Tackling Trump: First College Republican meeting mirrors national party tension

A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up his shirt, which bears the Trump slogan "Build a Wall," following a rally for Trump, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Everett, Wash. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The UConn College Republicans’ first meeting of the semester mainly revolved around Donald Trump. The meeting came a day after a statement by the group’s executive board criticized the candidate’s policies and called him “mentally unstable.”

Club member and Trump supporter Michael Grischuk called the executive decision “embarrassing and stupid,” and said the club should have held a vote before the statement was made public.

Club president Paul DaSilva said he had taken a straw poll of the group’s members at the end of last semester and found they generally opposed Trump. DaSilva said the executive board took this into consideration when composing their statement, which DaSilva and club secretary Zak Quamme wrote.

“I don’t want it to seem like it was usurping the will of the membership of the club, where that it was a unilateral execution of my power because that’s one of the things I accuse Trump of doing,” DaSilva said. “I want to give this opportunity (the meeting) to discuss it.”

Club member Jacqueline Devine, who has previously written for The Daily Campus, said it would have been preferable for the statement to make it clear in an early paragraph that it was coming from the executive board rather than the organization as a whole.

Devine also said she would have preferred that the board had sent out an email to the group before publishing the statement.

“I there’s been a significant enough shift in public opinion regarding (Trump) that it should have at least been considered that the statement could have been made afterward,” Grischuk said. “The statement was yesterday. The meeting was today. I think it could have waited 24 hours.”

Grischuk also argued that the statement seemed to include all members of the organization, rather than just the executive board.

DaSilva said the board had the power to endorse or disavow a candidate.

“We (the executive board) felt we had a duty to morally come out against the candidacy of Trump,” DaSilva said.

Club member Tim Sullivan said Trump didn’t align with the Republican platform on issues like free trade and that, if elected, he could damage the party for years to come.

We (the executive board) felt we had a duty to morally come out against the candidacy of Trump.
— Paul DaSilva

“I would rather us oppose Hillary Clinton through principled conservatism than have to suck it up for Donald Trump for four years and have him damage the reputation of the Republican party and conservatism for twenty years,” Sullivan said.

Grischuk disagreed, arguing Trump would be important when selecting Supreme Court Justices and also expressed support for Trump’s stance against NAFTA. Grischuk continued that Trump would be preferable to a Clinton presidency.

“If you don’t vote for Donald Trump, if you vote for anyone else or not all, then you’re working against the Republican cause, you’re working against the cause of the people that call themselves Republican and you’re working against the ability to get any of the things that you want, without being able to make any kind of compromise in between,” Grischuk said.

DaSilva disagreed.

“There’s also not this dichotomy that if you oppose Trump that you can’t oppose Clinton,” DaSilva said. “It’s not as if we issued this statement that we won’t support Trump and then said we would support Clinton. That’s not what happened. We just said that we can’t support Trump, and it’s a given that we can’t support Hillary because obviously Hillary disagrees with all the principles that we hold here.”

DaSilva said he expected some dissent at the meeting.

“This organization promotes open dialogue. Anyone is welcome to attend: liberals, conservatives, Trump supporters, whomever, to share their opinions and insight. I hope they would maintain a level of decorum that I think was lost a little at the end,” DaSilva said.

Mansfield town councilor Mark Sargent, a former UConn College Republican, attended the meeting.

“I think it was bold statement. It was a statement that has its feet planted in a lot of pockets throughout the country with the divineness of the country and the uncertainty of the Republicans unfortunately that we’re seeing going into November,” Sargent said. “Even with a candidate who earned the plurality of the Republican vote not everybody supports him.”

Sargent said his focus this election season is his own campaign for state representative. He declined to comment on who he was supporting for president.


Chris McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.