by Savannah Seiler
I have a confession to make. I voted for Trump. I did not like it. I am not proud of it, but it was necessary. This is what many conservatives experienced during the general election. Most of my encounters with conservatives are with college students who are politically engaged and knowledgeable about political science. I think it is safe to say that most conservatives who voted for Trump in the general election voted because we felt we had too. I was concerned with the ever-expanding government and wanted to vote for who I thought was the better option. I did not want to vote for him. I felt somewhat ashamed for having voted for him, but it was the best bet of furthering my conservative ideals in this nation.
Most of conservatives, I believe, and hope, are still skeptical of Trump.
Recently, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and had a unique insight into the diversity of what the movement has become. There is certainly a divide between the “never Trumpers” and those who have decided to support our new President. In any political group, there will be extremists. I have seen Trump-supporters who have genuine hate in their hearts. Thankfully, this is the exception, not the rule. I hope people can see that those supporters do not represent us, just like we know that the Clinton and Bernie supporters who are rioting and hurting people are not representative of most liberals. A majority of Trump-supporters, Republicans and conservatives hope for Trump to be as successful as possible, yet we will continue to hold him to a high standard and be skeptical of his policies until they are proven effective.
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There are certainly factions amongst the conservative movement. Like in any election, we each decided to or not to vote for him for various reasons. Personally, I am worried because the large bureaucratic state has become a law-making entity that has little to no checks on its power, which is unconstitutional and dangerous. I am worried that our large welfare state is fostering dependency rather that opportunity for United States citizens. At CPAC, Governor Walker said something that really stuck with me. It was something along the lines of, “welfare should be like a trampoline, not a hammock.” I am worried about illegal immigration and what leaving it unchecked will do to our nation, financially. I am worried about an unbalanced budget that has grown to nearly $20 trillion of debt.
For these reasons and more, I, and many other constituents, could not vote for Hillary Clinton. We could not support eight more years of an Obama administration, which is what Clinton would provide, because that administration is what caused these worries to grow rather than provide a solution. I am not going to lie and pretend I know Trump will help solve these worries, either, but he is more likely to shrink bureaucracies, slow illegal immigration and balance the budget than the Clinton administration would have.
Nevertheless, we are united, especially us college-age conservatives, because of the attacks we could face as conservatives, whether verbal or physical.
I have had a girl in class call Trump supporters racist, sexist, and idiots without any reprimand by the teacher. Students in other schools in Tennessee have been kicked out of the student government for showing minimal support of Trump. This was before he won. Now, it seems like every week, there is a new story of people being pepper-sprayed or injured in some way. I remember talking about my plans to go to the Conference in Washington to my father, and he told me not to tell anyone who asked why I was in Washington because he genuinely feared for my safety.
There is also a sentiment that Trump supporters, or even, simply, conservatives are bad people. We can be xenophobic, racist, sexist, bigots, and more just because of the man we voted for. On a few occasions on Trinity’s campus I have come across people who I thought were liberal, but found out were conservative. It is such a great feeling when you can discuss politics and disagree on an issue without calling each other names or getting your feelings hurt. When I am with fellow conservatives I can actually enjoy intellectual deliberation, which is refreshing. I am, of course, not saying that all liberals are close-minded people who use name-calling in order to shut down public deliberation, but I think it has become socially unacceptable to agree with conservatives, which has generated more closed-minds.
One of the most salient issues that Trump supporters are attacked for is immigration, specifically illegal immigration. I believe most conservatives will agree that illegal immigration is a problem. Some believe it is a problem for the wrong reasons, admittedly. They think immigrants are taking our jobs, causing crime and are, generally, “bad hombres”. These are not true. The only problem I have with immigration, socially, is that a federal law is being broken, and even encouraged.
Past amnesty programs, plans that forgives the law-breaking and allows illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship, have increased the number of illegal immigrants and shown the legal immigrants who could wait upwards of 16 years, depending on which nationality they are, that it would have been easier to break the law and ask forgiveness later. My main concern with illegal immigration is the massive rise in population that we could not sustain with our large welfare state. However, my opinions aside, most conservatives support stopping illegal immigration and support the idea behind the wall, but not necessarily the wall itself. Many think it’s fiscally irresponsible and will cause a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Doubling or tripling the power of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be cheaper and more effective.
I know it may not be a word typically associated with conservatives, but what I saw at CPAC was an embrace of diversity.
There was a diversity of ideas, religion, race, and backgrounds. We do not have to all act one way or support the same policies all of the time, but we are all united in our conservatism and our love of this country.
Savannah Seiler is a junior Political Science and Economics double major at Trinity University.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer. The Contemporary takes no position on matters of policy or opinion.
The photo above was taken by Michael Vadon and is under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.