A New Era for College Republicans

By Tiernan Kane ‘11

The Triangle muses sing that “Princeton is like an old-folks home,” which seems true in many respects.  But in at least one respect—center-right political activism—this comparison rings false.  For the “old folks” who inhabit old-folks homes are part of the larger political class known as “elderly voters,” many of whom comprise a powerful voting bloc within the Republican Party.  They are not merely informed; they are active.  They mobilize to exert political pressure and to realize their political goals. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of right-leaning Princeton students, at least not in regard to their on-campus political activity.  Of course, there are media, such as the Tory, through which those on the political right may express their ideas, and there are activist groups such as the Anscombe Society, Princeton Pro-Life, and Tigers for Israel that count many center-right students among their members.  What there is not, however, is an organization that successfully pulls together right-leaning Princetonians of every stripe and empowers them politically.  We at College Republicans believe that we can become that organization, and that is what we plan to do over the course of the next year.

It is only natural that College Republicans should take the lead in organizing center-right students politically.  We are, after all, an affiliate of the Republican Party, which performs that role nationally.  The fact that it is natural for us to lead, however, does not mean that we always have, and we must admit that College Republicans has not been a strong presence on this campus in recent years.  We have struggled with maintaining programming and failed to create an identity as an organization.  As such, we do not claim to continue a tradition as the leader of the center-right coalition at Princeton, but rather propose to take up that mantle of leadership in a new way.  We invite cooperation with and participation in this movement not on the basis of past achievements but of new ideas.

College Republicans is a political organization, but our politics are based on principles and policies, not personality.  Furthermore, as is fitting of a student group at Princeton, we do not view these principles and policies—whether the principle of the right to life of the unborn or the policy of a flat tax—as fixed or unquestionable.  Rather, they are open for debate and must be proven by reasons and arguments.  By offering diverse yet consistent opportunities to enter into discussion about Republican principles and policies, we hope first to draw together many different right-leaning students on campus, and then to create greater unity and understanding among them.  Through this unity and through the arguments developed in these debates, we hope to achieve an additional goal of empowering center-right Princetonians politically.

The centerpiece of the educational programming we are planning is a panel discussion series entitled The Lincoln Seminars: Debating the Future Policies of the Republican Party.  Each focusing on a particular political issue, such as health care or tax reform, the seminars would feature panels of scholars with policy ideas for the Republican Party.  At each seminar, the scholars would present and debate their ideas in a discussion led by a prominent Republican public figure.  College Republicans is already in discussion with a few such figures, and we are working hard to bring them to campus.  Importantly, these discussions would not be mere political exercises or defenses of past decisions; they would be fresh debates over real policy differences.  If we succeed in hosting this ambitious series, every center-right student at Princeton would stand to gain something from the policy proposals and debates, not to mention the wider effects they could have off campus.

The Lincoln seminars would be signature events, but they would be spread out throughout the year.  In between, College Republicans will continue to invite other important speakers to campus.  On Thursday, February 4, we hosted Mike Halfacre, the current mayor of Fairhaven, New Jersey and a candidate for the Republican nomination for this district’s seat in the House of Representatives.  Two weeks later, Professor Emeritus James McPherson, the nation’s preeminent Civil War historian, spoke on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as commander-in-chief.  Both of these events will feature opportunities for listeners to ask questions, as College Republicans will always seek to make its events opportunities to participate in discussions, and not simply to attend them.

To complete the diverse array of opportunities for political education and interaction, we will offer various events, such as watching movies or TV shows, reviewing news developments in an important week, or discussing canonical texts in conservative political thought.  These supplementary activities will not interfere with other events, and College Republicans will rarely, if ever, have more than one event in a week.  We will, however, host events consistently in order to provide as many opportunities as possible for center-right students at Princeton to strengthen their relationships with one another and to strengthen their arguments for their political positions.  All levels of political interest and expertise will be welcome, and although most of these events will invite active participation, none of them will demand it.  We will seek to structure events so that consistent involvement  will be beneficial both socially and intellectually.

These informative, intellectual, and interactive events will form the body of College Republicans programming in the spring. As they aim to bring a broad range of right-leaning people together, they also work toward the complementary goal of empowering people politically by providing them with arguments to defend their views and knowledge to motivate their action.  We can empower center-right Princetonians even more directly during the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections, which could be pivotal in American politics.  The Republicans stand to make dramatic gains in both houses of Congress, and in doing so, to redirect government back toward the policies favored by our still center-right nation. Through our panel discussions, we seek to make Republican victory both more likely and more deserved, but the electrifying 2010 elections will also call for old-fashioned campaigning.  College Republicans will enable and encourage such campaigning, but mindful of the already strenuous commitments Princeton students face, we will focus only on important races in which we can make a real difference and contribute to the common good.

Coming near the end of 2010, the elections will hopefully serve as the climax of a year of revival for center-right activity at Princeton.  We will have prepared for them in the spring with strong speakers, most prominently in our Lincoln seminars, and with other engaging, helpful events.  We will have continued with a similarly engaging schedule in the fall while striving to display increased political activism through our campaigning efforts.  In everything, we will have worked to build a wide community of politically active center-right students at Princeton, and we will be able to count the year successful if students can sincerely claim at its end that, in respect to center-right political activism, Princeton is like an old-folks home.  Triangle, this one’s for you.

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