Princeton resident campaigns for Trump in front of FitzRandolph Gate| September 22, 2016
For the past eight weeks, Princeton resident Eric Lee Newton has spent hundreds of hours sitting outside the FitzRandolph gate, next to a canoe rental shack on Alexander Road, and in front of his house to rally support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. His presence had drawn many charged reactions from those he encountered.
Not an official volunteer for Trump’s campaign, Newton says that his mission is to “promote civil conversation about politics,” as he strongly encourages by-passers to question their choices and become educated about all candidates in this year’s race.
Baptized at the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, Newton had spent two years studying Chinese at Peking University before devoting himself to growing a consulting company with currently 10,000 strong employees. A cancer survivor who received continuous treatment for six years, Newton now resides with his fifteen-year old daughter in Princeton.
“I am very worried that the United States is not moving in a direction that we want,” Newton said. In particular, Newton added that he was concerned about the globalist view that he believes has dominated the political arena from the left and right. He said exhausting America’s resources by mingling in the domestic affairs of foreign countries has created gargantuan costs for the American people. This interventionist mindset characterizes the agenda of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he explained.
This is one particular point that people don't understand about Trump, Newton says. While globalists want to maintain the political dominance of the United States across the world, Trump’s motivation to be president is to make America “better than she already is” by devoting more resources domestically.
“Trump doesn't want to build a school in Afghanistan, he wants to build a school in America,” Newton said.
Newton also refuted the claim that Trump harbors prejudiced views against women and racial minorities. Citing Trump as one of the first golf course owners in the country to open his course to people of all races, Newton explained that the negative rhetoric thrown around Trump is merely a false perception.
“What Trump accomplished in this campaign is to completely undo the 40 to 50 years of silencing by liberals on grounds of political correctness,” Newton said. “There needs to be freedom of speech in this country,” he added.
On the sensitive topic of immigration, Newton stated that he personally believes and embraces the fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants.
“But if you immigrate here, you have to assimilate into the American culture,” Newton said. “You have to 100-percent follow the American rule of law as defined by the Constitution, and not, per se, the Sharia law,” he added.
Yet, not everyone is enamored with Newton’s softer portrayal of Trump.
Newton said that he has been given the finger and even assaulted by strangers who did not bother to talk to him. In one instance, he said, one evening, a passerby threw a glass of water at him as he sat in front of FitzRandolph Gate. In another instance, after a biker who rode past him screamed an expletive at him, a female witness immediately called the Princeton police and accused Newton of wrongdoing, he added. Newton said that he has also been confronted by someone who he believes to be a faculty member in the University who candidly told Newton that he was “a shame to the face of world-class, higher education.”
However, despite the negative responses that he had faced, Newton stated that as long as his health permits, he will continue to campaign for Trump three to four hours per day until Election Day. Newton attributes this to his profound sense of patriotism for the United States.
“I had come very close to death in my battle with cancer, and I am not scared particularly about my safety,” Newton said. He added that at most, he had to strategically place his chair against the gates or walls to avoid physical assaults from behind.
Newton also noted that reactions to his presence had evolved over time. Describing the University as a “liberal bastion,” Newton explained that perhaps ironically, deciding to publicly voice his support for Trump over social media six months ago was almost like a “coming out” moment that soon attracted a lot of negativity.
But through the thousands of visitor interactions that he’s had, Newton said that he actually discovered a sizable but quiet population in Princeton who are on the Trump train. Some had even volunteered to rally alongside him, but Newton maintained that he did not want this to become a collective demonstration.
“I have couples who walk past me and the husband would give me a thumbs up discreetly so his wife doesn’t see it,” Newton said. “There are a lot of people here who support Trump.”
And for those who didn’t support Trump, many still decided to engage in a civil conversation, including Chair of the Department of African American Studies Eddie Glaude, Newton said.
Glaude was not available for comment.
According to University spokesman John Cramer, the Department of Public Safety has not received any complaints about Newton. The Princeton police have jurisdiction in front of the FitzRandolph Gate, according to Cramer. But if any student reports a complaint to DPS, it will be relayed immediately to the Princeton police.
Ultimately, Newton stated that he had no intentions of targeting University students or demonstrating to the University in particular. He simply wanted to critically engage more people in the election conversation.
“No matter who wins, there will be big problems in the country,” Newton said.