Students create new anti-Trump group on campus

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 12:45pm

On his path to the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump has both built a dedicated base in some parts of the population and noticeably isolated others.

On the University of Michigan’s campus, a new club — Students Against Trump — has formed in response to Trump's often controversial persona and words.

During the election, Trump has created a persona built in large part on a tendency to stray from his scripted speeches, tweet on-the-spot and say whatever may be on his mind. Many of his supporters cite this as a positive, but others have also pointed to statements he's made — such as proposing to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to shutdown Muslim immigration into the country — as alarmingly offensive.

Given that division, the new student group’s main goal, the group says, is to stop Trump from reaching the White House.

Bradley McPherson, LSA sophomore and president of Students Against Trump, said he felt the need to create an organization in response to the candidate last May, after it became clear Trump would be the likely Republican nominee.

“Looking at Trump’s policies and his character, we thought we had to make a larger point against him,” McPherson said. “We thought we should speak out against all these factors and that culminated in the creation of the club.”

Specifically, the club hopes to block people’s perception of Trump as a viable candidate for office. Both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton have historically high unpopularity ratings among the national voting population — a recent ABC News/ Washington Post polling found that 56 percent of adults view Clinton unfavorably and 63 percent say the same for Trump.

While he acknowledged the unpopularity of the two candidates, McPherson said he believes the TV media is pushing a false equivalency on the ratings between the two candidates that shouldn’t exist.

“Our goal is to correct the perception of Trump. We don’t think he is qualified at all, especially compared to Clinton,” McPherson said. “I imagine him being in the most powerful position ever and there is no way that it could end well.”

The group hopes to eventually plan a rally in the University’s diag to speak out against Trump. As of now, they are bringing in activists and volunteers to interact with club members.

“We want to funnel people who aren’t involved to join what is more of an activist group,” McPherson said. “We have more of a Democratic tilt, but we do have some Libertarians that feel like they have to vote for Clinton.”

While ultimately McPherson said he thinks Clinton is the better candidate, he added that the group aims to spark critical conversation rather than promote Clinton’s candidacy.

“Even if you vastly disagree with Clinton, you can’t say that Trump would be the better option,” McPherson said. “What we do is more about visibility, getting people to talk with friends and family about the election.”

The group’s anti-Trump view was also held by the majority of a sample of students in a poll conducted by The Michigan Daily. Almost 75 percent of repondents said they planned to vote for Clinton.

Public Policy junior Molly Aronson, a club member, said besides disagreeing with Trump’s conservative policies, she believes that the GOP candidate is a dangerous choice for the country.

People are talking about the election in the sense that Clinton is the lesser of two evils,” Aronson said. “I see it in the opposite sense because if Trump were elected it could create a  dangerous environment for a lot of people.” 

Similar to Aronson, LSA sophomore Lauren Schandevel said she believes voting in this election is more than just a question of whose policies you prefer. Schandevel, who helped to create the club at its onset but is no longer a member said she finds Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric alarming.

“It mobilizes sections of the population that have been dormant for awhile but now they feel like someone is speaking for them,” Schandevel said. “(It’s) creating this kind of atmosphere where people feel like it’s acceptable to hate and to be open about it. I think that’s a really dangerous thing.”

Schandevel also noted that a large emphasis in this election is the lasting legacy the next president will have choosing a replacement for deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“This is going to be someone who is either going to preserve progressive policies that have done a lot of good ... that’s decades of lingering effects of this presidency,” Schandevel said.

However, it is also this lingering effect of a SCOTUS justice that is the primary influence on Engineering sophomore Jack Kuchta in his decision to vote for Trump. Kuchta said that his foundation is built on conservative values, citing his Catholic upbringing.

“For me, a big reason that I would vote for Trump is to pick a conservative, pro-life justice to replace Antonin Scalia who definitely held my conservative, pro-life values,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta added that, as a conservative on a primarily liberal campus, he has felt threatened by people attacking him for what they assume are his views, based on depictions of Trump supporters in the media.

Referencing Clinton calling half of Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables,” Kuchta said Clinton and the media are painting Trump supporters in a negative light, leaving people assuming that all Trump supporters as racists and homophobic.

“We don’t want Trump solely for him ... I know people who are voting for Trump solely because they want a conservative justice,” Kuchta said. “For me, if someone loves someone, cool, that doesn’t affect me. If they want to get married, that’s totally fine by me. A lot of people think conservatives are complete homophobes. It’s a very bad representation of conservatives."

When asked about the creation of this club, the University’s College Republicans, who endorsed Trump, wrote in a statement, “The creation of this club doesn't come to much of a surprise given the liberal bias of this university. Aside from supporting Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, College Republicans will also be working with the campaigns of Congressman Dave Trott and Congressman Mike Bishop. We encourage all conservatives to uphold our values by supporting our local and congressional Republican candidates.”

College Democrats declined to comment on the existence of Students Against Trump.