By Emma Grillo /// Features Editor
For many Lewis & Clark students, college is a time to really let the liberal freak flag fly. We buy a pair of Birkenstocks, feel the Bern and demand universal health care. Yet Bradley Davis ‘18, one of the re-founders and the past president of College Republicans, has had a slightly different experience.
“Most parents come to visit their kids during their first year of college and expect to see a Bob Marley poster on the walls and like kids growing out the hair,” Davis says. “My parents walk into my room and see a Ronald Reagan poster on the wall.”
While Davis may be in the small minority of Republicans on campus, he is not alone. With the help of Lincoln Boyd ’15, and Asher Kalman ’18, Davis helped to bring conservative political thought back onto campus.
And yet this is not a story of the two noble conservative knights who rode onto a hyper-liberal campus their freshman year, ready to shake up the political climate of LC.
“When I came to college, [I] was not expecting or particularly interested in being in College Republicans,” Davis claims.
It was only after meeting Boyd that Davis and Kalman began to formulate a plan to reinstate College Republicans on campus after it had, “unsurprisingly fallen through the cracks due to lack of support” says Kalman.
The two missed the deadline to get ASLC funding, so the club was left with no budget, and very little campus-wide support. However, the club managed to grow, and even sent Davis and Boyd to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Washington D.C. where they met and heard from speakers such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
“We got to hang out with all sorts of really interesting people, both actually inspirational and totally crazy,” says Davis.
The re-instatement of College Republicans was facilitated by the College Republican National Committee, a national organization that operates out of Washington DC. Although the CRNC provides LC’s chapter with promotional materials, that is where the oversight ends.
“We are very much against setting any sort of limits to policy discussions or ideas,” says Davis.
In fact, some of the members of College Republicans do not even identify as Republican.
“I really wouldn’t say that I am either Democrat or Republican,” says Ella Crawford ’19, the current secretary for College Republicans. “I think there are really good things about both sides and I think there are really bad things about both sides.”
Crawford joined on a fluke after running into Davis and Kalman in her common room during the first few weeks of her college career.
“After turning 18 it kind of hit me like oh, I have to vote at some point,” Crawford says.
She joined College Republicans as a way to learn more about politics and hopefully make an informed decision when the time comes for her to cast her ballot.
“I have a lot of information coming from all sides about the democratic side,” says Crawford. “And all you ever hear about the Republican side is Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and how much of an idiot they both are.”
As secretary, Crawford has had the opportunity to learn first hand about political views that are often neglected on campus. However, Crawford makes a point to note that she is not a full-fledged Republican just yet.
“My political views are still very much up in the air,” explains Crawford, who declined to disclose her voter registration, but would say that she is “still very much socially liberal”.
For many members of College Republicans, the liberal environment of LC is not an entirely new thing.
Like Davis, Kalman explains that, “My parents and nearly all my friends are liberal.”
Crawford too describes telling her family that she was the secretary for College Republicans as “a little bit like coming out of the closet.”
And yet somehow, on one of the most liberal campuses in America, College Republicans is now in its second year since it was re-founded, and is planning for an exciting semester ahead, which will include a debate with the Action for Bernie Sanders club, as well as internship opportunities with local campaigns.
“We have opportunities for our students throughout the state of Oregon for current congressmen, also people running for congress, senate, governor, mayors, county commissioners, county clerks, positions at all levels for the state. There is a deficit of students available to take all of the opportunities we have,” says Davis.
The liberal environment on campus, while at times has been challenging for members with more conservative beliefs, acts a sounding board for the members of College Republicans.
“There’s not really two sides to most conversations on campus, and we want to foster dialogue, make people think more critically about things. Hopefully they will do the same thing for us, which they definitely do,” says Davis.
Kalman agrees, adding, “It forces you to continuously critically examine your views because sharing them entails immediate scrutiny.”
It is through this constant reexamination and conversation that College Republicans finds its niche in the LC community. Meetings vary in topic, ranging from documentary screenings and debates to barbeques and more casual get-togethers. Like most clubs on campus, College Republicans has a retention issue, and meeting attendees can fluctuate between five and 30 individuals, depending on the week.
However, Davis believes that there is a core 15 members who are regularly involved both in College Republicans, and around campus. The kinds of students that are part of College Republicans, he says, are “students really interested and passionate about being involved.”
As the presidential election inches ever closer and much of the rhetoric on the Republican side continues to grow more bombastic in an effort to grab hold of the increased media attention, College Republicans wants to offer an alternative to the Trump or Carson mindset.
“That sort of rhetoric and silly policy ideas really has no purpose for us here because, I mean, that’s not motivating to this sort of demographic,” says Davis.
Kalman agrees, stating that he “founded the College Republicans to give the student body a look at intelligent conservatism in opposition to the uniformed stereotypes that are persistently associated with Republicans.”
On a campus that is finally starting to address its homogeneity on a variety of levels, it is refreshing to see a group of people so ideologically different, working to represent their views with level headed assuredness. When it comes time to endorse a candidate, College Republicans will undoubtedly be on the forefront of the political conversation at LC, inviting people from all ideologies to continue to question and learn about the Republican Party.