Grand Old Party, Frustrated New Faces

Sophia McCrimmon, Editor-in-Chief

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Democrats and Republicans disagree on most issues, but citizens on both sides of the aisle can agree that this presidential election has been one of the most unique in modern memory. That is certainly the opinion of Zada Hall (`17) and Savannah Holliday (`17), co-presidents of Maggie Walker’s often embattled Young Republicans Club. This year, the club’s leadership has faced frustration in attempting to define their own political identity, both within a turbulent national political landscape and the liberal bubble of Maggie Walker.

Hall, though unable to vote, has struggled with the question of which presidential candidate to support when neither seem particularly appealing. “It’s an interesting moral question to vote for someone I would feel uncomfortable being in the same room with for the sake of voting against someone I don’t trust.” Hall said. “It’s difficult to reconcile my personal disgust with Trump with my conservative principles.”

Holliday agrees, and says that come November 8 she’ll cast her ballot for a third party candidate. “I feel it would be against my morals to vote for either candidate,” she said. “I am planning on looking more into third-party candidates before the election arrives.” Overall, Holliday echoes a common frustration for conservatives coming of age in this political cycle: “What a disappointing election in which to have gained the right to vote.”

Demographically, it may seem odd to see two young women at the helm of Maggie Walker’s Young Republicans club; the Republican party has consistently struggled to attract millennial females, and this cycle has seen the emergence of an even more prominent “gender gap.” According to the Pew Research center, post-graduate women and millennials both lean towards the Democratic party by 35% and 16% respectively. During this election in particular, Trump’s controversial history of offensive statements and alleged actions against women has taken central stage- and pushed many women towards Hillary Clinton. FiveThirtyEight projected earlier this month that if only women voted, Clinton would win the election with 458 electoral votes.

Holliday and Hall concede that gender has become an unavoidable issue for them as they attempt to chart a course in this electoral cycle.“The really challenging part for me is getting over [Trump’s] stance on women,” said Hall, citing both his attacks on Megyn Kelly and his recently leaked statements about taking advantage of women as particularly offensive. “If anything pushed me towards Hillary it was that.”  Holliday agrees, also noting the recent ‘Access Hollywood’ tape as something which permanently turned her against Trump’s candidacy. “I don’t feel comfortable voting for a man who dismisses these words as ‘locker-room talk,’” Holliday said, expressing frustration with his failure to appropriately respond to the controversy. “I feel disrespected that he didn’t seem to regret what he said about one woman… he might as well have said those things to every woman in this country.”

Beyond their personal struggles, both Hall and Holliday recognize that they are in the midst of a larger identity crisis for the Republican party. “There’s a pretty big demographic shift in the U.S. that’s been happening for a while… and I think as the Republican party we need to adapt if we’re going to move on,” Hall said. “Some of Trump’s rhetoric against minorities has been appalling. As a Republican, he doesn’t speak for me.”

Giving a strong voice to conservative principles has sometimes been a struggle for the Young Republicans club, largely due to the fact that the Maggie Walker student body leans pretty decisively to the left. In a recent mock election for president, Hillary Clinton received 64.75% of the vote- with Trump a not-so-close second at 12.84%.

As she began to publicize the club this fall, Hall described feeling anxious that they wouldn’t be taken seriously. “I was scared that people would come in and gawk like we were zoo animals or something,” she said with a laugh.

In the eyes of both leaders of the club, communication is key. “I think the problem with Maggie Walker is that it can become an echo chamber, because there is definitely a liberal culture here,” Hall said. “The echo chamber really hurts both sides…Until I was challenged about my ideas I didn’t really have reasons to back them up. It’s really important that both sides are represented and I think that’s something that we can all work on improving.” Holliday agrees that a more robust forum for political debate would enhance Maggie Walker’s academic environment. “I think a political awareness conference with representation from both sides to discuss controversial issues cordially would benefit Maggie Walker students,” she said.

Avery Gagne (`17), Treasurer of Maggie Walker’s Young Democrats club, however, doesn’t think Maggie Walker’s liberal lean actually stifles debate.“While I do agree there is a distinct liberal bias within our school, I believe that there is always an opportunity available to all students for open debate on issues they believe to be important,” he said.

In Maggie Walker and beyond, politically-oriented students on all sides of the political spectrum yearn for balance and compromise. “Something I’ve learned at Maggie Walker being so outnumbered is that there are times when Democrats are right and there are times when Republicans are right and there are times when, and this is probably the most frequent case, the right answer is somewhere in the middle,” Hall said. “Neither side is completely right and I think our determination to stand by our party’s platform no matter what, even if you don’t personally agree with their stance on a particular issue, can be kind of harmful.”

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