Opinion: A Civil Servant Lacking Civility: State Rep. Dan Moul’s Conduct on our Campus

By Liam Nelson, Guest Columnist

Students listen as U.S. Representative John Joyce speaks at first Lincoln Legacy dinner on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023 (Photo Will Oehler/The Gettysburgian)

Students listen as U.S. Representative John Joyce speaks at first Lincoln Legacy dinner on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023 (Photo Will Oehler/The Gettysburgian)

On Monday, Feb. 13, Gettysburg College Republicans hosted the inaugural Abraham Lincoln Birthday Dinner. The event, open to students and faculty of any political persuasion, was a creative way for the party of Lincoln to honor their founding president in a place consequential to his legacy. Distinguished guests included U.S. Rep. John Joyce of the 13th Pennsylvania Congressional District and Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Moul of the 91st Legislative District; these are the direct representatives for Gettysburg in Washington and Harrisburg. 

The keynote speech of the event was given by Rep. Joyce, who in my opinion rose to the challenge of effectively advocating for Republican policy on hot-button issues like the southern border and U.S.-Chinese relations while also embracing the spirit of Lincoln’s legacy and emphasizing bipartisan cooperation. Joyce left the event shortly after speaking on his way to a bipartisan field meeting at the southern border. He took the time to greet all the student attendees and took a personal interest in them and represented his office tremendously well. 

As an enthusiastic attendee of this event, it brings me no pleasure to describe what unfolded following Joyce’s departure. I had what I previously thought was the honor of sitting at a table with Rep. Moul and his wife, along with the present club leadership who are some of my closest friends. I felt particularly honored on account of the fact that despite being an active member of College Republicans, I vote independent of a political party and often (though not always) vote for Democratic candidates. This does not complicate my relationship with those who disagree with me on electoral politics. We have a mutual recognition that we do not personally represent the polarizing bad-faith actors that unfortunately define contemporary American politics. But as a matter of fact, Mr. Moul would seem to be one of those figures in the State House in Harrisburg. 

While initially cordial, the Representative quickly revealed an arrogant demeanor and a scathing prejudice against the style of education Gettysburg provides its students. When the group of students eating with him were asked by the couple why Republican students would choose to go to a liberal arts college, this attitude became very apparent. Apparently, Mr. Moul and his wife thought that the word “liberal” in that context referred to the political left. The concept of “liberal arts,” derived from the Latin artes liberales, refers to a course of study containing distinct academic disciplines for the purpose of a higher general understanding. Let me articulate this differently: the typical American comprehensive high school with required credits in English, math, science, and history is a liberal arts course of study. I expect a state-level lawmaker to understand this, especially given the influence of state politics on education. But it became further clear that this man had absolutely no interest in any good faith cooperation with those who disagree with him. 

Regarding the differences between the two parties, Mr. Moul seemed much more charitable to Republicans than Democrats. He talked about the misconception that every Republican is highly conservative, and how it wouldn’t be fair to categorize a Republican voter from Philadelphia based on the conservative social views of a Republican from Adams County. But regarding Democrats, our delegate simply said that “a Democrat is a Democrat no matter where you go.” He further stated that those voters and delegates do not think for themselves and simply follow the leader. At this point I had not given any indication of what I personally believe or my political leanings; I understand that he thought he was in a safe space to give this sort of commentary, and intended to just be respectful to an elected official giving his time. Though I must remark, it is highly disturbing to hear an elected official speak about a significant minority of his constituents like this. One-third of the voters in the 91st district voted for Moul’s Democratic opponent; while perhaps he is in the electoral position to disregard the intelligence of a third of his constituents, it certainly does not demonstrate the good civic virtue expected of a representative leader. 

One of my good friends who was seated next to me tried to politely signal to him to calm down his rhetoric, sharing with him that I am in fact a Democratic voter but that I am present among friends. Upon hearing this, the Representative for the 91st Legislative District became belligerent toward me. He demanded an explanation for how I vote, to which I responded by saying that I am a supporter of Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, my home state. This made him angrier, and he began on a rant about nursing home-related COVID deaths. Specifically, about senior citizens in nursing homes who contracted COVID due to state-mandated use of these facilities for coronavirus patients, resulting in the death of some of those who contracted the disease. 

I understand this is an emotional issue for many residents of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, as all three governors in 2020 (Tom Wolf-PA, Andrew Cuomo-NY, Phil Murphy-NJ) oversaw the misuse of nursing home facilities for COVID patients in the early months of the pandemic. This was a controversial decision for all three Governors and surely contributed to high death rates in nursing homes during the early days of the pandemic. I cannot say what information went into the calculus of those decisions and whether they were justified or not, but what I will say is I am positive that the situation at hand was quite a bit more nuanced than, “sentencing senior citizens to death,” as Moul described it. This outburst was joined by his wife who had been cordial up until that point, as both continued to take out their anger towards Tom Wolf and Andrew Cuomo on myself, a 20-year-old undergraduate whom they just met. When he finished his vitriol, he shot at me, “…but you still like them anyway, right?” 

Now, if Dan Moul wanted to have a discussion with me about our political differences, I would have entertained it gladly. But that is not what he wanted. He rather saw an opportunity to harass a Democratic stranger at a dinner table in front of my close friends and significant other and made me the target of a belligerent sermon that concluded with an accusation that I condone the death of senior citizens for political convenience. Taken aback, and realizing that little civil discourse was likely to emerge, I chose to leave the table and promptly exited the event space, to avoid any further escalation at an otherwise pleasant event. Mr. Moul subsequently gave a few remarks to the attendees, which were unsolicited by the CR leadership. I can only hope they were more professional and topical for the occasion than what I experienced. It is worth mentioning that while I am not on the record anywhere endorsing the controversial pandemic decisions of Governor Murphy (don’t get me started on some of them, actually), Rep. Moul was one of a handful of Republican legislators to advocate against the certification of the 2020 Election and cosponsor a petition to withdraw the presidential Electors from the Commonwealth. 

My purpose for writing about this experience is not to be an indictment of the Gettysburg College Republicans or Republicans in general, nor am I arguing that Rep. Moul is not entitled to his own opinions on Democrats and higher education. Considering I have had conversations before with those who feel similarly on that issue as him and engaged in healthy dialogue, I am positive that his political convictions are not responsible for his manner of engaging with me. In fact, I would like to commend my friend College Republicans Vice President Carl DeMarco on spearheading what was otherwise a very successful inaugural event and a great show of engagement from College Republicans. I write this simply to have it on the record that this was the behavior of Gettysburg’s representation in Harrisburg towards a student he felt he disagreed with, at an event meant to honor the legacy of President Lincoln.

I also wish to raise caution to any who might diminish the importance of down-ballot races or state-level politics, or believe that political polarization and poisoned discourse is only a national-level issue. Some may say that it is not the place for a well-off, out-of-state college student from an affluent neighborhood with a sharply different perspective to make any statement on local political leadership. However, since arriving in Gettysburg over a year and a half ago, I have been a consistent community volunteer and have begun working for an established small business; I am a stakeholder in the Gettysburg community and care about how its citizens are represented. Since 2007, voters have sent Mr. Moul to the lower chamber in Harrisburg to represent a handful of communities in Adams County including Gettysburg. I am unsure of the quality of his character back then, but I believe I got a candid example of it at this event. When the legislators of Pennsylvania assemble in Harrisburg for debate and deliberation, this man speaks for Gettysburg, bringing his animosity towards any disagreement with him. I’ll refrain from a political value judgment; perhaps this is what voters want. I just thought they might be interested to know about my exchange with him at this college event.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. This column needs to be submitted to the Gettysburg Times. Voters need to know.

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  2. Super well written but a shame you had to endure these taunts from someone who’s supposed to be representative of the community that elected them. Can only hope that this one goes viral and his constituents see what type of person he is

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  3. I’m sorry, but this sounded like an incredible long winded way to say you were embarrassed at a dinner party.

    Moul certainly may not be perfect or even great, but if you are as “involved” in Gettysburg as you say you’d realize that his opponent in the last election had made terribly inflammatory statements about Republicans, including veiled threats, was a part of a mob of residents producing a hit list of local businesses to try to shut down for not voting for democrats, etc. The choices weren’t great

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    • Jame, if you would like to know my stances feel free to reach out to me. I was not a part of any mob trying to boycott businesses. I would also challenge your comment about inflammatory statements about republicans. What I did do was state Dan Moul’s record. He objected to my statements, but offered no proof of his record. Anyhow, my email is martyqually@gamil.com. If you want to discuss any of my stances or past statements, I am available to meet. Marty Qually, past candidate for 91st State Rep district.

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  4. This event sounds like it was a great way for the College Republicans to honor the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. It was great that Rep. Joyce was able to attend and share his views. I’m curious about what happened after Rep. Joyce left the event – could you provide more information about that?

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  5. Your long winded article showed to me that you could not have a discourse on your political views face to face instead running away and then writing one sided personal attack. Did you defend your political views? No you called Rep. Moul and his wife names when they can’t defend themselves.

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    • Rep. Moul can and should respond to this opinion as an elected representative of this county. As stated in the title, this is the author’s opinion on the events of that evening. While I do not believe that he was misrepresenting the actions of Mr. Moul, this is an open forum for clarification and it is his job to take responsibility or clarify his actions towards one of his constituents.

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  6. Odd to see this student in attendance at this dinner, a supporter of radical left Governor Murphy who refuses to allow an independent investigation of COVID deaths in nursing homes take place in NJ. He has hubris to question a passionate defense of the defenseless elderly patients who were sent to their deaths by dictator Murphy!

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