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To the Editors of The Crimson:
The plight of the vice-president of the Harvard Republican Club has received much coverage in these pages recently. I feel that several things require clarification. Readers who have been following the saga should be interested to know the following:
1. I remain vice president of the Harvard Republican Club.
2. I have no intention of resigning.
3. I will continue my attempts to keep "extremism in moderation."
4. I have a right and responsibility to dissent publicly.
5. I am not a "moderate."
6. The prevailing interpretation of recent events concerning the campus right is incorrect, or at least incomplete.
The news analysis that depicts a schism between conservative and moderate elements in the Republican Club amounts to an unfortunate oversimplification. This view is evinced in the May 21 editorial "Tilting at Windmills." As the dissent ("The Right Isn't Monolithic, Either') aptly points out, however, many conservatives, like myself, find the activities of Peninsula, Summer E. Anderson '92 and clan appalling and an extreme disservice to conservatism and Republicanism. Their apparent disavowal of rights dear to liberal-democratic society is highly distressing. I guess, then, what does make me moderate relative (oops) to these extremists is that I am a liberal in the traditional sense, an advocate of the liberalism that has been society's best protection against totalitarian regimes in modern history.
I have dissented against what can only be seen as totalitarian methods and paranoid, hostile demogoguery advanced by the leadership of the Republican Club. The name "Republican" has been selfishly invoked in an attempt to legitimize caustic and deeply personal crusades against gays, abortion, Liberals, moral relativists, etc. In their blind, unqualified support of rightist, truth-proclaiming organizations like Peninsula and Association Against Learning in the Absense of Religion and Morality (AALARM), however, Anderson and his majority have undermined the club's legitimacy and credibility. They have isolated themselves in a monolithic, polarized extreme. Of course, they don't see it this way. But if their sincere aim is to persuade members of the community to the value of Republican ideals--and a wide spectrum exists--they need to foster dialogue. A bombastic monologue emanating from a monolithic right forced into unanimity propels these deluded youths on a road to nowhere.
They can continue to scream into the deep, dark hole that is their "moral malaise" and gain few, if any, converts. They will fail because they have essentially cut off constructive moral and political discourse.
In expressing this sentiment I follow Richard Rorty. Echoing Rorty, my dissent constitutes an overt protest against attempts by the Republican Club executive board and Peninsula "to close off conversation by proposals for universal commensuration through the hypostatization of some privileged set of descriptions." In the much more approachable yet pejorative language of The Crimson, I stand steadfastly opposed to the tactics and agenda of this "group of media-crazed loudmouths attempting to impose their bigoted values on the rest of the University." The danger presented by their proposals for absolute truth, if applied to society at large, is a freezing over of culture. Such an eventuality endangers man's humanity as a progressive, perfectible being.
Republicans at Harvard need leadership that isn't afraid to admit fallibility. Consensus must be built, compromise forged, and accomodation sometimes granted. The executive board must chart a course for the club that involves as many Republicans at Harvard as possible without attempting to force unanimity among its ranks. We Republicans are not members of some corporatist movement and do not have to march in step behind an authoritarian few. We should not be in the business of presenting a united front to combat an imaginary leftist enemy.
Reactionary rhetoric either falls on deaf ears, prompts a similar reponse from the other extreme, or incites violence. Such exchanges do nothing to enrich political debate nor further anyone's political ends.
The executive board has failed to tolerate any alternative to left-liberals and Democrats but their own narrowly conceived version of the truth. They find any moderating voice repugnant, contemptuous and subversive. This is both pathetic and lamentable behavior. They have expected all members to submit to their authority, and in doing so failed to recongize that the Republican Club itself is an instrument of dissent here at Harvard. As leaders in such an organization they have a special responsiblity to Republicans who normally feel beleagured on campus.
Their program has hurt the respectibility of every decent Republican here--and there are more of them around than you think. The majority on the executive board has thus abused their positions beneath the guise of mandate. The club leadership needs cleansing of authoritarianism and intolerance. Demagoguery should be dumped off at Peninsula and left there where it belongs.
This conservative ilk should always be welcome in the Republican Club, as every member of this campus should be, but must not be left free to dictate its policy and agenda by extreme and incisive means. That's my opinion. Couldn't that also be the truth? David R. Ackley '91 Vice President, Harvard Republican Club
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