Last Saturday, the Yale Politics Initiative hosted a master class with Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and activist. There is no doubt that Loesch is a skilled and accomplished political figure. She is a former editor for Breitbart News and the founder of the St. Louis Tea Party. I am sure she had much to offer the students in her master class; after all, this is the woman who said about the mainstream news, “They are the rat bastards of the Earth. … I’m happy, frankly, to see them curb stomped.” She also called the The New York Times an “old gray hag.” Did she come to teach a lesson in bizarre insults?
Sarcasm aside, I sincerely hope that no Yale student learns anything from Loesch. Most of her “political tactics” consist of nothing more than lobbying racially charged tweets into the depths of online political discourse. Loesch is what is wrong with American politics.
The point of this column, however, is not to bash Loesch, nor is it to protest her appearance on campus. If someone as despicable as Loesch appears here, my solution is to not attend.
The fact that the Yale Politics Initiative invites people like Dana Loesch for master classes, however, indicates a deeper problem with political discourse at Yale. The group’s founders wrote an opinion piece in the News last year titled “Teach us to win.” In the column, they describe the group’s goal as bringing political figures to Yale to “teach the gritty specifics of the work necessary to put theory and ideology into practice.” They want to bring winners to campus.
The problem is, the Yale Politics Initiative brings in a lot of losers. Besides their most recent master class with Loesch, the YPI will host a seminar with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who believes that the Central American migrant caravan was funded by George Soros. Most laughably, they will host a class with Sean Spicer, the former White House Press Secretary who said that Hitler did not use chemical weapons “on his own people.”
Learning how to win is all fine and good, but what does it mean to win if we don’t know what to fight for? And should we really be holding master classes on how to fight dirty?
It’s true that Loesch, Spicer and Gaetz have influence in American politics. I’ll grant that by some metrics, they are “winners.” But are they really? Spicer is disgraced, unemployed and on a book tour. Loesch is a particularly belligerent talking head. For every Gaetz, there are other members of Congress who have obtained office without contributing to the decay of American political norms. We should learn from them, even if they don’t have the celebrity to earn them a portrayal on Saturday Night Live.
Before Loesch’s visit, the gun control advocacy group For Our Lives released a statement about her work with the National Rifle Association. The YPI’s response was telling. Their founders were quoted in the News last week as saying, “Our focus is on political practice — not policy or philosophy. … For better or worse, she’s a prominent influencer in politics.”
Loesch makes our politics worse. But the Yale Politics Initiative doesn’t care.
The YPI isn’t the only campus group that avoids important ideological debate. The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, for example, will host Henry Kissinger at their annual disinvitation dinner, an event that celebrates free speech. As a column in the News pointed out last week, Kissinger’s extensive support of dictatorships in Argentina and Chile should not grant him any platitudes from advocates of free speech. The lack of real conversation over the results of his foreign service demonstrates the shallowness of the Buckley Program’s ideological commitments. They seem more devoted to bellicosity than to intellectual growth.
A Yale education allows us the perfect opportunity to decide what we believe in and why. We should take courses in ethics and political philosophy, and discuss the meaning of “the right” and “the good” with our peers. Campus groups that invite political figures have the responsibility of fostering this sort of meaningful and productive discourse. Personally, I am delighted by the opportunity to engage with guests who hold views different from my own. In my semesters here, I have debated conservative tax and environmental policy with experts in those fields.
But we have nothing to learn from the charlatans and snake-oil salesmen of Washington. Spicer and Loesch undoubtedly fall into this category. The blind insistence of groups like the Yale Politics Initiative on “winning” makes us worse off as students and as citizens. Let’s learn what we want to fight for.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article said that the gun control advocacy group March For Our Lives released a statement about Loesch’s work with the NRA. It was, in fact the For Our Lives group, a local advocacy group at Yale, that issued the statement.
Isaiah Schrader is a sophomore in Benjamin Franklin
College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at