A tense Republican primary season leading to the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate has pushed the Georgetown University College Republicans to refrain from endorsing any candidate this presidential election, citing the club’s desire to avoid alienating members of its club.
Members have expressed unease and uncertainty about both Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Trump.
GUCR Chair Megan Pohl (COL ’17) said the decision to withhold an endorsement fulfills the organization’s commitment to various ideas and perspectives.
“Our job is not to support or denounce the Republican nominee,” Pohl said. “Our purpose isto provide an outlet for people to express their conservative ideals.”
Pohl said GUCR general body members hold various opinions on the general election. Some members plan to vote for the Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, some favor Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, others support third-party candidates and still others have yet to make up their minds.
“We thought not going one way or the other on Trump would also provide the best environment for our members to feel comfortable being a conservative on a college campus, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify as conservative,” Pohl said.
GUCR Director of Membership Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) said that GUCR, in holding its neutral stance, is following the guidelines originally given to the organization by the Student Activities Commission.
Estes said SAC has traditionally asked organizations that receive university funds to abstain from making political endorsements, because these political activities might risk the university’s non-profit status.
The Hoya reported Sept. 13 that previous SAC leaderships had communicated misaligned university policies for clarification purposes. According to Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh, student political organizations may endorse their party’s candidates, as long as the students or student organizations are clear that their views are not representative of the university.
SAC has clarified the university’s policies since that reporting.
Estes said that, while administrators do condone endorsements from political clubs, GUCR took the best stance for its club’s stability.
“If we’re going to lean one way, we’re going to the group that’s funding us,” Estes said.
According to Estes, when the Harvard University Republican Club refused to endorse Donald Trump this summer, Georgetown students — especially the Georgetown University College Democrats — began to inquire about GUCR’s position.
The Georgetown University College Democrats had specifically tagged GUCR’s Twitter handle in a tweet commenting on Harvard’s decision, according to Estes.
“All the College Democrats were trying to do in this case was to put us in a position where we’re forced to endorse someone,” Estes said., “and we’re just not going to respond to that kind of pressure.”
Meanwhile GUCR members and non-members expressed similar dismay about the state of the election. These conservatives represent different plans come Nov. 8.
GUCR member Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) said he supported Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Republican primary election but will now reluctantly back Trump for the Oval Office.
“I would not exactly describe Trump’s temperament as presidential,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the possibility of future Supreme Court nominations motivates him to support the Republican nominee. He said a Clinton win would guarantee a swing in the ideological balance of the court away from conservatism.
“If Hillary is elected, that will shift the Supreme Court left for the next 50-something years,” Hamilton said.
Chase Wagers (COL ’20), who formerly volunteered for Rubio in the primary, said he will also vote for Trump due to his contempt for Clinton.
“I told myself I would never vote for Trump,” Wagers said. “But I think he truly cares about restoring America to being a great power. But I’m really motivated by my dislike of Hillary.”
Some GUCR members plan to support Clinton. Casey Doherty (COL ’20), who interned for New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), said despite identifying as a conservative, she will vote for Clinton.
“Hillary has a personality that would much better suit the White House than Trump, although she has an entitlement issue,” Doherty said.
Doherty said she believes Clinton’s experience with leadership makes her a better candidate than Trump.
“I don’t love her — she has been in politics almost all her life, so she’s bound to make some mistakes — but Donald Trump hasn’t even had the chance,” Doherty said.
Sean Lerner (SFS ’20), who identifies as a libertarian-conservative and originally planned on voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, said he will vote for Clinton after commentators questioned Johnson’s foreign policy knowledge for not being able to identify the Syrian city of Aleppo, a flashpoint of the Syrian refugee crisis, in an MSNBC interview.
Lerner said Trump’s character has helped push him to support Clinton.
“I think Trump is just a really bad character,” Lerner said. “He’s selfish [and] doesn’t care about the welfare of everyone.”
Regardless, Lerner said he still harbors distrust for Clinton.
“Hillary’s been untrustworthy in the past, and I’m not happy to be voting for her,” Lerner said.
Some Georgetown conservatives remain undecided. Havens Clark (COL ’20), who identifies as a social moderate and strong fiscal conservative, said she is torn in the choice between either her preferred candidate or her preferred ideology.
“I think Hillary is less of a loose cannon than Trump, so I want to vote for her,” Clark said. “But if I’m voting for Hillary, I’m voting against all my beliefs.”
Clark said she is uncomfortable voting for Trump, but believes Clinton would provide stability.
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