Last week, I checked my Facebook account to find an invitation to a tailgate with the Wesleyan Republicans. I could not attend the tailgate, alas, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a new group has formed. I had covered the group’s previous incarnation for the Argus when I was a freshman, only to see it disappear in the years since. The number of people that I presumed would vote for Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 swiftly declined from the mid-20s to less than 5. Meanwhile, Justice Scalia came to campus to a reception filled with anger, skepticism, and even condoms… before Judith Butler came to a rock-star reaction.
The revival of the College Republicans will shift the momentum of Wesleyan’s political discourse back towards the center. Hopefully, the group will succeed in promoting diversity in thought as much as we all promote diversity in other areas. This is important because the discussions of the ivory tower should be both a creature of the surrounding world and a reaction to it.
If we can learn that lesson after a debate on a local issue, then why not apply it to national issues? Jenny Davis ’17 said it best: “Left to our own devices, we’re too busy agreeing with one another—and then… trying to out-liberal one another—that we forget to form arguments that are cohesive and argue against what our actual opponents have to say.” She added bluntly, “Without elephants, we’re becoming asses.”
Beating Republicans should not always be the objective for Democrats. Clearly, this perpetual election cycle loop, which repeats the moment the last one’s results are revealed, contributes to our national headache. The rhetoric of our “opponents” may also contain some thoughtful ideas. For example, Democrats could listen to Republicans like the outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn, who recently published his latest edition of the “Wastebook”. That book, of course, offers ideas on how to improve government efficiency and efficacy – for example, not letting the National Institute of Health spend $387,000 on Swedish massages for rabbits. In turn, Republicans could listen more to Democrats on “women’s issues”.
I fear that “compromise” may have turned into a dirty word at Wesleyan, much like it has in Washington. That “c-word” is not terribly dirty – we just need to dust it off so that it may work. We can start by allowing more moderate and conservative voices to speak on campus. We could use more moderate Republicans (like George H.W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower, whose Vice President Nixon once visited Wesleyan) and conservative Democrats (like Joe Manchin), and everything in between. The first step: we need to talk more to each other, that we may interact and engage with each other. This would make better practice for the “real world” than what my class went through. If everyone gets pulled too far to the left or the right – like spindle fibers in mitosis – no real action will occur.
Mitosis poses an apt metaphor not only because I once had to explain to a scientifically-minded woman about political polarization this way. It is also a fine metaphor because the extremities on both ends of the spectrum polarize the intellectual centers of each party so that the parties become as divided as cells! No wonder Congress will not get anything done (nationally and within our campus).
The College Republicans, as a group at Wesleyan, may be in the early stages – their website is not yet complete, and neither are their campaigns. But I take Emmakristina Sveen ’17 at her word when she says that they want to establish cordial ties with groups like the Log Cabin Republicans, Connecticut Black Republicans and Conservatives, the National Federation of Republican Women, the National Coalition of Jewish Republicans, and even WesDems..Wesleyan would not – and should not – have it any other way.
Jason Shatz is a member of the class of 2014.