Before James Allsup was a burgeoning alt-right celebrity traveling the country and speaking at rallies, he led a takeover of his college’s young Republican organization.
Things “changed dramatically,” when Allsup was elected president of Washington State University’s College Republicans in 2015 according to Jansen VanderMuelen.
“His crew of Republicans were very much more in the mold of the President,” said VanderMuelen, who graduated in 2016. “James imitates the President in his rhetoric. He has very much taken on a Trumpist tone.”
VanderMuelen attended College Republican meetings semi-regularly and describes himself as “more conservative than liberal.”
Last Saturday, Allsup attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to document events and deliver a speech in support of the protesters. Images of Allsup and the rally circulated, setting off a barrage of criticism on social media, including demands that the university expel Allsup.
In a news release the College Republican National Committee decried the events at Charlottesville calling them “vile, racist and cowardly.”
Allsup resigned as the president of WSU’s College Republicans Monday. On Twitter he said his resignation was planned but Allsup “expedited” the process.
The national committee called “on leaders in our organizations who may support or condone these events to resign immediately.”
“WSU CRs had no involvement in #UniteTheRight and they as a group should not be held accountable for any individual’s alleged actions,” Allsup wrote in the tweet.
The rally dissolved into violence as protestors and counter protestors clashed. One woman was killed when a man, pictured earlier with the white nationalist protestors, drove his car into a crowd of people and two national guardsmen died in a helicopter crash.
Allsup did not respond to a request for comment and his phone appeared to have been disconnected as of Monday.
In an opinion piece of the Daily Evergreen Hayley Hohman, a former president of the College Republicans, said Allsup and what he represents “are not Republican at all.”
“Their hateful and incorrect rhetoric is a stain on the general party and represents instead a separate movement built on fear and xenophobia,” she wrote in April 2016.
Allsup is well known among Alt-right circles. He has nearly 15,000 Twitter followers and about 150,000 Youtube subscribers.
Much of this publicity came from his time as the president of WSU’s College Republicans.
“Up until (Allsup’s election) the College Republicans were a pretty moderate group,” VanderMuellen said.
That changed under Allsup’s leadership.
“It has become a group that has intentions beyond just sharing common space with common ideas,” said WSU’s Jordan Frost, the student body president. “And it has now become a group that, I believe, tends to seek out opportunities to enrage people.”
That included organizing a Trump Wall event in October. Allsup was also attacked during President Trump’s inauguration. In early May, Allsup filmed a video that was later edited to add racist commentary. Allsup also arranged for controversial former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at WSU. The event was canceled due to weather.
The increasing polarization of WSU’s campus isn’t unique to the Palouse, said Cornell Clayton, a professor of government and the director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service.
“I think WSU reflects the broader trends nationally at public universities,” Clayton said.
“College Republicans and College Democrats have become much more polarized over the last decade or so,” he added.
Clayton said over the last year or so, far right elements on WSU’s campus have become “much more vocal.” The “Trump Wall” project was a clear example of that change, Clayton said.
Sometimes, Clayton said, people relate the current political situation to the 1960s student protests. He thinks it’s different for one main reason.
“Campus protests in the 1960s were much broader based,” he said. “They were about a number of political issues.”
That is in sharp contrast to current rhetoric which focuses on identity politics, Clayton said. Clayton doesn’t think those things are unimportant, he said. But there are larger issues that could unite – like income inequality – rather than divide people, he said.
James Allsup decried the violence in Charlottesville in an interview Saturday.
“I disavow Naziism,” he said, referring to some protestors who chanted Nazi slogans and wore Third Reich iconography to the rally in an interview Saturday. “It’s not particularly valuable to go around with those kind of symbols – its bad optics to wear that stuff.”
According to a WSU spokesperson Allsup is not enrolled for the Fall semester, although there is still time to enroll.
“On the same day we welcomed Cougs to their new home in Pullman, we heard and saw the most vile and dehumanizing beliefs and actions of human history surface yet again,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “I was heartbroken.”
“I do not think James Allsup is representative at all of the WSU student body,” said VanderMuelen