UW political groups scramble to stop Trump
After months of waiting for the insult slinging author of “Art of the Deal” to stumble, students are soberly staring down the possibility of Donald Trump being the Republican party’s presidential nominee.
Trump’s success prompted the mobilization of campus political groups who vow to blunt the mogul’s momentum ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5th primary.
He has turned the Republican base against free trade, mercilessly put down the most polarizing political dynasty in the country and awakened a nasty strain of racism.
However, Trump’s regressive brand of nationalism is not unique.
As Europe clawed out of the Great Recession and Syria’s civil war flooded the continent with refugees, countries who had only recently escaped the shackles of Soviet-era repression voted in nationalist governments headed by strongmen.
Poland’s far right Law and Justice party gained majorities this fall by appealing to Poles alienated by economic and social change. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski stoked xenophobic fears by suggesting Muslim migrants carry “various diseases,” mirroring Trump’s full-throated assertion that Mexicans are rapists.
In January, Poland’s newly elected conservative government drew protests for transferring editorial control of their public broadcasting service to the executive branch, creating a propaganda arm and eliminating a source of dissent.
During a Fort Worth rally last week, Trump voiced his own proposal for muting free press.
To the glee of his audience, Trump said: “open up our libel laws so when they write purposefully negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
According to UW-Madison Journalism professor Michael Wagner, it is unlikely Trump’s unprecedented suggestion passes into law, but his reckless criticism of news media serves to weaken public trust in journalism.
“If people don’t trust the media then when the newspapers or radio stations or television stations report what’s true and what isn’t, fewer people are likely to believe it and that is a real problem,” Wagner said. “That’s why a lot of authoritarian leaders either control the media or seek to quash it.”
UW-Madison College Democrats are not taking Trump’s authoritarian and nationalist tendencies lightly, according to their press secretary August McGinnity-Wake.
“It’s pretty terrifying,” McGinnity-Wake said. “This is the kind of stuff we read about in dystopian novels. If Donald Trump wins the nomination we’ll be out there getting students excited, going door to door.”
August’s counterparts, the College Republicans are obligated to support the eventual party nominee, but that has not stopped members from breaking rank on moral and ethical grounds.
Jake Lubenow, bearded veteran of the Walker presidential campaign, pledged to stand against Trump even if it meant supporting the eventual Democratic party nominee or using his vote on a write-in.
Lubenow hastily launched the Badgers for Rubio club following Trump’s strong Super Tuesday performance to put as much wind into the sails of Trump’s strongest remaining mainstream rival.
“Donald Trump is a con artist,” an exasperated Lubenow said. “Beyond the fact that he’s just not qualified, I think his rhetoric is dangerous to the Republican party and to the American people as a whole. The things that he says about women and about muslims are just not okay.”
According to Lubenow, the battle for party nomination is not over yet; his group will begin canvassing on campus where he predicts Rubio will beat Trump.
“From my experience [Trump’s] support is limited on campus,” Lubenow said, although he conceded that several College Republicans support him. “I think he struggles to get his message across to millennials because they are more forward thinking than a lot of his supporters.”
According to Wagner, Trump does not have a lock on the nomination yet, but encourages Republicans wary of voting for him to coalesce around an alternative quickly.
Despite a recent decline in national polls, Lubenow maintained the alternative must be Marco Rubio.
“What I would say to kids on campus is that you have a voice, you need to utilize it,” Lubenow said. “We’re all smart enough on this campus to know that Donald Trump would not be a good president and voting for someone like Marco Rubio can help stop the momentum that Trump has.”Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter