ITHACA, NY – From the beginning of this election cycle, the Cornell University College Republicans group have had mixed feelings toward Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The Cornell Daily Sun reported back in March that the group was “concerned” by Trump’s rise in the party, and in July they expressed similar worries about the “law and order” theme of the Republican National Convention.

It seems that the College Republicans crossed a line last week, however, when they broke with their party and officially endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president.

“This election’s unprecedented nature has made blind commitment to our Party unpalatable. The Cornell Republicans cannot, in good faith, endorse our party’s nominee. Mr. Trump should not be the face of American conservatism. Instead, we are proud to endorse the true conservative in this election: Gary Johnson,” the group wrote on Sept. 2.

The group praised Johnson’s fiscal conservatism, and his honesty and civility in contrast to Trump’s “visceral rhetoric and angry demeanor.” They suggested that those who supported Johnson over Trump or Clinton would be on “the right side of history.”

Swift retaliation

The statement did not sit well with with some in the Republican sphere.

Within a day of the Cornell College Republicans endorsement, the New York Federation of College Republicans held a vote and decided to revoke the credentials of the Cornell group for the fall semester. With this decision, members of the Cornell chapter are barred from participating in programs run by the federation, including their Academic Fellowship and any conferences held by the group. Individual members who disagree with the Cornell club’s decision are able to apply as individuals, however.

The Federation explained their rationale: “Clubs are within their right not to endorse certain candidates within the party and decide to reallocate their resources down the ballot. What is unacceptable, however, is using a party-affiliated organization as a tool to support another party’s candidate in an election, whomever that candidate may be and whatever office the election may be for.”

The Cornell Republicans responded to this development, noting that they weren’t surprised by the decision given that the chairman of the Federation of College Republicans works on Trump’s campaign. They also argued that the revocation of their credentials was out of line given the Cornell Republicans standing as one of the oldest of such groups in New York, and the fact that despite their current status as Libertarians, Gary Johnson and his running mate have been Republicans for most of their lives.

“For a group who claims to support free speech on college campuses, they seem to be suppressing a crucial debate that needs to take place for the sake of the survival of the Republican Party. That’s why, after being threatened with a lawsuit, we are temporarily changing the name of our club to the Cornell Conservatives,” the group wrote in a Facebook page.

The Cornell Republicans also took some flak from their home turf. The Cornell Review, the University’s conservative publication, implied that the club caved to pressure from a Daily Sun editorial calling on them to not endorse Trump and that the club did not truly understand conservatism or represent conservative values on campus.

“True conservatives do not listen to the lamentations of a left-wing campus publication dictating unto them how to conduct themselves politically,” wrote Casey Breznick in the Review.

(Featured photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.