A report published in the Atlantic on Tuesday argues that the future of the “Trumpism” brand of politics rests with conservative activists on college campuses.
The report, by Elaine Godfrey, highlights how the battle for the soul of the GOP is taking place not only on the national stage but also between conservative student factions on college campuses:
But the civil war within the Republican Party is also being waged in campus multipurpose rooms across the country. Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, College Republicans wrestled with whether—and how much—to embrace Trump. In August 2016, the Harvard College Republicans announced that they would not endorse him in the presidential election, calling him a “threat to the survival of the Republic.” The Duke University Republicans abstained from endorsing either candidate. The University of Virginia College Republicans endorsed Trump, only to retract their support after the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape emerged in October, writing “we do not feel Donald Trump accurately represents the way we view and conduct ourselves.” And a handful of the Yale College Republicans quit to form their own group after the club endorsed Trump.
Some conservative students considered the Republican party to be “dead” after Trump won the election:
The anti-Trump College Republicans I spoke with seemed to have come to this conclusion, as well. For them, the past year has been an exhausting whirlwind of emotions: first frustration, then confusion, and finally, a deep sense of hopelessness. After Trump won the election, Ben Rasmussen, a student at Yale, officially pronounced the Republican Party dead. Rasmussen had quit the Yale College Republicans after the seven-member group endorsed Trump, and co-founded an anti-Trump Republican club—the Yale New Republicans. Four members left with him, and three stayed behind. Rasmussen said the weeks before the election were silently hostile—that the two tiny groups had a “Cold-War” relationship: “We’d walk by each other in the hallways and just not make eye contact,” he told me.
Although tensions originally arose between conservative campus factions in the run-up to the 2016 election, the conflict rages on into 2018:
More than a year later, things still aren’t back to normal on the quad. In many ways, the debate over Trump taking place among College Republicans mirrors the national intra-party one: It pits young conservatives who view Trump as a distraction from long-held conservative goals of shrinking government and defending family values against those who see Trump’s presidency and distinctive message as a much-needed adjustment of the party’s priorities.
“They are basically the establishment at the college level,” a pro-Trump student at Penn State University said. “They’re still talking about Ronald Reagan. We’re talking about the new movement, the MAGA movement.”