UConn republicans speak out about supporting Trump on an oppositional campus
In the weeks since Donald Trump was elected president, some of his supporters at the University of Connecticut say they’ve been ostracized or even harassed.
“I was called a cockroach, somebody said they’d rather I didn’t exist because I voted for Donald Trump,” said Michael Grischuk, a fifth-semester communications major who portrayed Trump in a mock debate earlier this semester.
Grischuk was also present at a rally against Trump organized on campus the day after the election results were announced.
“I definitely felt less safe than I’ve ever felt on the UConn campus before at that rally,” Grischuk said.
Daniel Arpie, a seventh-semester English major said he has been called a racist and a fascist for supporting Trump.
“There's a definite social cost to supporting Trump,” Arpie said.
There are more closeted Trump supporters at UConn than one may think, Arpie said.
“On the rare occasion that I find a Trump supporter, we’re usually speaking in fairly hushed voices and we find ourselves a different place to have the conversation,” Grischuk said.
Arpie said many people have expressed interest in understanding why he was a Trump supporter.
As an English major who runs UConn’s secularist club and the son of an immigrant, Arpie said he does not feel he is the traditional archetype that comes to mind when people think of a Trump supporter.
"A lot of people I knew were more intrigued by my supporting him than they were upset about it,” Arpie said. “I don't really fit the common Trump supporter mold.”
Grischuk said he has supported Trump since he announced he was running.
“I was with him since day one,” Grischuk said. “I believed him when he said he really just wants to give back to his country, that he cares about its people, that he loves America.”
Not all Republicans on campus have taken to supporting Trump, though. Paul DaSilva, the current but outgoing president of UConn College Republicans, recently resigned because of the club’s support for Trump.
“I didn’t feel I could represent the organization anymore because a lot of the membership turned pro-Trump,” said DaSilva, a seventh-semester political science and economics double major. “I don’t feel like I can personally say that I can speak on behalf of the party given that I had so many problems with the nominee and now the president.”
DaSilva said that he has received some backlash from Trump supporters for his views on the president-elect.
“Trump supporters have the tendency to attack me the most because of my unwillingness to embrace him,” DaSilva said. “There’s a general feeling of hostility.”
While DaSilva does not support Trump, he said engaging in verbal altercations with Trump supporters is not the way to resolve differences in political opinion.
“Any kind of intimidation or violent approaches to responding to people who advocate for Trump is not smart,” DaSilva said. “We have to be tolerant of other people’s views.”
Grischuk said he has found people to be generally unwilling to engage in discussion about politics when they learn of his support for Trump.
“People’s bios (on Tinder) say ‘swipe left if you like Donald Trump,’” Grischuk said. “People say ‘if you don’t agree with me I don’t even want to consider getting to know you.’”
The immediate reaction to Trump’s election was a passionate one, as several UConn students organized a rally and demanded that the administration put forth a statement calling for the university to protect its undocumented students on campus.
“I get why people are so upset and scared; the Clinton team did a very effective job of branding Trump as an unstable authoritarian dictator type,” Arpie said. “Who can fault people for rioting and protesting when they think Hitler just got elected?”
In a letter to the editor in an earlier edition of the Daily Campus, one UConn alumnus expressed the sentiment that students should accept the results of the election.
“The election is over. There was a winner and a loser and if you don’t understand this now, you will have a rude awakening when you enter the workplace and have to compete with other people for jobs and promotions and no one is going to give you a safe space if you are on the losing end,” Bob Mastracchio, a 1965 UConn alum, wrote.
Arpie said he believes people will gradually come to accept the Trump presidency.
“Some fringe groups will always reject the Trump presidency,” Arpie said. “A lot of conservatives said in ‘08 that they wouldn't accept the legitimacy of Obama's presidency, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find somebody now who still feels that way.”
Grischuk said Trump’s presidency is inevitable and people need to accept that fact.
“Whether or not you like him, he’s your president too, and he’s in charge of the most powerful country in the world,” Grischuk said. “He’s representing your country, and if you don’t hold him to task then he will be exactly what you fear.”