Over the past three decades, the tide of Republican conservatism has swept across our nation. Beginning with the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964 and climaxing with the historic Republican Congressional victories of 1994, Republicans and conservatives have become more and more influential in our nation's politics. Even liberal strongholds such as Massachusetts and New York have come to elect Republicans to their highest offices. People of all ages, races and creeds are coming to identify more and more with the Republican Party. And in a national poll, it was discovered that more college students identify with the Republican Party than with any other political party in America.
Unfortunately, however, conservatism and the Republican Party have not gotten so much as a respectable foothold here at Harvard. While at first glance this may seem strange and bizarre, one need not look further than the current leadership of the Harvard Republican Club to understand why the wildfire of conservatism has not spread to this campus.
To begin with, the leadership of the club has proven to be nothing less than bigoted and intolerant in its beliefs and behavior. It has alienated large sectors of the student body by endorsing views most decent people would be ashamed to utter--views which hold that Blacks are inferior to whites, that all women are genetically predisposed to be led by men and that homosexuals are somehow not full human beings.
To complement this agenda of hate, the current leaders of the Republican Club have also taken to excluding and attacking fellow Republicans who do not hold precisely the same views as they. Standing for the equality of men and women, of Blacks and whites, means being blacklisted by the leaders of the Republican Club. Believing that homosexuals are people entitled to the same respect and rights accorded to all human beings means being labeled a "homophile" by the club's leadership. Supporting the right of a woman to choose in the matter of abortion means subjecting one's self to public attack by those in the club whose minds cannot conceive of pro-choice conservatives. Through underhanded tactics, the current leaders of the Republican Club have managed to marginalize, exclude and ostracize those members of the club who do not toe their line on every single issue. They have even gone so far as to exclude dozens of members and an officer of the executive board from club meetings and functions.
Moreover, the current leaders of the Republican Club and their friends have taken to dividing the Republican Party for the sake of their agenda. During the 1994 elections, the leaders of the club publicly urged fellow Republicans not to vote for Republican candidates Mitt Rommey, William Weld and Pete Wilson. The reason? All of them happened to believe "wrongly" on the issue of abortion--all of them were pro-choice.
Given this behavior on the part of the Republican Club's leaders, it is no wonder that so many Harvard students have come to tune out Republicans on campus. But it must be made clear that the sentiments of the Harvard Republican Club leadership are not an accurate reflection of the sentiments of most Republicans or even most club members. Instead, they represent the narrow-minded beliefs of an active, unscrupulous and dedicated minority. These beliefs do not accurately fall within the bounds of true conservatism--if anything, they border on mild neo-fascism.
There are Republicans in the Harvard student body who do believe in tolerance, decency, inclusiveness and unity. There are members of the Republican Club who believe in the equality of Americans. There are members of the club--both pro-choice and pro-life--who are actively trying to wrestle it from the hands of the intolerant Ayatollahs who now control it. And in Thursday's club election, these members are running together as a "big-tent" Republican slate.
As a member of the Harvard Republican Club's Executive Board and as an officer of the club, I appeal to all Republicans and all opposed to the current leadership of the club to support us in our quest to win back the club on behalf of decent and humane principles.
If we can manage to return to the inclusive and optimistic principles of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, we can secure a bright future for Republicans and conservatives at Harvard. If we cannot, we will be in for another bleak and dismal year of mediocre and divisive Harvard Republican leadership.
William D. Zerhouni '98 is Freshman Member-at-Large of the Harvard Republican Club.