By Alex Rosado, President of College Republicans
Most debates feature a plethora of proposals, with some bearing more fruit than others and competing visions that ultimately test the opposition’s strength and efficacy. The most recent Eisenhower Institute debate at Gettysburg College did not deviate from those norms and was a primarily well-rounded dialogue. The five prominent political clubs preached their policies and persuasion politics to the student cohort, with some ideas resonating, agendas that were worth supporting, and paths forward they wished to travel. Debates underlie themselves with the tenets of free speech, the lifeblood of any functioning body. Unfortunately, and often, engaging in free speech is not free. The Gettysburg College Democrats made that overly clear in their barbed opening statement, subverting the priorly established rules in a forlorn attempt to bash the right-leaning clubs.
College Dems began by wielding free speech as a justification to lambast the Gettysburg Young Americans for Freedom for bringing Dr. Ryan T. Anderson to speak on the transgender movement. The Dems claimed that conservative students “brought [Anderson] here to provoke outrage… to start a fight about a settled common-sense issue because the far right has absolutely nothing.” The lecture attracted over 100 students, none of whom protested or disrupted the event throughout its duration. Few members of the College Democrats attended the speech. Instead, the College Dems boycotted it and refused to engage in civil discourse. Their adamancy in shunning the Anderson speech and denouncing it as repulsive weakens their understanding of the event, muddles their respect for free speech and dilutes issues they supposedly champion. The College Dems took a position on the Anderson event months before its occurrence and were unwilling to let him air his thoughts. Still, they felt entitled enough to spread their grievances across campus, in mock poster form or verbalized anger, and have like-minded students defend their silencing of conservative groups. To the College Dems, speech is not a matter of freedom but of sociopolitical convenience.
Furthering their emotional downwards spiral, the College Dems baselessly asserted that the Republican party has “no ideas, no solutions, no hope. All they have is hate.” Of course, in their narrow political purview, any beliefs contrary to theirs are delegated as inherently dangerous, undemocratic, and intolerable. Do not let their cynicism distract from the genuine principles of the GOP and why so many disaffected and undecided voters are trending Republican in the pivotal 2022 midterm elections. The Republican party is a movement for those not here yet: to protect the sanctity of life and the unborn, ensuring that every fetus has an opportunity to survive and thrive. The Republican party continues to be a movement for those here now: slashing taxes and gas prices to stabilize the economy, upholding order and funding law enforcement personnel, investing in border infrastructure, and separating government from individual liberties. The Republican party will remain a movement for those no longer here: continuing their traditions, retaining the nuclear family, and honoring the achievements and histories of our American forefathers. We do not “turn people into specters;” we recognize their spirit’s potential and grow, support, and love them, no matter their origins. Some may frame the GOP’s message as everyone being “either a Christian or a communist,” but it is a comparison detached from reality. Please do not fall victim to emotionally-charged rhetoric; that is how incivility in civil discourse triumphs and worsens us all.
While the College Dems’ introduction fumbled in legitimacy, there was one takeaway with which most can agree: debate should not be feared. Regarding sensitive topics such as abortion, most will reluctantly share their genuine opinions, if at all, out of potential pushback or ostracization. Speaking your mind coincides with a social tax, with many losing valuable friendships and relationships over differences in thought. The University of Virginia discovered that 60 percent of American college students self-censor themselves in the classroom—a pervasive problem that corrodes our nation’s most revered principles. If our speech were genuinely free, no student or mindset would remain shackled by fear of not belonging.
Nevertheless, that is why we debate: to remove the self-imposed barriers and articulate speech well-spoken. To foster an environment where all suggestions can succeed and be respected, even if not mutually agreed upon. The competition between the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers was the most significant policy debate in our nation’s history. When Madison and Brutus disagreed on America’s trajectory, they did not publicly vilify the other’s character. Instead, they responded with logic, facts, and arguments grounded in merit. Madison and Brutus showed that debate was based on considerate dialogue, maturity, and idea inclusion.
When debate favors virtue signaling, false platitudes, and intentional divisiveness over an intelligent and inclusive discussion, the result is the College Democrats’ opening statement at this past Eisenhower Institute policy debate. They can attempt to eliminate debate by demoralizing their competition in front of their friends, professors, and mutuals and almost rebuke a speaker of an alternative view’s freedom of expression. However, the struggle for free debate rages evermore. The essence of debate is a light that offers outsiders perspectives previously unbeknownst to them and provides venues to collaborate and think unconventionally. Dousing that flame would wreak havoc on individual liberty, equality, justice and hope. To those who speak their minds, continue to involve yourselves. To those who feel that they have not, lend us your voice. The great American experiment yields impressive results for those who participate. Ask questions, stand up for your beliefs, and do not let any person, institution, or government tell you otherwise.
For those seeking a political club involved in this endeavor, the Gettysburg College Republicans meet every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Glatfelter Hall, Room 311. Thank you, and God Bless you.