A dozen male students introduced themselves to one another in an off-campus living room for their initial meeting last Wednesday night. All of them have something in common: they consider themselves “open supporters” of Donald Trump on campus.
The group, made up of mostly underclassmen, met through Facebook and the “College Republicans” club. They are an unchartered offshoot of the “College Republicans,” but are not SGA-sanctioned because their cause is temporary. Some genuinely support Trump’s policies; many are former Bernie Sanders supporters who would rather vote for anyone else than Hillary Clinton.
Every member had a story to tell about what they perceived as on- (or off-) campus harassment or abuse.
“Being an open Trump supporter on a college campus is definitely an interesting experience,” said 18-year-old freshman political science major & member Nick Anninos. “When you wear a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat or Donald Trump shirt around campus, you usually take a lot of heat.
“There is the few and far in between who tell you ‘nice shirt’ or hat, but in most cases, you’re getting disgusted looks, name-calling, and my personal favorite: those singing ‘f-ck Donald Trump’ as you walk by them,” Anninos continued.
The club president, senior Timothy St. Onge, had his own share of discrimination for being an open Trump supporter.
“I came out, my tire was flat, Trump sticker’s gone off my bumper, this was probably around six o’clock,” St. Onge said. “I had to go over to Pep Boys and get my new tires…It was a large inconvenience.
“That association: ‘Trump: racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe!’ That’s not who I am, that’s not who they are…” – Timothy St. Onge
“I really feel that it is almost intimidation,” he continued. “It’s terrorism. It’s using violence, intimidation, to affect what people think, what people say, what they do. And I don’t think that’s okay at all. It’s going to happen again, probably.”
The group is setting out to change how they are perceived. Each member spoke of a desire for the general public to understand that they have a right to their own opinions, and that they should not be chastised for them.
“We all have hearts, deplorable though we may be,” St. Onge said. “We run the entire spectrum of people voting for Trump and that’s half of the country right now, so you have a lot of voices represented here.
“It’s that automatic snap decision people make because they’ve been hearing it,” he continued. “That association: ‘Trump: racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe!’ That’s not who I am, that’s not who they are…we have views that they don’t like…and that’s okay. Granted, we get labelled those things for those views, and that’s not okay.”
“I wanted to let [freshmen] know that it’s okay to say what you want to say even if it’s controversial.”
The goal of the club is not to attract attention, however. They have set goals to become more involved in the community in various ways, including an “Ask A Trump Supporter” event coming to campus soon. Voter registration drives for people of all political preference, a cancer walk in Washington Lake Park in Washington Township, and a trip to the gun range are all on the calendar.
For St. Onge, it’s about getting involved in the political dialogue.
“[The freshman members are] coming from high school, where it’s the first time they’re going to be voting,” he said. “They want to have a voice, they want to exercise that. And as some of those guys have discussed in the meeting, they’ve been given a really hard time for exercising that voice. I wanted to let them know that it’s okay to say what you want to say even if it’s controversial.
“Becoming involved is a very important thing,” St. Onge continued. “If I find myself getting in an altercation with someone about my support of Trump, and if I ask ‘Are you registered to vote?’ and they say ‘No, I don’t vote,’ then your opinion means nothing.
“We are hopefully going to have an effect within the framework, but to actually have [votes] that count, that tally…that’s what you need within the current system.”
Students for Trump meets Wednesday nights at 9:30 p.m. Club president Timothy St. Onge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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