In his own words, Jose Fernandez, the president of College Republicans, is “not a normal Republican.”
Fernandez, a senior, said that his favorite recent president is Bill Clinton, and his favorite president ever is Lyndon B. Johnson. He is also pro-immigration (“literally open borders”), pro-choice, and a supporter of a large welfare state.
For him, the Republican Party is a means to action. “I think that zero-sum thinking is really dangerous and it’s spread throughout the Democratic Party,” he explained, adding later, “the reason I’d be a Republican is I think their party would be easier to change in the direction that I want.”
Fernandez hopes to get a Ph.D. in Economics, and is currently writing two books: one on crime and the other a response to “Capital in the 21st Century.” He does not identify as fully libertarian, but said that “most […] government interventions are welfare-reducing.”
His stated views on economic libertarianism have evolved — government interventions can be useful if strategized properly, he now maintains — but College Republicans still felt like a natural fit.
With the name College Republicans comes false perceptions, according to junior Anthony Pericolo, the vice president of the club and a supporter of Trump with “some reservations.”
“I think there’s a very bad conflation between dissenting ideas and hate speech,” Pericolo said.
Fernandez, on the other hand, called President Trump “embarrassing,” adding that he leaves College Republicans off his resume and — unless the recipient knows beforehand — his email signature. Despite this, again unlike Pericolo, Fernandez said that people have been “very open and receptive” to the club. For his part, Fernandez said that he has been trying to diversify discussions in College Republicans by holding joint meetings with College Democrats and the Womanist Club.
The opposition between Fernandez and Pericolo is apparent in meetings. Much of the discussion on immigration during the most recent meeting of the College Republicans — held as usual on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Welles-Brown Room — consisted of Fernandez and Pericolo arguing with each other. When Pericolo criticized the Democratic Party for refusing to negotiate about Trump’s proposed border wall, Fernandez asked him whether he would negotiate on Planned Parenthood. Pericolo responded that the issue of Planned Parenthood is different, because he considers it a moral choice.
After the two lingered on the subject, one of the six other students attending the meeting pointed out that the discussion was supposed to be about immigration. They got back on topic, but their back-and-forth continued throughout.
When asked about how their differences affect the club, Pericolo wrote that “my job is to make sure that Jose can represent the party line well.” But Fernandez said that he is more interested in the reasoning behind people’s beliefs than in any one political party.
“[M]ost people [at UR] would put themselves on the left, but I am confident most people do not truly have any idea why,” he wrote. “Really, then, we have to ask what it means to be on the left and right.”
Correction(3/2/19): The article originally mentioned “Capitalists in the 21st Century.” The book is in fact titled “Capital in the 21st Century.”