Q&A Friday #13: College Republicans & Activism
Question: (Via Email) “I am a very conservative student at Penn State University. I’ve completely lost hope in the Republican Party as of late and am trying to steer the right-wing ‘Young Americans for Freedom’ club here on campus to take a more activist stance on many campus and national political issues.
The only problem is, many of the YAF members have become indoctrinated by the Republican leadership and have adopted their propensity to sell-out on many critical issues (eg. Fiscal Responsibility, Immigration, Federalism, etc). This causes the students to avoid opposing ludicrous liberal programs for fear of being seen as ‘extremist’ or hurting the Republican agenda.
How do I, as a young conservative, stop this transformation of good conservatives into compliant ideologues of the GOP that do not stand for much of anything outside of war and tax cuts? Many young conservatives see this happening, but we feel powerless to change things. Do I keep trying in vain to change the GOP? Or do I bolt to the Libertarians or Constitutionalists with the other true conservatives and let the GOP lose to the radical Democrats?
What do you think? I’d appreciate your input… it’d be interesting.” — RepublicanPig1
Answer: Here’s what you gotta consider: college age Republicans tend to have a skewed perspective. Most of them just got interested in politics and they don’t necessarily have a strong understanding of a lot of the ideological underpinnings of conservatism. Furthermore, college campuses on the whole tend to be much more liberal than the general population. So while liberal activism may have the tacit approval of the faculty and administration, conservatives aren’t going to get the same support. So in general (There are exceptions of course), young conservatives tend to be less “out there” about their beliefs in college than young liberals.
If you want to help get your club more involved, work to get them more exposure to conservatism. Try to get some conservative speakers on campus. Do your best to talk them into getting involved in political campaigns or to work at the local Republican Headquarters. Convince them to read books like Radical Son or The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy. Most college conservatives are like diamonds in the rough. They don’t start out as Rush Limbaugh clones or Thomas Sowell, Jrs.; they become that way over time with experience and exposure to conservatism.
As far as the “Libertarians or Constitutionalists” go, the action is in the GOP, not in the tiny third parties that are on the margins of politics and will probably remain there. Even if you make an impact in one of the third parties, what have you accomplished? Nothing. You’re better off sticking with the GOP and trying to make changes from inside the system.
*** Update #1 ***: There was a very small rewrite made at the end of this post.