Millennial Republicans express discontent with Trump
CLEVELAND — Xander Almeida laughs when he says he doesn’t support Donald Trump for president. It’s a laugh of disbelief, a laugh of incredulity and a laugh of fear.
When asked what he doesn’t like about Trump, he replies, “How much time do you have?”
He’s not being rhetorical.
Almeida says Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims is both unconstitutional and “insane.” He doesn’t like that Trump frequently changes his opinion on issues, and questions how that’d work if he’s president.
The one word he kept repeating about Trump was “scary.”
“Those are just the first things that come off the top of my head,” said Almeida, before mentioning Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience.
As Millennial Republicans gathered Tuesday for what they called the Republican National Convention Youth Caucus, one theme was familiar among those present — Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, isn’t well-liked among the future leaders of the party.
Almeida, 31, of Portland, Oregon, said he first supported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and later New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before ultimately voting for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Nick Allman, 23, a delegate from Texas, also supported Paul. Logan Nevonen, 23, an alternate delegate from Texas, supported both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the primaries.
None of the three are ready to support Trump.
“Donald Trump will have to earn my vote,” said Nevonen, who works at a political consulting firm and is passionate about women’s representation in politics. “He hasn’t earned it so far. He definitely has some room for growth in my eyes.”
Trump didn’t win over much of the youth vote during the primary season. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard University Institute of Politics, 61 percent of voters ages 18-29 said they’d vote for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, just 25 percent would pledge their support to Trump.
According to CNN, Republicans have averaged about 38 percent of the youth vote since 1992. If Trump only won 25 percent of voters under 30, that’d be the lowest mark for Republicans since modern exit polling began in 1972.
Allman, who organized the Youth Caucus through Facebook, acknowledged that the main talking points of Trump’s campaign don’t relate as well to Millennials. He said most young people he has talked to don’t care as much about illegal immigration as they do civil liberties.
“Some people have a strong stance, but most don’t say if they’re for it or against it,” Allman said. “It’s not an A-level issue for them. It’s maybe a D- or E-level issue, as far as importance is concerned.”
He, too, said it’s difficult to get Millennials to vote Republican in the first place.
Almeida, who wore a top hat and decorate his entire suit jacket with campaign buttons, said he used to affiliate with the Green Party, but after moving to what he thought would be a “utopia” in Portland, he saw government in action and registered as a Republican in 2008.
He faults the Republican Party for being “terrible messengers” in promoting its values, especially to younger people and people of diverse backgrounds. He says he’s been at GOP gatherings where he’s the second-youngest person, and, as half-Mexican, he says he sometimes feels like he’s in a “sea of white people.”
“My hope is this is an eye opener to most Republicans that they need to be more involved next time,” Almeida said. “An eye opener that the party’s in trouble and we need help. I hope it’s an eye opener to go and recruit people, especially young people, people of color and women, too, to all go and express better what our values are. …
“So next time, we do get someone that’s a lot more qualified and not scary to be our nominee.”
To earn her vote, Nevonen said Trump will have to articulate the conservative message better, make sure his message isn’t hostile to any group and solidify his policy stances.
If he doesn’t do that by November, she’s not sure who she’ll vote for. She wants to consider the open Supreme Court seat when making her choice.
Without a doubt, she sees the negative effect Trump has on the GOP. But Nevonen says it’s also on Millennials’ shoulders to help mend the party.
“I think that it is definitely destroying our party,” Nevonen said. “I think, though, a lot of Millennials have come together to discuss ways to unify our party more. Even like at the Youth Caucus, discussions we’re having about what policy matters concern us.
“It’s definitely detrimental to our party as a whole, but I think there’s definitely room where we can grow as the younger generation toward policy issues that’ll unify our party more.”
This story was jointly reported by The Pendulum and Elon Local News.