In “Missing discourse on campus,” Alex Klein ’12 is not mistaken when he points to the lack of Republican activity at Yale (Sept. 24). He is mistaken, however, when he asserts that conservatives need to “come out of the closet.”
The problem is not that most Republicans are staying; the problem is that far too many students are swept up in the Democratic tides that beset Yale. As international students largely outside the American political whirlpool that traps so many, what is most striking to us is the number of Yalies who simply declare themselves Democrat with a notion of neither what nor whom they are supporting. Klein observes that at Yale, it’s cool to conform. It’s not cool. It symbolizes all that is wrong with politics on this campus.
It is perverse that a campus that actively seeks to celebrate diversity seems to positively revel in political homogeneity. To support the Democrats seems to be as natural a Yale activity as singing in an a cappella group, writing for the News or being a member of the Yale Political Union. This is a worrying trend toward close-mindedness, one that serves only to detract from the vibrancy of the intellectual community of which we consider ourselves a part.
There are many liberals at Yale who hold rational and considered views, which they develop and refine through discourse with those of different opinions. Likewise, there are many ways for those on the right to do the same. To be either a Democrat or Republican in this fashion is admirable. These individuals who are willing to think about politics, to consider all sides and reject ideology and preconception in the face of facts, are the ones who make the most meaningful contribution to political life, whether on campus, in America or in the world.
To join a debate about the nature of politics and society requires thought, and it is saddening that so many, inherently capable of joining that debate, and with so much to offer to it, choose not to. Here, deciding to identify as a Democrat is too often the easy option: It keeps the risk of having to answer difficult questions to a minimum, and, to put it bluntly, it’s what everyone else is doing.
This “me-too” flavor of liberalism not only restricts the quality of debate on campus but also promotes a culture of unquestioning conformity that strangles individual thought. Obscured by the childish regurgitation at the heart of slogan-based politics, so many opinions are the product not of ideas and policies but of personalities and prejudices. Mention Republican Senate Candidate Linda McMahon and you’ll likely get a sarcastic look, swiftly followed by a snide remark relating to her time as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, before you get a comment on her beliefs or priorities.
Let’s get one thing straight: We’re not calling for the campus to become filled with Sarah Palin obsessives, or for the News to become more like Fox News. But when two of the busiest coffee shops at Yale can base their entire business model by associating with the Democratic party and having a few Barack Obama quotes scrawled on their walls, something is wrong.
A great deal of time is spent telling freshmen that they don’t have to smoke, drink or take drugs just because someone else thinks it’s cool. The same ought to be true of politics: We need to remind ourselves that we don’t have to vote Democrat just because lots of other people here do.
We find ourselves languishing in a vacuous wasteland where a few well-delivered speeches and buzzwords define who we are. It’s time to follow a little less and think a little more.