When Donald Trump won the American presidency, The Catalyst reached out to students who had voted for Trump, asking if they were willing to have a profile devoted to their post-election political views and campus perceptions. Trump-supporting students at Colorado College were not willing to be interviewed in order to avoid negative responses from peers.
One student agreed to an interview for this article, but asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash. When asked why he had not spoken out publicly about his political views, the student said, “I don’t want to be the guy that voted for Trump and have that define me, because that is such a little part of me. I don’t even think about it that much.”
Political Science Professor Juan Lindau was less understanding about the fear Trump supporters have of voicing their opinions at CC. “I’m a passionate believer in free speech and the importance of free speech,” Lindau explained. “On the other hand, there is a reason why people have such a visceral reaction against Donald Trump. We are all a product of our lifetime and experiences.”
When later asked if Trump supporters should openly speak at CC, Lindau responded, “I don’t really think so, even though I’m a strong believer in freedom of speech.” He later went on to say, however, that anonymous views were the most poisonous, and emphasized repeatedly that if a person takes a stance on something, they should be able to own and defend their position.
Lindau attributed the silence of pro-Trump students as a reflection of them, rather than on CC’s anti-Trump culture. He said, “People don’t say [their political views] because they aren’t willing to own it… And they say it’s our climate. Inability to speak up is a sign of their own moral lack of courage.”
In addressing potential campus backlash if pro-Trump students were to own their views publicly, Lindau said, “They [Trump supporters] may fear being attacked, but on the other hand who has been historically attacked? Who has actually had to experience the attacks, usually anonymously?”
Despite one drunken friend’s threat, the Trump supporting student said he was not scared for his physical safety at CC were he to express his views, but he was scared of being ostracized. “If you voted for Trump, you’re immediately labeled as a racist, hateful bigot. All these people who claim to be so open-minded and what not,” he said, “openly say that about people who voted for Trump—that they hate them and they won’t talk to them. It just sort of makes me think that everyone is a hypocrite.” The student interviewed does not know of another student at CC who voted for Trump.
He did feel as though his views were silenced on campus because of how anti-Trump so many students are, but also did not have an interest in having more conversations about it, saying that the conversations he did have with the people he told constituted his “fair share.”
Fellow Political Science Professor Bob Lee echoed some of Lindau’s thoughts. “It [CC] is not a place where people should be denouncing other people and other groups. That’s unacceptable. That’s not what this place is about. On the other hand, people should feel free to express their opinions about policy matters and who should be elected… I would hope that that’s the case, but apparently not.”
Lee was “rather amazed” that no Trump supporter was willing to publicly express their views in an interview with The Catalyst. He said, “I think people should be able to acknowledge their points of view, whatever those are, and feel comfortable about doing it.”
The student who voted for Trump said that though The Catalyst did not reach out to him last block, had they contacted him, he would not have agreed to be profiled. In fact, he purposefully kept his views private for the most part. He estimates that he only told 10 or 15 close friends he was a Trump supporter, all of whom voted for Clinton. Even the responses he got from those closest to him were mixed.
“One of them said he was fine with my political views and he was happy to have a conservative friend… I got the response of one of them saying he lost a lot of respect for me,” the student described. “Another one, one night when he was drunk, threatened me, kind of funnily, kind of not though… He’s like ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you.’ Was it funny? Was it a joke? I don’t know.”