Op-ed: College Republicans are failing conservative students by not issuing position on Trump
Kyle Alfaro believes AUCRs are ‘leading from behind’
A few days ago, as a now former member of the American University College Republicans (AUCR), I received an email update regarding the existential question plaguing the national GOP: what to do about Donald Trump? Twenty-four hours after Harvard's College Republicans issued a well thought-out statement refusing to support Trump, AU chapter president Thomas Hebert did not do the same, instead asking for member opinions.
This was ostensibly because he wanted to hear the voices of the group’s members and take them into consideration before making a decision on whether to support a Trump candidacy or not. However, he and the rest of the e-board are merely hiding behind their members.
Throughout the entire Republican primary, the executive board has not issued one statement against Trump. During the elections for the new e-board, I even heard one candidate laugh, “I may . . . [have] to campaign for Donald Trump.” With the attitude that supporting Trump was acceptable, though annoying, AUCR’s members were forced to test their loyalty for their party and willingness to display it, regardless of the party’s representative.
The question remains: why? Why support a man who continues to show no regard for our allies, our fellow citizens and our laws? Sometimes being a leader requires making hard choices. Refusing to state where you stand on a candidate who time and time again defies your party’s and your country’s values speaks volumes about your own.
Many Republicans on campus do not support Trump. The two of the largest followings for Republican candidates on our campus last fall were Students for Rand and Students for Rubio. Knowing this, AUCR’s e-board is presumably aware of where a majority of their members and therefore the student body stands. While several prominent members of the GOP at the national level have refused to endorse Trump, the AUCR’s e-board has not issued a statement stating their position on his candidacy.
Austin Benner, a sophomore in SIS, lamented,“if this election cycle was about doing what the majority wanted, then every CR club in the country would be pro-Trump. But that’s not what this is about, it’s about taking a stand for the values that we conservatives hold dear and I find it regrettable that the CRs on campus have failed to make that stand.”
The e-board may counter with the argument that they merely wish to represent their stakeholders. However, they already know where the student body stands. They know where decent Americans stand. There is no need to even contemplate supporting a demagogue. A former e-board member went so far as to say, “Their decision to ask the general members [about Trump] shows their inability or unwillingness to accept responsibility for the potential consequences of their actions.”
SIS junior Joe Wagner drew a similar conclusion, commenting that “while [he] respects the CRs decision in attempting to give their members a voice, the longer the delay, the closer we get to the election. They have a chance to make a forceful condemnation of Trump, and beliefs and love of country must come before party loyalty.”
It then becomes obvious that the e-board members know their personal support for Trump, on display via social media, is unpopular, especially at a liberal campus such as AU. They may fear that their position could cause a backlash should they make their stance official club policy. However, principled leadership should entail defending your beliefs -- even and especially when it’s hard -- whether in support of or against Trump.
Asking members for their opinions as an insurance policy for your own is leading from behind: the very thing Republicans criticize President Obama for doing.
Kyle Alfaro is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a former member of AU College Republicans.