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Dude, You're a Republican?

By Brennen Jensen | Posted 1/28/2004

The conservative American Enterprise Institute speaks of the "shame of America's one-party campuses." Firebrand right-wing author/talking head Ann Coulter refers to the "Maoist pseudo-intellectuals who infest America's universities." And then there's the old politico snippet: "If you're under 30 and not a Democrat, you have no heart. If you're over 40 and not a Republican, you have no head." This would all seem to render the term conservative college student an oxymoron and make Republicans on campus as lonely as, say, wild-eyed liberal commentators on AM radio.

Consider Johns Hopkins University. Under the headline "Hopkins Leans to Left," the Oct. 31 issue of the school's News-Letter presented results of a survey wherein nearly 70 percent of the some 250 undergraduates interviewed said they planned "to vote for someone else besides Bush" in the upcoming election. Party-wise, only 20.7 percent of those surveyed had a "favorable impression" of the Republican Party, compared to the more than 53 percent who viewed the Dems in a favorable light. So is the Homewood campus quad yet another leafy bastion of liberalism and a Donkeydom stronghold? Not everyone thinks so.

"I think that the numbers reported in the poll were a little bit deceptive," says 20-year-old Eric Wolkoff, president of the Johns Hopkins College Republicans. "In terms of politically active students on campus, the number of students who show up for our events versus the numbers that show up for Democrat and some of the more liberal groups are about the same."

The right-of-center junior political science major says he and his fellow GOP backers "don't feel vastly outnumbered" on campus, though he admits, "we are in the minority."

"There is general attitude that college students just aren't conservative, which is definitely not true," Wolkoff adds, saying that membership in the College Republican National Committee is "out of this world right now." (The organization says it has 120,000 members at more than 1,100 campuses nationwide.)

He says his own group of young Repubs draws 30 to 60 students to its weekly meetings and has a mailing list of more than 200. And they're constantly recruiting. If Hopkins' elephants are not terribly visible right now, it could be because the group won't be aggressively campaigning for George W. Bush until after the primaries. Not that they're sitting on their hands or anything. In August, Wolkoff was among a few dozen college conservatives chanting "We love George" and other Up the GOP slogans at a College Park Howard Dean rally attended by the former Vermont governor himself.

At present, Wolkoff says the point of the group's activities is not a matter so much of tailoring a pro-Bush message for peers as it is giving the commander in chief his due.

"Supporters of the more liberal candidates tend to misrepresent the administration's record," he says. "We try to point out the facts. I don't think we really go out to force people to see our point. We just want to make sure people have access to the other side--even if they don't agree with it."

There is evidence that college Republicans are increasingly getting help in spreading their rightward political views. The Associated Collegiate Press--a nonprofit educational group that aids and monitors college publications--reports that conservative college newspapers are on the rise nationwide. Indeed, right-leaning campus newspapers have nearly doubled in the past few years. Fitting this trend at Hopkins is the monthly Carrollton Record, which debuted in 2002. Though unaffiliated with any political party, the Record's mission statement declares the pub to be "conservative and proud of it."

Mahssan Afkhami, chair of the Maryland Federation of College Republicans, says that as the election draws closer college Republicans will increasingly be out and about, "delivering the president's positive messages in rallies all over the state." Recent events posted on the federation's Web site tend to be less campaign oriented, and include an "Anti-affirmative action bake sale" at Towson University and a "right-wing unsocial" at a Federal Hill bar.

"We are in the process," Afkhami says, "of forming many pro-American rallies and launching our voter registration drives to make sure that the often overlooked and shunned voice of the conservative college student is heard."

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