The experience of a conservative on a liberal campus

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Amid Facebook-shared articles, angst-ridden tweets and Women’s March protests, it has become obvious how the left feels about our recent presidential election. I remember feeling similarly in 2008 when Obama was elected. I was not happy either; I cried on election night, admittedly, but I think the time has come for us all to stop crying.

I do not think that crying solves much, but I think that intelligent discourse solves a lot more. I truly believe that if we listened to each other’s opinions without dishing out fiery comebacks, we would understand each other a lot more. People may not change their opinions, but we do not have to hate each other. Unfortunately, I do not think University of Miami faculty and students execute this concept very well.

On the University of Miami campus, the election backlash could be felt by students who encountered the protests and marches, or even the students whose professors could not make it out of bed the next morning for class. Especially as a political science student at UM, I had professors attempt to “explain” the election to us. I had guest speakers come in and voice their opinions, all the while assuming that all the students in the room were “with her.” I most certainly was not.

Many young Democrats feel that the new president is a liar and are concerned with his capability to lead our nation. I have friends who are black, Muslim or part of the LGBT community, and they are scared that Trump will threaten their treatment in America. I invite these people to share their feelings with me so I can discuss policies with them, rather than make passive aggressive Facebook posts. Instead of telling me to “delete you on Facebook if I support Trump,” let me tell you how I believe Trump will make America better for everyone, including people in these communities.

I hope that Trump will, for example, create more jobs that could benefit everyone and reform the inner cities, which prove to be challenging environments for the largely minority communities that inhabit them. I did not vote for Trump because I hate minorities. I voted for him because I love America, and America thrives with the help of minorities. Even if my friends do not miraculously become Trump supporters after talking with me, finding any common ground still feels like a victory.

While I usually disagree with the Democratic Party, I have admired its efforts to tolerate other opinions in the past. From my experiences on campus since the election and inauguration, however, I conclude that the UM campus has become a center for progressive ideals that do not mirror the tolerance of the party’s elder liberal counterparts. This phenomenon is not unique to Miami and has become an issue on campuses across America.

The first problem is the assumption on campuses by students and faculty alike that college students voted exclusively for Hillary and that the only exceptions to this rule are racists and bigots. When I tell people that I, a woman, voted for Donald Trump this past November, I usually get looks of disgust. No one waits for me to explain, and no one thinks this is because I believe in small government or dislike how Clinton has handled foreign affairs in her career. I am uneducated and racist, of course. Ironically, this exact condescension and alienation by Democrats is what cost them the election.

I refuse to be ashamed of my vote, which is why I have tried to be as vocal as possible on campus. During a 300-student lecture about the election, I raised my hand and admitted that I voted for Trump. It was not to gloat about my party’s win or to draw attention to myself. It was to let the other Republicans in the room know that they do not have to be silent on this campus. A girl that I had never met approached me after class and told me that I was brave for my actions.

So, how does it feel to be a Republican on campus since the election? Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes when I tell my friends about my vote, I feel them judging me, labeling me. Sometimes when I mention that I am a member of the University of Miami College Republicans, I receive dirty looks. When my friends tell me they voted for Clinton, I love to debate the issues, but it does not change our friendship in the end. My roommate has a picture glorifying Fidel Castro hanging next to her bed, but we manage to talk politics daily without killing each other. I challenge students of the other side of the aisle to reciprocate friendly debate, rather than jump to conclusions and miss out on a chance to challenge and exchange ideas.

Ashley Plotkin is a freshman majoring in political science and economics.