The school’s very first Young Republicans Club formed at the beginning of the spring semester. Founded by sophomores Matthew Zell and Kai Galvan, the club aims to create a healthy discussion about politics amid ongoing controversy surrounding conservatives.
The club is finishing its developmental stages. They are recruiting members, getting organized, and reaching out to other clubs for political debates. Some of the initial stages of club organization have revolved around misconceptions concerning the character of right-leaning students. While Donald Trump’s rhetoric has many concerned that he will compound many types of prejudice, conservatives are finding themselves the subject of stigma as well.
There is a wide spectrum of views within the club, ranging from the economic right to the social conservative, with students who sided with Gary Johnson, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump at the beginning of the presidential race. Thus, Zell believes the club is as diverse as Burlingame itself is politically.
“We wanted to show that there are people that have conservative ideas and even moderate ideas that we want to expose people to, and hopefully we’ll be able to show that Burlingame is a place that is accepting of other ideologies,” Zell said.
Despite their optimism, the club has experienced their share of criticism. When asked whether they have experienced personal backlash involving their political beliefs, they answered with an unwavering “yes.”
“We almost didn’t start this club because some of us were scared of the backlash we’d receive,” Zell said. Galvan cringed as he remembered the club being called a “group of fascists.”
Even within their friend groups, politics is too sensitive to be included in casual conversations.
Galvan said ever since he first became invested in politics a couple of years ago, he would “start to converse with people about politics … and they would catch onto my conservative ideas and give me a little bit of heat for that, but they’re still my friends.”
Despite Galvan and Zell’s belief that Burlingame has a solid understanding of free speech, they avoid bringing up politics too much. They do, however, aim to clear up misunderstandings and expose students to Republicanism beyond the oftentimes alienating ideas of the alternative right and conservative media.
Senior Vilma Rusley, who considers herself politically neutral, is not surprised by the formation of a new Republicans Club.
“This school is a pretty safe place, so it makes sense that there would be a group of Republicans willing to share their ideas in this liberal city,” Rusley said.
Others have a different train of thought. Students like sophomore Joshua Ishimoto “admire their free speech,” but would rather debate the Young Republicans than join them, a prospect the founders of the club welcome.
“We just want to make it clear that we don’t support everything that the president has said or has done, but overall we support the president,” Zell said.
Members of the club maintain that the club is more than just a reaction, and are ready to facilitate political discussion and promote ideological diversity at school.
One of the most polarized elections in United States history has had a profound impact on the country. The election resulted in an all-time high in the Dow Jones Industrial Index, angry and fearful reactions to the latest executive orders, and circumambient political strife in the form of marches and riots. This sentiment is not lost on BHS students.
In 2014, California had a 15 percent Democratic advantage, meaning Democrats and left-leaners outnumbered Republicans and right-leaners. In a county where only 19.4 percent of voters classify themselves as Republicans, students like Zell and Galvan are following national trends toward political action when they meet every Thursday at lunch at D105. Drop by to share and debate with the club on the latest political issues and current events.