Republicans at Pitt divided about Trump


“Trump does not represent American or conservative values and he does not have my vote," said Rosemary Geraghty, a junior political science and communications major. Courtesy of Rosemary Geraghty

By Andrew O'Brien / Staff Writer

Though he’s received endorsement from party officials, Donald Trump’s presidential bid has divided traditional conservatives.

The businessman turned candidate has also invited in a broader demographic of independent, right-wing and, in some cases, liberal voters, and inspired historically Republican institutions to look outside of their party.

Several right-wing newspapers have, within the past month, endorsed a democratic candidate for the first time in their histories. The 148-year-old San Diego Union Tribune endorsed Hillary Clinton last week, marking a first for the usually staunchly conservative paper. The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the Cincinnati Enquirer all took the same path, making shocking Clinton endorsements to the upset of some of their Republican readership.

The Chicago Tribune, unable to back Clinton or Trump, endorsed third party candidate Gary Johnson, and USA Today — which hadn’t endorsed anyone in more than 30 years — begged its readers not to vote Trump.

While the GOP figurehead has been credited for engaging nonvoters and jaded members of the working class in this election cycle — though it’s yet to be seen whether they’ll come to the polls — he’s been a polarizing figure within the Republican Party.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Ted Cruz were two of the most notable Republicans to stall on endorsing the contentious candidate.

Conservative-leaning students at Pitt are also torn between those who think Trump’s changing the way the game is played and those who question his ability to represent the party’s foundational interests. At a College Republicans meeting last month, campus conservatives hashed out the realities of what Trump’s campaign has done to the party.

Rosemary Geraghty, a junior political science and communications major and president of Choose Life At Pitt — a nonpartisan student club dedicated to pro-life views— said Trump’s nomination and his shifting views on abortion have turned her off to her party’s politics completely.

“With [Trump’s] nomination, I feel the Republican Party has abandoned me and my values, and it is now time for me to abandon the Republican Party,” Geraghty said. “Trump does not represent American or conservative values, and he does not have my vote.”

Some of Trump’s hardest-hitting points during his campaign have been against the news media, which he blames for skewing his statements and representing him inaccurately. Supporters on campus, like junior Steven Harris, have defended Trump because they distrust mainstream news outlets.

Harris, a history and political science major, is voting for Trump and said there’s more to the candidate than people think. He pointed to Trump’s claim that he provided aid to victims of floods in Louisiana in August as evidence of his charitable nature.

“Trump genuinely cares, you know,” Harris said. “His media persona and his personality are two different things.”

Greg Dornseif, a junior finance major, said Trump’s nomination has actually railed against the mainstream news media, showing that the Republican Party has clout.

“The Republican Party’s different than the media thought it was,” Dornseif said. “The media and the political machine are not as powerful as they used to be.”

According to a September poll from Morning Consult, a media and survey research company, and “The Atlantic,” Trump’s voter base lies primarily in older white men and women. His support is stronger among the 45+ age group than the 18 to 44 group, and white men and women without college degrees make up 62 percent of Trump’s voters.

Yet Trump’s nationalist, “America first” message still resonates with some Republicans on Pitt’s campus who don’t fall under those demographics.

Kirk Breiner, a sophomore biochemistry major, said Trump’s ability to mobilize support among working class voters has earned the candidate his support.

“Democrats and Republicans alike have ignored the working class for too long,” Breiner said. “Trump finally gave people a voice who haven’t voted in 20 years.”

In a similar fashion, Jordan Casteel, a senior administration of justice major, said he respects Trump for defending police officers from backlash as a result of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“The media has a skewed view of what constitutes an [illegal] shooting,” Castel said. “I’m voting for Trump because he’s going to fight against the war on the police officer in this country.”

Yet, Trump’s ability to mobilize support and his willingness to voice controversial opinions doesn’t negate the lack of stability and clarity in his statements for some Pitt students.

Chris Troutman, a first-year graduate student in the School of Public and International Affairs, said Trump’s flamboyant comments rarely match “true” conservative ideals.

“There’s no filter between Trump’s head and his mouth. He’s got a long track record of saying all kinds of colorful things,” Troutman said. “Trump’s been a lifelong liberal. He gives the appearance of amorality.”

Throughout his campaign, Trump is notorious for flip-flopping on important issues, even those central to his campaign. He has taken numerous stances on the degree and the specific details of his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. More recently, he recanted a 2012 claim that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

With 35 days left until voters cast their ballots on Nov. 8, Trump still trails Hillary Clinton in most swing states, despite leading in Ohio and Iowa. In Pennsylvania, Clinton has a four point lead over Trump, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll.

Though Pitt Republicans are just as divided on Donald Trump as the GOP at large, they almost unanimously agree on one thing: he’s a better candidate than Hillary Clinton and a better choice than the Democratic party.

Andrew Zentgraf, a sophomore political science major, said that voting for anyone other than Trump would allow the Democratic Party to elect Supreme Court justices that don’t match his conservative ideals. He doesn’t believe Trump is the perfect president but will vote for him nonetheless.

“Hillary Clinton’s judgement is seriously lacking, and her record as a senator is nonexistent,” Zentgraf said. “The stakes are too high to not vote for Trump in 2016.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported Choose Life at Pitt was dedicated to veganism and pro-life views. The club is dedicated to pro-life views, but not veganism.  An earlier version of the story also reported that Steven Harris plans to vote for Evan McMullin, while he actually plans to vote for Donald Trump. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.

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