Republican students torn over support for Trump

Though the Never Trump campaign simply failed at their greatest aim: preventing Donald Trump from becoming the 2016 Republican nominee, the movement continues to advocate against a candidate in an election that will go down in history books as one of the most controversial and divisive elections of all time: an election with a man who is dismembering his own party and attracting a riot of supporters simultaneously.

Primarily composed of Republicans unwilling to surrender their party’s characteristics that aren’t found in Trump, Never Trump supporters must make a riveting decision by election day: betray their party and vote for a Democrat or vote for the man who is causing them to think about betraying their party in the first place.

(Watch “A School Divided” parts 1 and 2 to learn more about students’ politics and beliefs.)

While many Republicans are surrendering their support for the nominee, many also continue to hold a strong grip on their beliefs and advocate against their party supporting Trump. Both sides of the argument at hand within the Republican party can be found within the minds of CFHS students. Alex Gudgeon, a junior, is one of the many Republicans who refuse to support their party’s nominee.

“I think that a lot of people do not understand that Trump doesn’t represent the Republican party at all,” Gudgeon said. “The Republican people that don’t support him are leading the way for those who aren’t comfortable with him as a person, yet feel obligated to vote for him since he’s the party nominee. If people that didn’t support him begin to, they’re showing others that we’re OK with the things that Trump does and says.”

Though originally, a large majority of Republicans did not support Trump because he did not seem like a classic conservative fit for the nomination, the nomination itself was enough to have senior Blake Coffee hop aboard “Trump Train.” “Watching the campaigns unfold and understanding Trump’s past, it is easy to see why strongly embedded conservatives have an issue with his policies and Trump himself,” Coffee said. Trump’s beliefs did not originally match up with Coffee’s views as much as other candidates did, but when Trump clinched the nomination, Coffee saw it as an opportunity for a breath of fresh air within American politics.

“I was actually a fan of him from the sidelines just because he was not a career politician. He was a very successful businessman, and, frankly, he said whatever the hell he wanted to,” Coffee said. “I thought these new traits in a possible candidate was a breath of fresh air from the stale politics that have been dealt election after election. He had new insight, a different understanding of the world around him, compared to career politicians.”

Gudgeon said that greater separation among the party members due to movements like Never Trump have changed the way Republicans support their candidates. “There is so much more separation between the Republican party than their was after the 2008 election when President Obama took office, and this movement has only widened that gap,” he said.

Coffee and Gudgeon may share drastically different views on Trump himself, but they do have one attribute in common — the absolute refusal to support democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  “I can’t support Donald Trump, but I also will never ever support Hillary Clinton,” Gudgeon said.

Gudgeon shares the same view as most Republicans, including Never Trump supporters. Coffee recognizes the grievances put forth by these Republicans against Trump, but he said he believes that despite the controversy surrounding Trump, he is a much better option than Clinton. “I think that these Republicans will not support Trump because they see in him and his past far too much liberal ideology for their liking. I will support Trump because, though I do recognize his views in the past, I most strongly believe in his economic policies for the future and how that so drastically differs from that of Hillary.”

Still Gudgeon is not swayed by recent calls to stay faithful to the Trump ticket, and he warned Republicans who have turned to last-minute support for Trump not to vote for someone they cannot fully get behind, just as a multitude of Never Trump Republicans continue to do. “Does Trump really represent you and your morals?” Gudgeon asked. “If he doesn’t stand for what you believe in, you shouldn’t feel forced to vote for someone who goes against all of your values. He is not a representation of Republicans and should not be rewarded with your vote for saying the crude and immature things he does. Do not go out and vote for someone that you cannot get 100 percent behind.”

Though Coffee said that it will be extremely difficult for Trump to win over undecided voters, especially given the recent audio tape controversy, he offers words of advice for Never Trumps like Gudgeon, and those who will vote in the upcoming election. Coffee encouraged them to stay loyal to their party to prevent a common enemy of Republicans from entering office as the leader of the free world. “When it comes to a matter of voting, understanding that there are realistically only two possibilities for this election is important,” Coffee said. “As a Republican, almost everything you fundamentally believe in as far as domestic, fiscal and foreign policy goes against what you see in Hillary. And though you may not like certain things you see in Trump, you need to take a good look at the other option because, frankly, there’s a lot less to like.”

(Want more articles on politics and the presidential election? Click here for an article on conservatism and here for lessons learned during the election.)

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