These days, it seems that the sexiest thing for student columnists to write about is, well, us – the conservatives on campus.
Over the last year, the same column has appeared in campus newspapers across the country.* It is a concession – though never an apology – that the liberal student body, with all its sweeping claims of tolerance, has behaved unfairly toward its conservative peers. Young Republicans have become a persecuted minority.
By all means, it’s a story that needs to be told. At Stanford, it is almost impossible to voice a conservative opinion and keep the conversation civil. I will never forget one friend’s response when – in a discussion before the ’08 election – I implored, “Whatever you think of John McCain’s political views, you at least have to admit he’s a hero – and admire what he did for our country.”
“No, actually,” she spat, “I don’t.”
I can only hope that these columns – unoriginal and condescending though they may be – will prompt students to re-evaluate such behavior.
At the same time, these columns are also an opportunity for us to reflect – to put ourselves in their place and ask, “What do they see when they look at young conservatives? And why do they hate us so much?”
I worry that, in the eyes of liberal students, campus Republicans have become a collection of unflattering clichés. We are their friends and classmates, but our political beliefs make us caricatures of an enemy. In their eyes, we are simply The Greek, The Policy Wonk, The Religious Crusader, and The Libertarian.
Clearly, these stock characters depict only the demons of college conservatives. And by relying on these stereotypes, the liberal student body has come to understand us as an amalgamation of our weaknesses: we are a group with the entitlement and exclusivity of The Greek, the antagonism of The Policy Wonk, the stubbornness of The Religious Crusader, and the apathy of The Libertarian.
So how can we fix this? By showing our liberal friends what we ourselves have always known: that no conservative is fairly represented by any of these one-sided cartoons – and that such characterizations are patently false.
We must show them that, yes, our group has its Greeks, but they bring charisma and loyalty. We have our Christians, but we cherish their love, compassion, and selflessness. Our group has its libertarians, but we welcome their fierce independence and intellectual curiosity.
And on this campus, we are all political junkies – passionate about government and prepared to devote our lives to shaping our country’s future.
In the end, these stereotypes may be built on a grain of truth, but only a fool believes they are the full story.
*For examples, see Alexandra Petri’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”**in The Harvard Crimson, John Scrudato’s “To Avoid Discrimination” in The Yale Daily News, and Molly Spaeth’s “Closeted Conservatism” in our very own The Stanford Daily.
The most visible of campus conservatives, he wears his conservatism proudly –and with preppy flare. The Greek comes from a wealthy family, attended an exclusive private school, and is now an active member of his fraternity. For him, the Republican Party is more than politics: it’s a way of life, a family tradition, and a status symbol that matches his seersucker shorts and Vineyard Vines bowtie. If the GOP is the party of privilege, he wants in.
Can be found: At the frat house, telling jokes about women and minorities.
The Policy Wonk
If you’re reading this column in print, odds are you’re The Policy Wonk. He’s the intellectual of the bunch, and he follows politics with a fervor that borders on the obsessive. Don’t know the name of your congressman? He does, and he’s got their voting record memorized to boot. Whatever you do, don’t mention healthcare around him – even if you’ve never been introduced. He’ll interrupt, call you a moron, and recite his twelve-point plan for privatizing the industry. Then he’ll hand you a button for his 2020 presidential campaign.
Can be found: Actually attending Hoover luncheons.
The Religious Crusader
The Religious Crusader is a true social conservative, standing law and equal protection be darned! She listens to her parents, loves God, and Supports Our Troops. She’s not the brightest crayon in the box – but, hey, what conservative is? – so she clings to religion. Sure, she’s got the courage to stand up for what she believes, but what she believes in is wrong.
Can be found: Baking cookies to send to American troops abroad.
The oddball of the group, The Libertarian has nowhere else to go. He reads Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises for fun. In his eyes, the government is the source of all evil, and the free market, the source of all good. Marijuana and prostitution should be legalized – not that he’d touch either, of course. He’s pretty sure there’s no such thing as a soul, but he’s put his up for sale on Ebay just in case.
Can be found: At the shooting range, clutching this month’s Economist.
Marissa Miller is Vice President of the Chi Omega sorority and held various positions in The Stanford Daily, including Features Editor and Director of Staff Recruitment.