Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
In 2016, the United States faced one of its most significant and polarizing elections.
On a smaller, yet still important scale, the University of La Verne’s College Republicans club unites like-minded supporters of the conservative party.
Currently with four people on the executive board and roughly 10 members, the club’s numbers do not discourage president Marisa Saldaña, a sophomore communications major who almost two years ago took it upon herself to rebuild the organization, starting from scratch.
“When I showed up to the first meeting, the moderator told us that elections were coming up and the (club) vice president was graduating and everyone else had already graduated, so if no one stepped up and took over, the club was going to be killed,” Saldaña said. “I put my name down just to kind of keep it there, just so the club wouldn’t be shut down, and I would think about it.
“In the end I just ended up being president and had to find the secretary and other roles,” she said.
At first, the task seemed intimidating. But with time, every new member or accomplishment was a victory, and the club began taking form to stand tall during the 2016 elections, she said.
“It was really scary, especially because I was so new to the campus, I had just figured out how to log into my portal and stuff like that,” Saldaña said. “During my freshmen year, it was also at that point in the political race that it was starting up and being in a college campus is really different, so I wanted to be involved with it. Not necessarily at that level, but I like being in charge of it. I like that I have to work with different people, I know so many more people because I put on events, and the College Democrats work closely with us.”
After two years in charge, the challenges have changed for Saldaña. With a polarizing Republican president in office, it’s not as if things are smooth sailing.
“For me, it has caused a lot of distrust… I have a lot of people asking me questions in very interrogating and oppressing manners,” Saldaña said.
Vice President Christopher Padilla, a senior speech communications major, said he also feels that Trump has had a challenging impact in the way Republicans are viewed.
“We have to restructure the image of the Republican Party, completely. Especially with the enormous amount of damage that Donald Trump is doing, to the party specifically but also generally to the country,” Padilla said. “It’s really giving a black eye to the party in general. So we have to show people that … he doesn’t represent us, he doesn’t represent our values, even most of our policies,” he said.
Saldaña said that in the broader picture, the most pressing issues for Republicans are the economy and what affects it, such as immigration reform and health care reform.
On a smaller scale, she hopes to get accreditation for the club.
“I just think that if we get that recognition it will be a lot easier to go to events with other College Republicans clubs on other campuses, and it will be just that one step that we need to get our very small University of La Verne College Republicans club recognized on a more broad spectrum,” Saldaña said.
Another key for the club is bipartisanship. Working closely with the ULV College Democrats, Saldaña said she found the strength to keep both her club and debates moving forward. From members to people on the board, College Democrats show interest in having the other side represented on campus.
“Our treasurer is also a Democrat, he doesn’t agree with me politically at all, but we just really work well together and put our differences aside. If there is something we want to get done that we agree on, we work hard to get it done. That’s our main objective.”
“I vote Democrat,” said freshman political science major Fares Abdullah, the club treasurer. “I’m liberal in all senses of the word, however I do recognize that … on college campuses there seems to be an echo-chamber, which doesn’t allow for the conservative view. We often take a very aggressive stance against views that are not common in liberal media or liberal culture, and so I felt it was important for me … to break away from that and see the other side.”
Abdullah said that being in a predominantly liberal state, conservatives here also need a voice.
“A lot of the individuals I’ve met in political science are very liberal-leaning. (Conservatives) are seen as people who may be misogynistic or racist, which I promise is not the case,” he said.
Padilla said he also believes the overwhelmingly liberal climate makes it hard for Republicans to feel like they belong.
“The more liberal factions have a serious inability to have any kind of discourse, which is usually the case when you have a majority of anything,” he said. “The majority of willpower, whether that be College Democrats here on campus or anywhere else in life, they have no incentive to listen because they don’t have to.”
Saldaña said the openness to discuss different topics with different people is not something most students expect, but that it is a main asset she keeps while holding her position as club president.
“I want to stress that party politics aren’t really what we are about. We want people to stand up for principles and things they believe in rather than ‘I’m a Republican and therefore I must stand by everything a Republican does.’ It is a lot more about the individual and that is something that we really stress in our club.”
The College Republicans meet at 6 p.m. Wednesdays in Leo Hall 212. Meetings are open to everyone.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo can be reached at email@example.com.