Last week, Thelmo released a statement outlining a doctrine of more political inclusion and institutional support for conservative students. I disagree with the notion that conservatives have been silenced from expressing their viewpoints. However, the belief that St. Lawrence is giving implicit approval of white nationalism by creating a Republican club could not be further from the truth. In fact, College Republicans may prove to be the most influential in removing white nationalist and Bannonist influences from the GOP platform.
As college students, we really only remember the Obama and Trump elections. Therefore, it is understandable to associate the GOP and conservatism with pro-white Trump doctrine. Nevertheless, the belief that conservatism is a philosophy that is only meant to serve white men needs to be dispelled. This myth only undermines the accomplishments of conservatives from non-white backgrounds like Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Tim Scott, and Justice Clarence Thomas.
Trump and Steve Bannon’s populist doctrines that have become entangled with the GOP are tumors that need to be removed. Bannon is fighting to remove establishment Republicans that resist or criticize Trump in any way. GOP party leaders definitely should be held responsible for not denouncing Trump more strongly and for cynically catering to white nationalists to gain more political influence. The GOP is not the first party to use the support of white supremacists for political gain. The Democratic Party did it until FDR’s presidency, and then the party gradually distanced themselves from the support of white supremacists leading up to the Civil Rights movement.
On the contrary, there have been previous attempts to make the GOP more inclusive through Bush’s “compassion conservatism” doctrine which refused to demonize Muslims after 9/11, and Reince Priebus’ recommendation in 2012 that the GOP “needs to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.” Conservatism as a philosophy is not naturally bigoted. It is when self-interested parties become reliant on white nationalist voters that political philosophy becomes intertwined with racism.
Without organized efforts within the Republican Party to fight off Bannon, the GOP may forever become a legitimate white nationalist political party. After such a contentious and surprising election, it is easy to forget that the first Republicans to denounce Trump were conservative college clubs like the Harvard Republican Club. The most effective Trump resistance is not going to come from the left, it is going to come from within the Republican Party.
Having a conservative club on campus is not only beneficial for providing an alternate political viewpoint. We also need conservatives who are college-educated in inclusive environments to be able to bring the GOP back to the mainstream. If St. Lawrence as a campus stifles people from identifying as conservative, then the only people left to shape the Republican Party will be ignorant white nationalists. I am certain anyone who identifies as liberal would rather be campaigning against a Mitt Romney than a Trump.