endorsing Trump, while other chapters have expressed tacit support, but not endorsement. While Trump supporters who call for party unity may blame College Republican chapters for party fragmentation and accuse them of contempt for the party’s populist base, it is hard to blame these organizations for their hesitation, or in some cases, outright refusal to support him.
As it currently stands, the values of the Republican party seem to be at odds with the values of millennials as a whole. College-age voters are known to support marriage equality, believe in global warming, hold a pro-choice stance, be anti-war and support the decriminalization of marijuana, among a variety of other progressive-leaning social stances. While support for conservative and responsible fiscal policies has always been consistent among most, if not all, members of the Republican party, there seems to have been a split between the Old Guard social conservatives and younger, socially tolerant Republicans.
Before diving further exploring the exact reasons behind college students’ unfavorable views of Trump, it is important to look to a Republican who was recognized for his favorability among younger constituents, and who could also serve as a model for what Trump isn’t doing to win college-age voters: Sen. Rand Paul. He called for a responsible military budget contrary to many hawkish candidates on the right, an audit of the Federal Reserve, common sense immigration policies, free trade and a progressive drug policy. As a whole, it is fair to say that Paul’s social stances were much more in line with the Libertarian-leaning stances favored by college-aged Republicans. Paul was the best model Republican the party had at winning the vote of college age voters, holding a persona and worldview Trump certainly does not have. A worldview, as evidenced by Paul’s defeat, that was not in the direction the majority of the party chose to take.
The largest hurdle in gaining the trust of millennials during this election season is the racist language Trump has encouraged in this election. While racial accusations can seem overly pronounced at times, Trump’s can reasonably be seen as fitting. It is well assumed on many college campuses that Trump is a racist who is unable to sympathize or understand other cultures — notably those of Hispanics and Muslims.
Whether Trump is or is not in fact a racist is another argument altogether. However, even the idea of appearing as a racist or having associations with racism can lead to widespread rejection by younger voters. With every promise of a wall on the Mexican border, Trump builds a wall between himself and the college-age vote. It would also be safe to assume that calling a growing percentage of voters in this country — Hispanics — all rapists and murderers would also leave a bad taste on the political palate of many young voters.
Social issues aside, there is perhaps one arena of possible Trump support among college-aged Republicans, however unlikely, to have little effect on college-aged voters as a whole. Fiscal policy for college-age Republican voters is the one place that Trump can make up for his social differences. There has been an argument against Trump’s supposedly protectionist fair-trade policies to help bolster the blue collar American work force.
However, for the most part, Trump’s economic plan falls in line with conservative fiscal policy and thus fiscal policy almost any Republican would favor. The promises of Trump’s fiscal policies seem to stop at the Republican sphere’s doorstep, however. For most college-aged voters, the importance of fiscal policy and economics does not play a large role in the voting habits of our lives. Because many millennials are not concerned with the national deficit or are often unwilling to comprehend the economic issues out of lack for political interest, they turn to a much more comprehendible arena of political conversation: social issues.
The sentiment among younger voters is clear; perhaps the Titanic is going down, but at least we will be able to speak out against dangerous “triggerings” and have our safe spaces while the bow plunges below the water line (or more appropriately, the debt ceiling).
Perhaps after onlookers look behind the Rosie O’Donnell jokes and the “fine businessman” veneer responsible for four bankruptcies, they can start to see the underlying realities that make Trump’s unfavorability factor “huge” among college-age Republicans and even larger among college-age voters in general.