You see a lot of odd things in NYC, but a Republican is a special rarity. See what happens when they meet up at Milk to talk Trump, transphobia, and more.



Young Republicans in NYC Do Exist: Here's What They Have to Say [Video]

You can be a lot of things in New York City, but you can’t be a Republican. Like gay soldiers in the 2000s, right wing conservatives live under a veil of secrecy. Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Fortunately, the six members of the New York Young Republican’s Club that gathered at Milk Studios didn’t get that memo–or, at least, casually ignored it.

We met a diverse group of NYYRC members (apparently, not an oxymoron) at Milk Studios, including Jay Cruger, 23, a paralegal; Samantha McNielly, 29, a Risk Consultant; Joe Pinion, 31, who works in the Health Care Non-Profit Executive; Rachel Jones, 27, an actress; and Roger Sachar, 36, and Christina Essopos, 31, attorneys.

The club was established in 1911, and has played host to discussions about everything from Ronald Reagan to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And now, members have come together to talk about what the Republican Party means to them, how they feel about transgender bathroom laws, and the stigma of being a young Republican in the big city. And oh yeah, what Donald Trump’s rise means for the future of the Party. Scary stuff.

What makes you a Republican?

Joe Pinion: I believe that conservative principles have always been the greatest source of societal upliftment. The important thing for me is that there are so many policies on the left that give people exactly what they need to stay exactly where they are.

Jay Cruger: I believe in the Jack Kemp principle which says, Democrats deserve credit for getting you a seat at the table, but Republicans want you to own the table.

Rachel Jones: I believe in having smaller government—especially within states. You just can’t provide for a whole country.


Samantha McNielly (L) and Jay Cruger (R) may think of Donald Trump as an equal opportunity offender, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility of voting for him just yet.

Moving on to the elephant in the room—pun intended. Talk out your feelings about Donald Trump. How do you feel about him?

Samantha McNielly: It’s going to be very challenging for me to actually vote for him, but he represents our party and we should band behind the him for the good of the Republican Party.

Rachel: I know a lot of Republicans are just like, “Well I don’t like Trump at all so I’m just going to vote for Hillary because I know she’ll win.” You’re just voting for her because you don’t like Trump? That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard!

Samantha: That’s where we’re at at this point. [Laughs]

“I can’t imagine myself going into a ballot box and voting for Donald Trump. My principles won’t allow me to do it.”

Jay: He’s an equal opportunity offender and with each day he’s in the news, he seems to get a little bit more bombastic. He’s been a little more controlled lately, but people aren’t forgetting his remarks.

Joe: I can’t imagine myself going into a ballot box and voting for Donald Trump. My principles won’t allow me to do it. My journey to conservatism and everything I’ve done in the effort to advance conservative principles would be invalidated by me voting for Donald Trump. He’s told us in no uncertain terms that he will uphold conservative principles by violating American values.

Samantha: I don’t think I ever thought that Donald Trump was still going to be relevant, at this point. [Laughs]

Roger Sachar: Everyone on this stage has always gotten, “Oh you’re a Republican? Republicans are racist, homophobic, sexist, and a bunch of rural rednecks from the backwater of Alabama.” We fight against that constantly and now you have a guy making racist and anti-immigrant comments and if I have to walk into that voting booth, I don’t think I can pull that lever.


Christina Essopos (L) and Roger Sachar (R) have dealt with disgust and even had dates walk out when they’ve revealed they are Republicans.

Definitely. Now, New York is a very liberal city. Do you face any stigma as young Republicans living here?

Samantha: I think what’s challenging is that, as a Republican, I’m very accepting of almost everyone–especially living in New York. It’s sad that, at the end of the day, you can be almost anything except for a Republican here.

Jay: It’s really the crazy questions you get from your peers. I get, “Well, you’re a person of color so how can you be a Republican?” Somebody once asked me, “Would you only date a Republican?” I said well, yeah because at dinner I’m going to reach across the table and say, “Hey, excuse me. You look very nice tonight but could I see your voter registration card?” [Laughs]

Roger: I’ve actually had a date walk out because a Republican was a deal breaker. Sometimes, it’s like, “Oh I’ve never met one of those before.” It’s like you’re an animal in a zoo and you’re instantly the face of every other Republican that they have ever heard of.

Christina: We always talk about the level of outward disgust when they find out you’re a part of this organization, it’s on their face.

Joe: In New York especially, there is an almost accepted intolerance on the left. There have been some abysmal things said by people on the right, but there are also abysmal things said by people on the left. It is a challenge, but all you can do is try to be yourself and explain that we are good people.

“You have the right to go to a bathroom. You have the right to identify as you would like to be seen in society. It’s fine.”

We have these really unfortunate anti-transgender bathroom laws, and now there’s this big legal battle between the Department of Justice and North Carolina. How you feel about the whole situation?

Roger: We have so many other things we could be talking about that are a lot more important, in my mind, than whether a transgender person can use the bathroom in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rachel: It’s not that we don’t want transgenders. If Caitlyn Jenner came into the women’s bathroom I’d probably think nothing of it, but I think a lot of people who are… Can I say perverted? Perverted men will just go in and probably harass someone, but the law will be behind them saying I guess they identify as a woman.

Joe: As conservatives, we’re supposed to be in the business of not trying to erect laws to prevent problems that don’t exist, right? So right now, there’s not this rampant problem with people going into the wrong bathroom and assaulting women. You have the right to go to a bathroom. You have the right to identify as you would like to be seen in society. It’s fine.


Joe Pinion (L) and Rachel Jones (R) may disagree on the racial diversity of the Republican Party, but they’re committed to fighting misconceptions together.

What misconceptions do you want to dispel about Republicans?

Rachel: Look at us, right here. We’ve got three women and two African Americans.

Jay: As for being homophobic or racist, I think even if there’s a small percentage of people in the Republican Party who have undue prejudices, you wouldn’t use that to judge anybody else.

Joe: Some of the things that people believe about the Party are true. There is a lack of racial diversity in the Republican Party. This panel is more diverse racially than the Republican Party. That is a statistical reality that we need to face.

Many people are homophobic. I’m sure I am on some level homophobic. Homophobia is almost like alcoholism. It never goes away and it’s always going to be on the undercurrent, but we have to fight that with love and understanding.

For us to move forward as a Republican Party, there has to be an emphasis on diversity.

Where do you see the state of the Republican Party going from here?

Jay: I guess the euphemistic term we could use is “transitional.” The Republican Party is going through a change, and we’ll have to see whether that’s going to be a positive or negative change.

Samantha: I think we’re definitely in survival mode.

Roger: I think by 2020, you’re going to see both the Democratic and Republic Party split.

Rachel: We’re just very divided and that’s not what we want. I think Trump has made a big divide.

Joe: I think we’re a four party nation trapped in a two party system. For us to move forward as a Republican Party, there has to be an emphasis on diversity. I think what we’re dealing with now is a generational shift. I do not believe that Donald Trump represents the future of the Republican Party, but more so the bombastic iteration of our past.


Stay tuned to Milk for more political discussions. 

Images shot exclusively for Milk by Andrew Boyle. 

Video directed by Lewis Meyer-Peddireddy. Creative directed by Paul Bui. Moderated by Chris Thomas. Filmed by Russell J. Efros & Alec Nicholas. Special thanks to Eric Hoffman.

Panel members include: Samantha McNielly, 29, Risk Consultant. Roger Sachar, 36, Attorney. Rachel Jones, 27, Actress. Christina Essopos, 31, Attorney. Joe Pinion, 31, Health Care Non-Profit Executive. Jay Cruger, 23, Paralegal.



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