In the lead-up to Election Day, the Bowdoin College Republicans have been focusing their programming away from organizing and activism and toward internal, issue-focused discussions.
The club has elected not to endorse a candidate in any election, including the presidential race, which co-president Oron Steingrub ’22 called a “typical” practice. Still, Steingrub did connect the decision to the fact that some members of the club are not supporting President Trump.
“It has nothing to do with the president or any kind of feelings related to that,” Steingrub said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s just that we know there are members who support the president and others who don’t, and we don’t want to speak for them.”
Club members and leaders noted that attendance at meetings has gone down this semester, which they attributed to logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders said that, for the same reason, planning formal programming has been a challenge. But members did talk about how they had stayed connected to one another through active group chats, bi-weekly Zoom meetings and occasional structured conversations about issues such as gun control and immigration.
“I know [the club is] doing some book studies and things like that, looking at documentaries of different views on politics in general,” Taylor Jorgensen ’22 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s kind of getting set up, making sure people are informed and … prepped to go into an election,” she added.
Steingrub noted that political differences among members of the club sometimes become evident in these issue-focused conversations.
“Some people may stand on polar opposite ends of an issue, and we just try and respect that in the club,” he said. “The goal of the club is not to take an activist point of view or endorse candidates or go door-knocking; it’s for … conservative-leaning Bowdoin students to feel that they also have a place on campus and people with similar ideas who they can relate to.”
Still, the club does have one formal connection to election-related programming at Bowdoin: Jorgensen is the club’s representative to Bowdoin Votes, a position she took on this month. In this role, she helped coordinate the College Republicans’ co-sponsorship of the local candidates forum on October 9.
Theo de Quillacq ’21, another co-president of the group, contrasted his experience in the club this fall with the lead-up to the 2018 midterm election, when the group was more involved in election organizing.
“During the midterms we got a bunch of people out into Augusta [to knock] on doors to make sure that they reelected their mayor,” he said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Although the group is not involved in election organizing this year, members will be connecting virtually on the night of the election.
“We’re probably going to do a Zoom call and just talk to each other and watch the results come in,” de Quillacq said.
De Quillacq did predict that President Trump will lose re-election, and said that this made him upset.
“But it’s not over, so, who knows, it could still happen,” he added. “I mean in 2016 the polls said that Hillary would win Kansas, so, why trust the polls this time?”
The Bowdoin College Republicans are receiving a substantial volume of media requests this semester, and de Quillacq spoke on Maine Public Radio about youth voting on Wednesday. Members of the club had varied opinions on why media outlets were interested in interviewing them.
“Colleges tend to lean [to the left], and so seeing the perspective of someone who thinks very differently from their peers is very interesting,” de Quillacq said.
Steingrub wondered if the volume of media requests was more connected to the surprise that followed the 2016 presidential election.
“It could be that people underestimated the enthusiasm of Republicans and the level of voter participation that they would draw,” he said. “Maybe there’s an interest in understanding where that comes from.”