Union College Republicans: redefining conservatism

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By Nick DAngelo

Over the past two months, the Union College Republicans have made a wholehearted effort to rebuild our presence on campus. In only four days, we were able to plan, organize and construct the 9/11 Never Forget Memorial, with over 3,000 American flags representing the victims and heroes. In late September, we held an evening on environmental awareness, alerting students to the fact that “Conservation is Conservative.”

We’re working to expand our presence in local politics, becoming involved in Roger Hull’s campaign for mayor of Schenectady, and Rich Patierne’s run for Schenectady County Legislature (both men, of course, have strong ties to Union; one as a former President, and the other as current Director of Facilities).

Currently, we are taking part in the Flag Initiative, supplying an American flag to any professor or administrator who accepts our invitation to have one.

Within two months we have been able to create a solid foundation of activism and an outlet for individuals who share our beliefs. But through it all we have also faced harsh criticism. Our last article on the Flag Initiative was targeted as Republican propaganda, with professors bashing us simply because of their distaste for Republicans-at-large. Others accused us of playing a “Gotcha Game” with staff members who refused our invitations for a flag.

Needless to say, I spent the better part of last week emailing back and forth with professors who simply hated the modern Republican Party. The discussions were worth it, allowing us to better understand the attitude on our campus, and to begin to cultivate a new type of conservatism.

A lot of criticism of the modern Republican Party is well deserved. The majority of criticism are due to the Party’s regulated stances on social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage. Much of the stringent “conservative” beliefs that have become synonymous with Republicanism are born out of the religious right, a wing of the Party that is simply destroying it. But that’s not what traditional conservatism is based in.

In fact, Senator Barry Goldwater, the father of “modern conservatism” was pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and cast out from the movement he helped cultivate because of those beliefs. The focus of conservatism, as Senator Goldwater aptly defined it, does not revolve around social issues at all, but the fundamental mission to limit the role of government in the private lives of its citizens.

After we became more involved in local politics, one alum tweeted: “Union college republicans should not get involved in politics in Schenectady. Padded lives in CT & LI does not give you insight into Sch’dy.” Such criticism is simply unwarranted. Living here for 10 months a year, for four years, makes this city our home and our community. We are simply working to make it better by supporting individuals who we fundamentally agree with. (Not to mention, growing up in Putnam County is far from the “padded life” the Tweeter no doubt had in mind).

Regardless of your political views, you should want to be more involved in your community, and you should take notice of what is going on in its government. As I’m often told by my congresswoman, Nan Hayworth (who will be on campus for a dinner and discussion in January), it should be understood that most Republicans and Democrats are all working for the same goal: a better city, a better state, and a better country.

The methods to achieving that end result are what divide us. Just because we Republicans may have a different method, does not mean our intentions are any less pure.

The criticism we have taken is a natural outburst by individuals who are either fed up with the current direction of a movement, rightfully so, or are ignorant to the role that movement is attempting to play. Either way, we see it as the beginning of a conversation that must take place: here on campus, in Schnectady, and at the national level.

Our mission when we inherited the College Republicans last May was to promote conservatism without insulting liberalism. Both are worthy philosophies. We now realize, however, that we must also define the type of conservatism we are promoting.

Our generation must redefine conservatism. And we intend to. As I told George Maragos, a candidate for the United States Senate in 2012, said back in July, “Just watch. We will change the direction of this Party.”

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