Making the Campus Safe For the 'Nice Republicans'


THE CAMPUS LINE on Harry James Wilson is that he is the nicest Republican you'll ever meet.

It's not something many conservatives say, just liberals, and in many ways it is an odd label. It doesn't refer to the fact that his outlook is especially moderate; he is in some respects a Reagan Republican. Nor does it simply refer to the fact that he's a nice guy; he certainly is, but so are a lot of other conservatives and Republican partisans.

The label, it seems, has been given to him not because he is so easy to explain, but because he is so difficult.

Campus liberals have struggled over the past four years to reconcile Wilson's Reagan-style conservatism with his more downhome side, his distaste for wealthy "country club Republicans" and his honest and deep-felt concern for the poor, minorities and the disenfranchised.

Wilson is also a high profile political figure and a well-liked person, something of an anomaly on a campus dominated by both apathy and cynicism, where most campus politicos are sneered at or dismissed as happy-gladhanders. He doesn't come across as a person looking to get your vote, just someone honestly interested in getting to know you.


Manuel Varela '94, whose term as president of the campus Democrat coincided with Wilson's term as campus Republican leader, says that Wilson's popularity speaks to his political skill.

"He's not a 'nice Republican' in the sense that he is moderate," Varela says. "As a politician he has the requisite skills of connecting with people in a positive way."

But it's not just that Wilson is a better politician than others on campus. Three-year roommate Adam Taxin says Wilson's sense of self makes him different.

"He has an idea who he fulfill doesn't need to prove anything. Unlike a lot of people he didn't use campus politics to fulfill his own psychological needs," says Taxin.

Assistant Professor of Government Michael Hagen says his one-time student is truly "sincere."

"Even faculty members can tell when they are being snowed. Harry is well spoken and gregarious but I never felt he was trying to sell me something I didn't want to buy," Hagen says.

But there is no mistaking it, Wilson is a politician now and, he hopes, in the future. His campus activities have revolved around the campus Republicans and national political issues.

In addition to leading the Republican Club, Wilson founded a group in support of Desert Storm, and worked with the fellows committee and student advisory committee at the Institute of Politics. For the last year, Wilson has been working to create a Washington, D.C., political organization which would coordinate progressive, tolerant conservatives on several college campuses into an ongoing "mini-think-tank."

Between his classes and political activities, Harry has also made time to hold down jobs, working anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week to help defray his school expenses. And last fall he was also elected one of the marshals of the class of 1993.

"He's always on the go," says Hagaen. "He gives himself wholeheartedly to each of his activities in its turn."