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Reversing 2016 Stance, Harvard Republican Club Endorses Donald Trump for President

Harvard students and affiliates at the IOP watch the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017.
Harvard students and affiliates at the IOP watch the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. By Casey M. Allen
By Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Republican Club has endorsed incumbent United States President Donald J. Trump in his 2020 re-election race, according to a Tuesday evening press release.

The club made national headlines in 2016 when it split from the Republican Party by refusing to support Trump’s first bid for the presidency, the first time in the group's 128-year history that it declined to back the GOP nominee. Since then, a new faction of conservative undergraduates have pushed for the club’s leadership to throw their weight behind the Trump administration.

Trump’s supporters in the group finally got their wish Tuesday, after HRC president Wesley L. Donhauser ’21 emailed members with the endorsement message from the club’s executive board. The message came just hours after the first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. The federal election will take place on Nov. 3.

“Our conservative and Republican convictions compel us to endorse candidates that will fight for an enduring moral order, protect Americans traditions, and prize careful prudence in all decisions for the betterment of Americans,” the message reads. “President Trump has demonstrated a commitment to these ideals that surpasses his challenger former Vice President Biden.”

The group cited several of what they saw as Trump’s “marquee accomplishments” on issues including foreign policy and tax reform. Republican Club leadership wrote that they believe Trump has promoted global peace and American interests abroad by “decimat[ing]” ISIS, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, organizing two summits with North Korea, and meeting foreign interference in U.S. elections with sanctions.

Club leadership also wrote that they believe Trump successfully corrected trade imbalances by withdrawing from NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and brokering “new landmark trade deals” such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The message also pointed to what the group considers Trump’s contributions to African Americans.

They wrote that, under Trump’s presidency, African Americans reached “historic levels of prosperity” and record-low unemployment rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They added that Trump has also committed “record levels” of funding to historically Black colleges and universities.

“It is our sincere belief that the policies of the Republican party and President Trump would lead to the most prosperous and safe lives for Black Americans,” they wrote.

Still, Trump has drawn sharp criticism for his record abroad and on issues of race. He has repeatedly declined to condemn white supremacists — including in Tuesday’s debate, during which he told members of the white supremacist group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by, but I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left.” During the same debate, Biden criticized Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation and failing to address reports that Russia offered Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The HRC message noted that the club still intends to take advantage of the election to provide Trump and other elected officials with feedback.

“We should not be afraid to criticize any elected official, even if they are of the same party,” they wrote. “We celebrate the debate and growth inherent in the election process and look forward to the ideas generated by the national discourse.”

In their letter, the club recognized several of what they described as Trump’s shortcomings. They wrote that these include not creating an “acceptable” and “regulated market-based” alternative to the Affordable Care Act, diminishing the “broad sense of dignity and distinction” of the presidency, and failing to unify Americans across the political spectrum around a “guiding set of principles.”

Republicans constitute a minority on Harvard’s largely liberal campus, and Trump supporters an even smaller pool. In a September survey of the Class of 2024 conducted by The Crimson, an overwhelming 90.1 percent of respondents indicated their support of Biden, compared to Trump’s 7.1 percent.

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at amanda.su@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.

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