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.