Conservative students look to Reagan in light of 2016 presidential election

Forrest Milburn

Although many students initially came for the free birthday cake, some left the Young Conservatives of Texas booth on the West Mall on Wednesday with a new appreciation of former President Ronald Reagan, days before his 105th birthday on Saturday.

Young Conservatives of Texas, founded on the UT campus in 1980 for Reagan’s presidential run, hosts annual celebrations where they pass out cake to fellow students in honor of the former president — considered a conservative staple in Republican circles.

“Our organization wouldn’t exist if Reagan hadn’t run,” said government junior Allison Peregory, president of Young Conservatives of Texas. “[We] started as a grassroots movement of students at UT … who wanted to mobilize other conservatives to help elect Ronald Reagan.”

Peregory, a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his presidential run, said her organization is widely respected statewide for its endorsements in Republican primaries for the legislature.

In the Republican primary for president, Cruz is caught in a tight race with more conservative candidates, such as Ben Carson, and more moderate candidates, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Peregory said she sees Cruz’s conservative chops on immigration and fiscal policy as a boost in not only the primaries but also in the November general election.

“People didn’t think [Reagan] stood a chance to run because he was so conservative,” Peregory said. “That’s kind of what the Republican Party needed at the time, and I think that’s what the Republican Party needs now.”

The entire field of nine Republicans is currently campaigning in New Hampshire, where residents will vote in the primaries on Feb. 9.

Zach Long, a YCT member and supporter of Jeb Bush, said he is inclined to support Bush because of his immigration policies, which include a pathway to legal status and an overhaul on border security.

“It’s not feasible to want to deport millions of people,” Long said. “There’s a reason why they come over — because America is the greatest country on Earth.”

Plan II sophomore Sebastian de Beurs, a Democrat who came up to the YCT booth, said he wanted to prank his friend by giving him or her one of the border security stickers the group was passing out.

“Personally, I think the ‘Secure Our Borders’ sticker is definitely not my political color,” De Beurs said. “I find it a little offensive in a weird way.”