Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 21, 2017

Students Discuss Political Ideologies 

Kelleen Cullison

A Conservative, Libertarian and a Liberal reporter sit down in a cafe. People lean in to listen as they catch snippets of conversation. Terminology and discrepancies get thrown around, but never unkindly. They part amiably enough for their first meeting, both visibly relieved to have talked to someone about politics without it turning into a death match. The interview went better than ei-ther of them had expected.

The current political climate is making the already touchy subject of politics even harder to bring to the conversation, and that’s for those who dare to have the conversation at all. 

Out of the five conservative leaning students I attempted to contact, senior Nick John-ston, the aforementioned Conservative Libertarian, was the only one to follow through with an interview. 

“This school’s mentality is very liberal leaning,” Johnston said. “Most conservatives here don’t want to talk about it (the election) out of fear of being ostracized socially. There’s this whole mentality that if you’re a conservative then you’re a racist, bigot, homophobic, sexist, which is not true at all. I don’t support Trump. I support and respect the title and office that he holds.” 

Johnston came to the interview prepared, and easily transitioned between difficult topics like political campaign strategy, identity politics and Trump’s shaky political past. While Johnston explained his optimism about having a “nonpolitical” president, during the campaign, he said he supported the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.  

He explained the concept of Libertarian as “fiscally conservative but socially liberal,” which originally gave me a sense of common ground between the two of us. However, by the end of the interview, I realized Johnston and I had an entirely different idea of what it means to be socially liberal, although he did say that as a “conservative libertarian” there were some issues that he leaned conservatively on. Over the course of our interview, Johnston expressed his skep-ticism on issues such as privilege and inequality, as well as his views on some of Trump’s contro-versial comments in regard to these issues. 

“Just because someone says something, that doesn’t mean that they believe it,” he said. “There is a clear difference between someone who says something racist and someone who is a racist. For example, rap songs or people on TV can turn around and say racial slurs. Both sides (of the political spectrum do) and it’s still a racial slur, but it’s not construed as racist. I believe in freedom of speech as long as it doesn’t ignite violence. People have the right to have their opin-ions. Do I have to agree with those opinions? No, absolutely not.” 

Racism is a prejudice, discrimination and antagonism toward a people of a different race based on the belief that race is inferior, and while I, nor anyone else, seems to be able to confirm what Donald Trump believes, his comments do incite antagonism toward those of races other than Caucasian. 

“My mother, sister and I are females of color, and there has been so much fear of, ‘What’s Trump going to do next? How might his actions affect me?’” said first-year Chelsea Glenn. “I’ve heard people argue for Trump that he isn’t a racist, but just because you hang out with people of color doesn’t mean you aren’t a racist.” 

Throughout his campaign, Trump used antagonistic comments to gain traction for his plat-form, such as generalizing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” who are “bringing crime and drugs” to the United States in his speech justifying his plan for a U.S-Mexican Border Wall. 

“Both of my parents and most of my family are immigrants in the United States,” said senior psychology major Miriam Cruz. “On the night of the election, I called my brother and we both just cried. I felt horrible because he goes to a large conservative school, and he’s an RA there, and many of his residents are Trump supporters. He told me that at school he felt like he had to walk with his head down because he felt like people were judging him.” 

Cruz even thinks that her future has shifted since the election. “With Trump’s promotion of how we are viewed, am I even going to be able to find a job?” she asked. “How do I protect my family from here at school? I had wanted to go to grad school right after graduation, but now I’m taking the year off so that I can really work and be at home to help out more.” 

Johnston’s reaction to Trump’s election, however, was different. “I’m not a fan of Trump but I'm not afraid of him either,” he said.

The polarizing reactions generated by Trump, as indicated both on MU’s campus and in society in general seem to depend on whether he is considered a threat: there are those who feel they or their families are personally endangered, and others who have the privilege of feeling largely unaffected by his presidency. Is this feeling of safety experienced by some also a way to shift off responsibility? Does the privilege of race and gender enable white men, for instance, of
simplifying the issues that come with Trump because they are unaffected personally by him? 

Lyell Asher, assistant English professor at Lewis and Clark College, thinks it is. “Feeling offended implies an offense, and where there is an offense, there must be a culprit guilty of hav-ing committed it.” wrote Asher in “Your Students Crave Moral Simplicity. Resist,” which was featured in the Chronicle Review. In it, Asher notes that students today tend to simplify politics and social situations in their already stress-laden lives. 

This ability to turn a blind eye works in tandem with echo chambers of news. An idea such as “white conservatives have been targeted” since Trump’s election supports this clamoring denial. A statistic such as “the Southern Poverty Law Center noted 27 incidents directed at Trump supporters,” as reported by CBS News, becomes enough to support a preexisting notion. Never mind that this follows the statement, “The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that in the nearly two weeks since Election Day, there have been more than 700 reports of hate crimes across the country—vandalism, physical and verbal assaults, harassment and destruction of prop-erty, directed against Muslims, African Americans, Asians, immigrants, women and gays.” 

It could be that young conservatives simply aren’t reading these other headlines. While I found articles reporting evidence of increased hate crimes against minorities in the weeks since the election on CBS, the Chicago Tribune, and Vox websites, when I searched ‘Hate Crimes’ on the Fox News website, headlines such as “Evidence of Rising Anti-Semitism, But Data Mostly Elusive” and “Growing List of Post-Election Hate Crimes Turn Out to be Hoaxes” popped up instead.  

In a time that is so politically polarized, many students who are just entering the political sphere are desperate for easy answers. It’s a result of “the phobia of frustration in a capitalist cul-ture; a manic tendency to direct out states of uncertainty—to an immediate source of satisfac-tion,” Asher wrote. 

We as students must do in-depth research before we form our opinions. Those in a posi-tion of power must no longer settle for half-truths, or belittle and turn a blind eye to the fears of minorities simply because  it makes us uncomfortable. Those who are affected must be willing to have conversations with people who disagree with them, and attempt to understand others’ opin-ions in order to shed light on their own. Politics are complex. Simplicity has no place in them.