For many years, there has been a détente between ideological conservatives on campus and the Harvard Republican Club (HRC). HRC president Jeffrey Kwong’s tendentious little op-ed tears that asunder. I, for one, find it ironic that The Harvard Salient would be accused of forsaking a thoughtful, intellectually consistent conservatism, even when Kwong’s leadership of the HRC has cultivated a culture of insufficiently contemplated boosterism mirroring the pitfalls of the wider Republican Party.
Kwong is vice president of Harvard Right to Life (HRL), professes that abortion is murder, but has nonetheless elected to be the head of Students for Rudy Giuliani—a man who does not seem yet to have hit the precise position he will pretend to believe on abortion. In the past, and apparently today, Giulani has been for government funding of abortions, and he’s also given thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood.
So I ask what many ever-more-curious e-mails over GOP-open have hinted at: What can this make Jeff Kwong, other than a hypocrite? But despite so many challenges, he has refused (perhaps because he’s unable) to defend this position when challenged over GOP-open.
Which leads to another emblematic practice of his HRC leadership: His insistence over the club’s e-mail list that any heated conversation be removed to a blog that Kwong, on one notable occasion, didn’t even remember the URL to! What better way to encapsulate the violence HRC has done to reason and logic but Kwong’s repeated insistence that Republicans please, pretty please, stop having an intelligent debate over the club’s open-list?
In his op-ed, Kwong points to an anti-divestment article as evidence that Salient editors don’t care for the genocide in Darfur. On the contrary, we very much do—so much so that when something that will have only a feel-good effect like divestment comes along, we have a moral obligation to point out that it will, in no way, stop the genocide and will only divert attention from remedies that can work. Kwong’s decision to sign the HRC up as a nominal sponsor to the divestment campaign only undermines HRC’s credibility and takes away from what could be a larger, more intelligent advocacy role. In a place like Harvard, which so needs a dissenting voice at times, HRC has joined the choir.
Elsewhere, Kwong takes up use of the newly redeemed, fashionable word “queer” to describe the gay rights movement. Many people, even gay people, find that movement gaudy and prone to extremism, and this trend is what The Salient has occasionally endeavored to ridicule on its back page. Is the president of the HRC really going to take issue with The Salient for making fun of BGLTSA’s “Gaypril” panel on bondage and S&M?
And finally, Kwong’s notion that the Republican Party and the HRC somehow represent the “conservative movement” is self-evidently absurd. It is a political party, prone to pragmatism, geared to elections; the HRC is the talk shop to The Salient’s think tank, and I’d like to think there is room for both.
But if Kwong wants to be something other than a crass, hypocritical Republican, absent the conservative ideals that have invigorated his party—there are so many of these already—he would do well to read The Salient and apologize to its editors.
TRAVIS R. KAVULLA, ‘06-’07
May 9, 2007
The writer, a former Crimson associate editorial chair, is editor emeritus of The Harvard Salient.