Apparently, the best way to end a dinner conversation prematurely is to announce your political beliefs. Perhaps I was expecting too much; as I mouthed the word “Republican,” visions of being embraced for “fighting the good fight” flooded my head. For a split second, I had forgotten that Yale students don’t experience a warm, fuzzy feeling when thinking of President Bush. Naturally, the consequences were dear: the verbal barrage I received for being “cold-hearted and selfish” (apparently one of the central tenets of the GOP platform), however, was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to anti-Republicanism on this campus. The Yale thesaurus has “evil” listed as a synonym for my party of choice; perhaps even more shocking is that my love of puppies, cooking and the occasional chick flick cannot redeem me from the sordid pit of conservatism (how one can dislike a guy who actually sat through “Notting Hill” is beyond me).
It may shock Yalies to learn that the Republicans are not all cookie-cutter molds of Pat Buchanan: we are a dynamic and diverse organization dedicated to reasoned reform. Shocking as it may be, we are not all elitists, hell-bent on the destruction of the “uncivilized world.” Most importantly, despite being vilified, we are simply not going to disappear and concede the political future of this country. I believe that an open exchange of ideas is a prerequisite to healthy political culture; to achieve this ideal of constructive discourse, the campus Left has to stop generalizing that Republicans are liars, cheats and crooks.
Groupthink is an easy trap to fall into on the Yale campus. As with most colleges in the Northeastern United States, the political dynamic in New Haven is decidedly liberal (even local fixtures such as the Flower Lady have taken to promoting the agenda of the Democratic Party). Within this environment, political insulation becomes surprisingly easy; while there is significant diversity on this campus (a full spectrum of communists to libertarians), students tend to congregate in groups that mirror their own ideological stances. Decisions such as these reinforce our prevailing attitudes: without a credible right-of-center voice, many liberals resort to stereotypes or unrepresentative anecdotes to form opinions about the political right.
As a result of this trend, Republicans are effectively dehumanized on this campus. Opinions to balance anti-Bush rhetoric are rarely sought by students: rather than challenging the prevailing norms of this college campus, too many Democrats are comfortable to rest within their superior numbers and revel in their “self-evident truths.” When President Clinton spoke at Yale last year, I remember a moment when liberals roared with applause. In an obvious allusion to the current Republican leadership, Clinton decried those who “claimed to know the absolute truth.” Unfortunately, too many Democrats are failing to practice what they preach. As a result, the political discourse on this campus is growing increasingly dysfunctional.
I have been referred to by many of my friends as a “different” type of Republican: for many of them, I represent the supposedly un-Republican qualities of being empathetic, reasonable and good looking. In many ways, I believe I am a “unique” Republican, but explaining my particular brand of neo-conservatism will have to wait for another time. What must be said, however, is that I am not the exception within the College Republicans at Yale; we are all “different” Republicans, who, given an open forum, would seize the opportunity to explain our opinions in a cordial and respectful manner. I choose to put forward my views despite the constant stream of attacks from campus Left; others do not share my masochistic tendencies and choose not to fight the uphill battle. They are frustrated by the emotion-based rhetoric of their fellow students: one cannot argue facts against irrational accusations and character attacks. For too many students, the successes of the Bush administration hold no currency because they are laced with “corruption,” while Republicans as a whole, cannot be trusted because of an overarching platform which is “anti-environment, anti-minority, and anti-civil rights.” Evidently, we are ignoring policy merits in favor of absurd and harmful generalizations.
The other night, I observed a student removing Republican posters from a college bulletin board; standing a few paces away, I overheard him lament that the Republicans would simply “buy a new poster” to put up the next day. The shocking part was that this student is an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union. In a subsequent conversation, another student remarked that the College Republicans were “brave to put up posters knowing that they would soon be ripped down.”
To these students, I have no personal credibility: I am a Republican and therefore unworthy of any respect or civility. While I will continue to try, I am skeptical that anything I write will convince these liberals to approach my opinions with an open mind. The push, therefore, must come from within the liberal groups that currently dominate the political dialogue on this campus. I ask that you work with Republicans to provide an effective forum for the exchange of ideas. I ask that you discuss the problems affecting our shared nation with students from a broad range of perspectives and then make up your mind, not vice versa. I ask you not to write me off as a “liar” solely because of how I vote or who I campaign for. I want to work with Democrats to create an environment that leads to fruitful collaboration and discussion; we will not agree on all issues, but we may discover that there are better alternatives to shouting matches in hatching out our political similarities and differences. But then again, what do I know? After all, I’m just another Republican.
Al Jiwa is a junior in Pierson College. He is president of the Yale College Republicans.