Donald Trump’s improbable election victory one year ago revealed severe fractures in society across America. The mounting tensions sweeping America have not left the University of California, Santa Barbara untouched, as many recent immigrants and their allies vehemently oppose Trump’s proposed wall. Meanwhile, campus conservatives often feel forced to remain silent to avoid alienating their peers. The path to nationwide reunion is uncertain.
A growing dividing point in America is between ethnically diverse states like California versus states with less immigrant populations in the American Heartland. One of Trump’s first and most bombastic promises centered on building a wall alongside the Mexican border and enraged most of the campus’s growing Latino population. Recent immigrants at UCSB felt the wall was a not-so-subtle hint that they are unwelcome.
Fourth year Ubaldo Guzman Martinez Jr., a history major and first generation Mexican immigrant said, “the notion that Mexico is going to somehow pay for it is just another demagogic piece of rhetoric that Trump has used to pluck at racist, xenophobic, and American nationalist traditions.”
“At first I interpreted Trump’s administration as a show of clowns with no other way of winning the presidency other than being scandalous,” said third year Kevin Davila, a first generation immigrant of Mexican and Peruvian descent and an economics and accounting major. “Now I interpret the Trump administration’s attempt to build a border wall and reduce immigration as an interest of a few Americans looking to monetarily profit off the wall.”
Santa Barbara County voters chose Hillary Clinton over Trump by an almost 2:1 ratio. At UCSB, Chancellor Henry T. Yang sent an email to students officially condemning the Trump administration’s desire to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
University of California President Janet Napolitano voiced unequivocal support for undocumented students or “Dreamers.” The official responses aside, it is no secret that UCSB faculty and students lean left. In this climate, many right leaning members feel uneasy.
“Most UCSB community members have a strong liberal bias and view conservatives in a harshly negative light. Most conservatives remain quiet out of fear of being attacked for their views and losing friends,” said a conservative student who wishes to remain anonymous. “Because of the increasing intolerance of the student activist left, most conservatives only speak out in the voting booth in backlash to the liberal domination of our mass media and cultural institutions.” Martinez Jr. added, “for the most part there are a lack of conservative voices.”
Trump’s campaign often had a Nixonian flair, attempting to appeal to images of the “Silent Majority” made up of coal miners, manufacturers, and combat veterans. While these arguments proved effective on the campaign trail — a CNN exit poll shortly after Election Night counted veterans voting for Trump at a 2:1 ratio over Clinton — not all veterans are convinced of Trump’s ability to deliver on his promises.
Third year Eric Flores, a history major and Marine Corps veteran, said, “His support relies on emotion-based excitement. All nationalism. This has no substance in any ideas of programs supporting struggling vets.” Flores was skeptical of any meaningful policy being passed, saying, “The only program that I am aware of has come into play and only affects a small percentage of vets is the ‘Forever Bill.’ Not enough to gain my support as a vet.”
Flores also expressed concern over Trump’s intention to block transgender people from the military. “As a vet I wondered how this would affect the marine corps since transgender people are already a small percentage of the military,” Flores said. “This implementation would definitely adversely affect unit morale which contradicts the brotherhood or sisterhood for that manner needed for combat readiness.”
Often, it feels like America is coming unglued and is unable to scrabble together enough goodwill to even get through National Football League (NFL) games without intense acrimony and bitterness. As the left doubles down on avant-garde transgender issues while the right still laments 1973’s Roe v. Wade, it is becomingly increasingly uncertain if the nation has any common ground to stand on.
When asked if America would heal anytime soon, the anonymous conservative student said, “not at all in the near future. The United States is divided like it hasn’t been in many decades.”
“We have made a lot of progress,” said a more hopeful Martinez Jr. Davila pointed out that technology and higher education help societies move forward, “I believe the growing ethnic, religious, and cultural schisms can be healed.”
As whispers of potential Democratic challengers for the 2020 election already begin to enter the public conversation, the political fracturing of America has shown no evidence of slowing down.