By Nick DAngelo
Anyone who knows me knows that I am far from “far-right.” Since reinvigorating the Union College Republicans in May 2011, we have tip-toed around campus trying to ensure that we create few controversies. Our philosophy has always been to express the ideals of conservatism without resorting to the now-standard mantra of bashing liberalism, or other political ideologies.
But when presented with a request to co-host Christopher Monckton, a policymaker with an interest in climate change, at no cost to the college, we felt it was not only appropriate to have him speak, but our responsibility to ensure that both sides of an extremely contentious debate take place.
Campus critics have written off Monckton’s position as marginal in a debate that is one-sided. Those blind accusations could not be further from the truth. The fact that this debate exists at all shows the seriousness of both sides, further demonstrating the importance of this visit. Because we are a campus that takes the issue of climate change, and environmental issues in general, so seriously, we felt it incredibly necessary to stir debate and we are very proud we did.
But this event has taught all of us a broader lesson in the growing partisanship surrounding policy debate in our country. Just last week, as we were experiencing our own tense discourse, two moderate senators were shunned by extreme sides of the spectrum. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the only Republicans to back the stimulus and the bailouts, announced her retirement citing concerns over the painfully partisan atmosphere in Washington. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who retired from his Nebraska Senate seat in 2001 and is courted by Democrats to reenter the arena in 2012, has been lambasted by the Left as a phony liberal. In essence, the C-word has become dirty. ‘Compromise’ is not only frowned upon, but detested.
This is a national trend that exists on our very campus. The serious conversation that we built, with help from our counterparts in the Environmental Club, was destroyed by a professor who used the Q&A to throw a tantrum and a guest speaker who felt it appropriate to maliciously attack our college’s environmental leaders during his lecture. When individuals see opinions as zealous beliefs, civility is abandoned and stimulating intellectual conversation stifled.
We can only hope that as a campus, and as a nation, we move away from this harsh reality. Lord Monckton’s visit has demonstrated the problem truly exists. It’s up to us to change the dialogue from one of vicious partisanship to a tone of respectful disagreement.