In preparation for the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, Republicans at Yale are looking to increase their presence and visibility on campus.
Support for Republican candidates at Yale has for years been marginalized by liberal attitudes on campus — while the Yale College Democrats, the official representative of the Democratic Party at Yale, has over 150 active members, the Yale College Republicans, the campus’s equivalent Repulican-supporting organization, has 30 to 40, said Alexander Crutchfield ’15, the latter group’s political director. Heather May ’13, a member of the Yale College Republicans, said the group has been strategizing ways it can most effectively leverage its smaller membership to support Republican political candidates and grow the organization this fall.
“If you come to Yale and you’re a Democrat, you can very easily plug into the Dems: They have all the connections, but there’s no such facilitating organization for Republicans wishing to do the same thing,” said Elizabeth Gray Henry ’14, current chairwoman for the Yale College Republicans. “Hopefully in the future, the Yale College Republicans will serve as that facilitating organization in the same way that the Yale Dems do.”
While Yale College Republicans have struggled in the past to establish themselves on campus, Crutchfield said the group wants to use enthusiasm for the election as a tool to build its presence on campus. In the weeks leading up to November, Crutchfield said members will volunteer for Conn. Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s campaign, travel to Massachusetts to canvass for Senate candidate Scott Brown and hold a phone bank for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
He added that the tight-knit conservative community is an advantage for Republican activism.
“Being conservative more so than being liberal or a Democrat is much more a part of your identity,” Crutchfield said. “Therefore, when we get involved in these organizations, it’s not on a project-by-project basis, like the Yale Dems … it’s much more on a personal level. It’s about getting to know people who share similar identities as conservatives, and this identity-based way of doing politics intrinsically makes us a very close community.”
Ben Mallet ’16, who is a member of the Yale College Republicans and a volunteer for McMahon’s campaign, said his involvement in her campaign was a good way for him to get involved in the community and meet politically active volunteers who attend nearby universities, such as Quinnipiac University and the University of New Haven, early on in his freshman year.
“I often feel that the Democrats also have the loudest voice on campus. There are students out there who are conservatives that really think that they’re in the one percent,” Mallet said. “Obviously campus is pretty dominated by Democrats, but I think that’s going to change.”
Henry said that while the Yale Democrats are more visible on campus than their Republican counterparts, she believes there is untapped potential among conservatives on campus, noting that there are over 175 students on the email list of the Yale College Republicans.
Enlisting this unengaged population is a key challenge the Yale College Republicans face in their efforts to grow the organization, Henry said. Events like voter registration drives are sensible recruiting options for the Democrats but not for the Republicans: If a Republican group were to hold a voter registration drive on campus, the voters registered would be Democrats “nine-and-a-half times out of 10,” she added.
As Republicans on campus seek to expand their membership and political presence, their Democratic counterparts have been supporting the campaigns of key candidates running for federal office. Those candidates include Conn. Senate candidate Chris Murphy, House of Rep. candidates Elizabeth Esty and Rosa DeLauro and Mass. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, according to Becca Ellison ’15, the events coordinator of the Yale College Democrats. Ellison added that the group will spend fall break canvassing for President Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, in addition to holding regular phone banks and voter registration drives.
The Yale College Republicans are holding elections for officers today, Henry said.