Life in Athens as a Republican

Spencer Holbrook knows people look at him differently.

It’s not because of how looks, how he talks, or even what extracurricular activities he participates in. There’s only one minor detail that separates him from the rest of college students:

He’s a conservative at one of the most liberal places in the state.

“I knew it was pretty liberal, but I had no clue what I was in for,” Holbrook said.

He grew up in a rural town outside of Lima called Roundhead. His parents raised him in a conservative, Christian household before he came to Ohio University. It’s all Holbrook has ever known.

Now, he’s used to the weird looks he’ll get for wearing his Ronald Reagan shirt around campus. Now, he’s more careful about who he tells his conservative beliefs to.

“Every time I would wear this shirt, and I don’t even wear it anymore, I would get these looks like, ‘what’s this guy doing?’ ” Holbrook said.

He’s almost completely stopped talking about politics because he’s afraid of what people will say or think of him.

“Anytime you open your mouth about politics, you automatically get a little cold chill or a little nerve going, just because you’re like, ‘Oh, are they going to ask me anything?’ ” Holbrook said. “I know that I’m 90 percent going to be on the other side of what they’re thinking because of the climate here in Athens.”

In the 2016 Presidential Election, out of 56 precincts in Athens County, citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in 37 of them. Clinton won every precinct in the city of Athens.

Outside of Ohio, 56 percent of people aged 18-to-24 across the nation voted for Clinton. Just 35 percent voted for Donald Trump, according to a USA Today article.

Holbrook knows he’s an outlier. He wasn’t afraid to wear his Reagan shirt through his first two years at OU, but he has since changed his stance. In 2016, when he tried to vote, he was almost not allowed to because he wore the Reagan shirt.

He didn’t think that would happen if he had been wearing a Hillary shirt, either. But, he still thinks that political biases can lean both ways.

“I just think they kind of get away with some stuff around here,” he continued. “It’s the same way back home, they get with a little bit around home.”

Holbrook voted for Donald Trump, but isn’t the biggest Trump fan. He said he was a Republican over a Trump person. But, he still feels unfairly grouped with a “Far-Right” segment of the population that voted for Trump.

“I think we just all get lumped into one category of, ‘racists, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, pro Second Amendment, redneck-type people,’ ” Holbrook said. “I’m a Christian, but I don’t hate Muslims and all that stuff, but I get lumped in with that crowd because I identify as a red voter.”

It’s not only a different lifestyle being a Republican, it’s a different lifestyle living with one, too.

Ethan Felderstein lives with a Republican, though not Holbrook, and knows the differences it can bring to everyday life. Felderstein worked for the Hillary For America campaign in the 2016 Presidential Election.

“It’s like a clash of ideas,” Felderstein, who is Holbrook’s friend, said. “There are issues that I lean conservative on, but the constant Fox News makes me want to leave the room.”

Currently a junior journalism major, Holbrook has aspirations of being a sports journalist. That doesn’t mean he won’t get comments from the conservative side of the spectrum, though.

He’ll get told that he won’t fit in his industry, simply because of his political beliefs.

“There’s three things all baseball writers need to have, it’s a good game to watch, a Bruce Springsteen album and a liberal discussion,” Holbrook joked.

For now, Holbrook will continue being a conservative and he’ll be outspoken, privately, about his beliefs. Politically, he’s a minority in Athens, he just doesn’t want to be disregarded because of who he voted for, or what beliefs he may have.

“Obviously all my friends know that I’m a conservative,” Holbrook said. “Other than that, I keep close wraps. Some people will hate you just because of who you voted for, that’s kind of sad I think.”