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Facing the elephant in the room

The political culture at U of C and other colleges is forcing Republicans into hiding—and that’s not a good thing for anyone.

Most of my friends are liberal, and rather hostile liberals at that. Word got around that a boyfriend of someone in our circle might be a Republican, and independent of each other we all confronted her. In lowered and incredulous voices we asked, “Is your boyfriend really a Republican?” Tearfully she responded, “Who is spreading these awful rumors?”

It’s a hard life out there for Republicans on our campus. They learn to avoid confrontation and deflect attention away from their political leanings. Whenever the subject comes up they’ll find renewed interest in what’s happening elsewhere in the apartment or in their fantasy football teams. Even when pinned down and forced to admit their wrongs, Inquisition-style, these Republicans have a number of evasive maneuvers at their disposal. There are a few things that you should look out for so that in your next Republican witch-hunt you don’t let them get away.

First, there’s the red herring of ‘fiscal conservatism.’ Your average closet college Republican pledges his or her allegiance to this abstract notion, even though its meaning has become obscured. Everybody is, in some sense, fiscally conservative. Very few people actively advocate deficit spending unless there’s an emergency. What’s happened is that the idea of ‘fiscal conservatism’ has become conflated with lower taxes. So, what that dodgy and squirming Republican at your mercy is saying is that he likes low taxes. Don’t let him dress that up in highfalutin language. The truth is that Republicans’ over-the-top commitment to national security spending should disqualify them from being ‘fiscally conservative.’ Nevertheless, it remains a strong gambit for the closet Republican because imprecise phrases take away specificity from the debate.

Another smoke and mirrors tactic you may come across is a faux inclination towards libertarianism. Note that this never translates into an actual vote for the Libertarian Party. After armchair supporting Ron Paul during the primaries they’ll end up voting Republican anyway. This phenomenon is similar to the Green Party-ers who end up voting Democrat. Perplexingly, libertarianism gets a get-out-of-jail free card from many college liberals. Perhaps there’s a hangover effect from reading Ayn Rand in high school (even though Objectivism receives nothing but scorn).

Republicans at this institution are particularly vulnerable because the University’s stances on certain issues, while seemingly bipartisan, are actually at odds with the Republican party line. For one, Romney is opposed to same-sex marriage, while almost all universities pride themselves on being extremely supportive of LGBTQ groups. Furthermore, this election has seen the Republican Party become associated with opposing women’s rights over their own bodies. Once again, universities like ours, which hold plurality and equality as central governing principles, are indubitably against such a position. Therefore, though universities are meant to be independent, in terms of policy ours is implicitly critical of the Republican stance (and rightly so). Consequently, just by being here, Republicans find themselves in an unspoken confrontation with their own institution.

All of this raises a larger question: Are Republicans on our campus ashamed of being Republican? Well, judging from my conversations with some of them, at least a few are. It says a lot that in order to escape confrontation they’re willing to say that they’re not Republican. After all, if being one can adversely affect your chances of getting a girlfriend, you aren’t going to go screaming it from rooftop to rooftop. We don’t need to go on witch-hunts; instead we’ve stigmatized being Republican to a dramatic extent. And at first, it’s tempting to say that this is wonderful. We’ve managed to get a delusional section of the electorate who is willing to vote for a deceitful candidate to finally shut up. (I’m not entirely sure if Romney really is deceitful and conniving, but it’s a comfortable bandwagon and I’m determined to jump on it.)  However, all this stigmatizing doesn’t seem to be making its way into the voting booth. Derision, after all, does not cause a change in beliefs. What it does do, though, is put an end to intelligent, informed, and respectful debate.

The truth is that on our campus and on campuses across the country, we’re tacitly vilifying Republicans. Said in a certain tone, the word “Republican” has become an ad hominem attack. In response to our accusatory tone they call upon the old gods of “fiscal conservatism” and “libertarianism.” No progress is made. We put away our pitchforks, content that they’re publicly ashamed of their beliefs. They continue practicing their rituals in secret.

Now, the election is over. Swords are being sheathed all over the country. But, like President Obama said in his acceptance speech, democracy doesn’t stop at the voting booths. We’ve got to keep debates alive, and for that, our opponents have to know that they’ll be respected. But most importantly, we can’t make girls cry for having allegedly Republican boyfriends.

Raghav Rao is a fourth-year in the College majoring in English.

  • Shawn Smith

    How in Hell can you claim to advocate “diversity” and “tolerance” when you so gleefully advocate persecuting people who have committed the terrible crime of thinking differently than you? How can an institution that endorses a particular point of view to the point of silencing (by means of speech codes) any contrary thought claim intellectual freedom? The truth is, most liberal universities today are the least intellectually free places in America. There’s more tolerance for dissenting opinion today in most churches I’ve been a part of than in many American universities.

    Frankly, your smugness self-satisfaction and complete unwillingness to question your own righteousness (“I’m not sure if he’s a liar, but why not say so”) is repulsive.

  • Kaitlyn

    This is easily the most disgusting piece of tripe I’ve read recently. As was so nicely pointed out on CI, the author spends four of the first five paragraphs villifying and “outing” Republicans in disguise- much like students took great pleasure in “outing” LGBT students 30 years ago, to make their lives a living Hell. After a rash of suicides from the LGBT students, the media took up their cause and LGBT students are now explicitely protected by universities. I have to wonder- if the same thing were to happen, a rash of suicides because students were “ashamed” of being Republican, how long it would take for the media to stop vilifying them? Or would it just mean less opposition to the liberal agenda?

    “Oh, but”, you may argue. “Political beliefs are a choice, if these students want to stop being bullied, they should reconsider their wrongheaded, evil, and UNNATURAL choices!” Just as LGBT students could have chosen to hide.

    Discriminating against someone based on sexual preference is wrong.
    Discriminating against someone based on their ideologies is wrong.

    We learned the former 30 years ago- But I have to wonder, will liberals ever care enough about other people’s beliefs to care about the latter?

    PS. Anyone ever seen ‘But I’m a Cheerleader!’ ?
    ‘But I’m a Democrat!’

  • Hey…guys…

    “We’ve got to keep debates alive, and for that, our opponents have to know that they’ll be respected. But most importantly, we can’t make girls cry for having allegedly Republican boyfriends.”

    Read ’til the end, guys. The smugness was a self-satirical put-on. Dude’s on your side.

  • Carol

    I thought this was a first rate institution that taught it’s students how to think and argue the “Chicago Way”. This is a painfully juvenile piece reflecting an atmosphere of closed minds more worthy of a middle school.

  • What?

    Um, did any of you people smashing this article read it in its entirety? Though the first part engages in some light-hearted jabbing at the Republican stance, its real substance deals with how to properly debate and form a productive political discourse.

    The writer is perfectly within his bounds to express his disagreement with Republican positions, but still disapprove of the way even being a Republican is stigmatized and vilified on a college campus. The two sentiments are by no means mutually exclusive. One can disagree and still attempt respect an ideological opponent.

  • Stephen

    Shawn, Kaitlyn and Carol. Your inability to read, and comprehend, the full length of this editorial speaks volumes to the criticism proposed by the author. You have just proved his point in your performance. People are so quick to scroll to the bottom to have their say–so ready to jump on a “Republican” label–that they ignore the possibility of fair discussion. Ironically, in your zeal to attack the author for his presumed argument you have demonstrated for all of us the proposed contemporary political tendency to vitriol. If nothing else, well done: you’re comments have given proof to the theory.