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In Trump They Trust
Following last Tuesday’s election results, hundreds of USC students and faculty members, along with local middle school and high school students, marched on Trousdale Parkway to protest President-elect Donald Trump. Protesters gathered in peaceful protest next to Tommy Trojan, holding signs emblazoned with slogans reading “Not my President.”
Over the week, thousands of protesters congregated in the streets to rally against Trump, shutting down traffic and making it clear that the President-elect is not their president. The city became a soapbox for the frustrations of liberal and some conservative Americans in response to the recent elections, leaving conservatives at USC feeling stranded and exiled.
According to exit poll data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, approximately 55 percent of college-age voters chose Clinton, whereas Trump received only 37 percent of their votes.
Like many colleges, USC is a primarily liberal environment, according to an assessment of administrative policies, campus groups and faculty members by Campus Reform. With the country so divided, many conservatives feel that the USC campus cultivates an environment where it is difficult to openly support a conservative candidate.
“I had a [Trump] flag in my room,” said Connor Fugman, a junior majoring in business administration. “Somebody actually came into my room, stole the flag, spray painted it and put it in a toilet stall.”
Fugman still doesn’t know who did it, making him worry that it could’ve been one of his friends.
Mike Feehan, a junior majoring in business administration, had a similar experience. He was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap at a fraternity party, when people started grabbing it from his head and yelling “F-ck Trump.”
Feehan retrieved his hat and put it back on, but when he turned around, someone else took it off his head again.
He found his hat the next day stepped on and ruined.
It was a small incident in the course of a tumultuous election cycle, but for Feehan, it made him realize his opinions weren’t welcome at USC.
With party politics dividing the nation, the sentiment crossing partisan lines is a deep fear of the opposing side.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 86 percent of Democrats view Republicans unfavorably and 41 percent see Republicans as a threat to this nation. The same poll also stated that 91 percent of Republicans view Democrats unfavorably and 45 percent see Democrats as a threat to the nation.
This tension captures the sentiments of a frustrated America where many are realizing that their neighbor might not see eye-to-eye with their own beliefs.
With opinions falling outside the popular range of the political spectrum on campus, in addition to being in a liberal environment, some students find it challenging to express themselves for fear of being attacked by their peers. This has caused many students to refrain from sharing their thoughts, especially on the Election Night viewing at Wallis Annenberg Hall.
“I realized on the day of the election that my friend is a Trump supporter,” said Angela Ho, a junior majoring in fine arts, who attended the Annenberg viewing. “I didn’t want him to cheer in the midst of everyone’s mourning because I knew it would create a strong, negative response. My friend and I were not only afraid of his safety, but ours because we were associated with him.”
In the days after the election, classroom political discussions also felt like an unwelcome environment for students with differing political beliefs.
“As someone who voted for Trump. I get extremely uncomfortable,” said Jacob Ellenhorn, a USC law student and former president of College Republicans. “The professors make it seem as though his election is a calamity of epic proportions, but I think having a Republican in the White House is good.”
Liberals on campus have also noticed the discord, but some said that they hope to work with conservatives on campus to create more discourse.
“In this election we certainly learned that we don’t do a good enough job of positively engaging with those with whom we disagree,” said Nick Fiorillo, political director of USC College Democrats. “While as liberals, we need to continue to call out bigotry, prejudice and oppression, we would be well-served to think about how to do this in ways that change minds.”
Outside of campus, Trump supporters also feel attacked online. It is difficult for Feehan to feel accepted in a political environment, even on the internet.
“The sad truth is there’s too many times where I have had people who have unfriended me off of Facebook just because I said I support Trump,” Feehan said.
However, Feehan is not afraid to express his opinions and support for a Trump presidency.
“I guess some of my friends might feel that way,” Feehan said. “But, I know what I believe in and could [not] care less if others don’t want to be my friends or want to challenge me.”
Despite Trump’s comments on sexual assault, immigration and race — which received criticism from many millennials — there is still a large number of college-aged students who strongly advocate for him.
“I am tired of the political establishment. I do not want a politician in office anymore, I want to build a wall to protect our nation,” Feehan said. “I value the economy, and I feel Trump has proven business experience to make it great again, and I want taxes to be lowered which they will be under his presidency.”
Political tensions are high in Los Angeles, a city with largely Democratic leanings, and the separation between a variety of stances has not been reconciled after the outcome of the election. But conservatives on campus are hopeful that as time goes on, their fellow students will begin to be more understanding and accepting of their viewpoints.
“The Democrats and Republicans are too far apart on important issues, but hopefully that will change,” Feehan said. “Time heals tension. Time will heal everything.”