We’re quickly approaching the 11th hour of a presidential election that will probably be known by my generation as the very first Hunger Games, and some citizens of Panem—erm, I mean America—are beginning to realize that Donald Trump might be the villain of this story. The release of the ruinous “pussy-grabbing” tapes gave many GOP diehards the excuse they finally needed to chuck their violins and abandon a sinking ship.
You would think one of the groups rushing to the last lifeboat would be younger conservatives, who might possess better preservation instincts than their parents, having grown up in a different reality. (As Stephen Colbert once said, reality tends to have a liberal bias.)
Polling does reflect that younger Republicans aren’t as thrilled about Trump as their older counterparts, with fewer than two-thirds supporting Trump compared to more than 75 percent of those ages 30-64.
Unfortunately, once you break young evangelicals out from the group, the defection looks lackluster. Soon-to-be released numbers sent to RD from the Public Religion Research Institute show that young evangelicals actually support Trump more than evangelicals over 50 do.
Furthermore, if evangelical stronghold Liberty University is any indication, Trump can count on college-educated young evangelicals on November 8th as well. Since president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, Jr., endorsed him and welcomed him on campus, Trump has been inextricably linked to the Christian school, an association that its student body has been slow to cast off.
With the discovery of the Trump tapes, the sound of a swirling toilet flush became too much to bear, and a group of Liberty University students released a strongly worded statement distancing themselves from Falwell and Trump:
We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him…
Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support.
Written this week, the statement has already made plenty of headlines, with many outlets using it as evidence of Liberty University—and overall younger evangelicals—jumping off the Trump train. But they may be speaking too soon. For as much attention as it’s generated, the petition only has a paltry 1,000 signatures as of yesterday, according to the organizers.
The school has a total enrollment of more than 80,000. Looks like these #NeverTrump signatories are the one-percenters.
Any mitigating effect the petition might have had on Liberty’s besieged reputation was also diminished by backlash from students who insist that the student body largely respects Falwell and agrees with his endorsement of Trump. A hastily released rebuttal from Liberty’s student body president claims that the majority of students have a “shared understanding of the danger a Hillary Clinton presidency represents and what it could mean for the Christian freedoms we hold dearly.”
Important also to remember that the students’ anti-Trump declaration is coming late in the game—and appears to be in response to offenses perpetrated on…white women. Where was that outrage when Trump was condemning Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, LGBT, the disabled, etc.?
Falwell’s response to the student petition: “This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others, but they are young and still learning.”