Ben Stango ’11, President of the Yale Democrats, triumphantly rides a mechanical bull, hips gyrating wildly as he brandishes his banner to the camera: “Vote in CT.” In the following seven minutes of the impeccably produced music video, legions of young liberals do the same. The video’s credits list is as long as the Dems are ubiquitous: an organization with hundreds of freshmen sign-ups, a rigid leadership structure and a reputation for many and influential events. Politicians advertise for internships with them; they run their own Political Action Committee and give out hefty grants; they register hundreds to vote, a time-consuming and tedious process.
When it comes to political organization at Yale, the Dems are Tamany Hall — making Stango, admittedly, somewhat of a Boss Tweed. And why shouldn’t they be? For The People’s Republic of Yale during the run-up to a highly significant Connecticut gubernatorial election, our lefty campus certainly needs an outlet for its pinko collectivism, or it might boil over with an epidemic of hair-braiding and ultimate Frisbee.
But what about everyone else? Contrary to popular belief, the virus of conservatism infests the healthy, ObamaCaring body politic of our fair campus. Infected, perhaps, by the venerable William F. Buckley, right-thinkers at Yale have long been a small, but vocal minority. Yet, despite the laissez-fairer in section, the originalist in the Yale Political Union and the moralist at Safety Dance, Republican party organization at Yale is virtually nonexistent.
The Yale College Republicans source their platform directly from the website of the Republican Club in Leon County, Fla. According to their own website, their executive board consists of seven people; two of them have graduated. One of the board members, my good friend and conservative-savant Cyprien Olivier Sarteau ’12, is their “Vice President of Activism” — he has attended three meetings. There are no more official members of the group other than the Executive Board.
Perhaps most tellingly, their upcoming events page is totally empty.
The Yale Dems waving the “Vote in CT” sign are over 150 strong. So strong, in fact, that they don’t even need to add the qualifier “…for a Democrat.” It’s just assumed. How to explain the shocking asymmetry of Yale’s political conversation? The onus is on the Republicans themselves to get organized, and there’s no absence of passion — so why don’t they?
Put simply, at Yale, being conservative just isn’t cool. Republicans often get shouted down the moment they open their mouths, in suites, dining halls and even — occasionally — on this venerable page.
Regardless of your political persuasions, try this experiment the next time you’re hanging out with a random subsection of Yalies: Mention that you’re anti-abortion, or that you support the Tea Party. At best, the response will be silence; at worst, angry upbraiding and damaged personal relationships.
Liberals at Yale are so many, so well organized and so loud, that being a Republican seems near-inconceivable. Scores of us will graduate and be shocked to enter a world filled with beliefs — right and wrong — that they have never before encountered, at least organized. How can the so many of us who wish to turn the wheels of bureaucracy — I mean, cause hope and change — on Capitol Hill be so unprepared?
In his seminal journey through the American character and public sphere, Alexis de Tocqueville — yes, an inspiration to conservatives — warned how, in a democracy, freedom of thought can paradoxically shrink as the boundaries of opinion begin to be set by the masses. “The majority” subtly “erects a formidable barrier around thought.” As quantity of beliefs outweighs quality, a kind of psychological tyranny of the majority prevails. So sayeth the democrat (lower-case), “You are free not to think as I do; you can keep your property and all; but from this day on, you are a stranger among us.” To any Republican (upper-case) ear, these words should ring sadly familiar.
The monolithic Yale Dems may stand as an absolute sovereign, but hopefully, Tocquevillian civil associations can liven things up a little. Regardless of whether you will vote in CT, for a Republican or a Democrat, surely our campus would be a far more vibrant political community if our conservatives came out of the closet.
Republicans, get your act together; you just might win this one.
Alex Klein is a junior in Davenport College.