Republicans at Columbia are scared to admit who they’re voting for
At Columbia you either die a conservative or live long enough to see yourself become a liberal
In my first semester, as I sat in my professor’s office being lectured about how the American capitalist system needed to be overthrown, I realized then my time at Columbia would not be spent in the best graces of my fellow Columbians.
This happened again, during a meeting with the Columbia University College Republicans. “What are you so afraid of?” I asked the President. “Not getting into Harvard Business School,” she retorted without a hint of irony in her voice. I was questioning her as to why she had cracked down on my attempts to push the College Republicans into becoming more outspoken and active on campus. I wanted a more open and engaged dialogue with other groups on campus, and in a prime example of freshman naivety I supposed that would be an easy and welcome change. Within a few months from that moment, I had been pushed out of the group for being an open and strident conservative.
Sure, the viral videos and widely spread news stories hold some degree of truth: Columbia University is a campus, like many others in America today, where conservative thought is not welcome. Most of the student body is not defined by those who would shout down people who trigger them or by those who will block conservative speakers from entering buildings on campus. That said, the most radical are, as always, the most visible, and more importantly, even among the general student body, points of view that don’t fall under the spectrum of left wing thought are not treated with the same tolerance as all other points of view.
During my second year at Columbia I sat squirming in my chair, in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of bright minds. My professor had just snidely claimed that the reason conservatives oppose affirmative action is because “they are afraid minorities will take their jobs.” I finally relented, and my hand arose in defiance, unable to allow that proposition to go unopposed. I challenged, to her palpable shock, with arguments Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, two prominent Black conservatives, have famously made against affirmative action. Her response? “That doesn’t sound like a question,” her voice containing audible distress and anger. It was clearly the first time she had been challenged in a little while. I received no answer to the arguments I presented. After the lecture had ended, a student walked up to me and very quietly thanked me for making the point that I did and shook my hand.
This kind of under-the-table back pat is all too common among conservatives at Columbia, and now specifically among Trump supporters. From Facebook messages to quiet props given after class, many conservatives on Columbia’s campus have reached out to me to share their views but have never and would never do so in public at school. The political costs are simply too high. It’s accepted that if you are a conservative, you are, well…bad, and if you are a liberal you will be shrouded in so many Facebook likes, dotes of praise, and affirmations of your virtue, simply for taking a political stance one way or another, that airing one’s conservative views in public makes absolutely no sense. And so, conservatism, while present at Columbia, is an underground phenomenon, and shrinking.
I remember fondly, while working (for a department that will go unnamed) at Columbia, one of my co-workers approached me and whispered with urgency, “I need to tell you something.” Later, when we rendezvoused by the water cooler he broke the devastating news to me that one of our co-workers, “votes Republican.” Initially, I was shocked, not because someone besides myself was a Republican at Columbia, but because I had been very vocal about my views around campus and the department and figured this colleague of mine knew my political views. Yet, it’s as if he couldn’t even fathom that I could be a Republican, despite the fact that the free market and small[er] government values I espoused could only mean one thing about my political leanings. By the way, the co-worker he was referring to is as unlikely to vote Republican as Donald Trump is to appoint Debbie Wasserman Schultz to his cabinet. She simply said something that broke from the liberal talking points, thus, she was a Republican. “Republican” itself is the bad word, and whatever it means, one is bad for being one. No other thought, or explanation is needed.
That wasn’t the only hostility towards Republicans I found in the department. One co-worker informed me that there was something wrong with me for supporting Donald Trump, without even inquiring as to why I could hold such a leaning. Another once asked me, “Are you a Democrat or Republican?” I responded in kind with, “Republican.” Her answer? With eyes rolling: “Yeah, I thought so, you just seemed like it.” She has never asked for my views or investigated further into how I form my political perspective. Though, she did once ask me what my opinion on Columbus Day is, to which before I could answer, another co-worker interrupted with, “No one cares what you think, you’re a white male.” This was of course, intellectual discourse at its best.
Throughout a normal school day, I would see teachers, students, and co-workers high-five each other over their ultra-creative insults directed at Trump voters. Over the past year, hardly a day went by without some professor or TA cracking a joke in or out of class about the stupidity of Trump and his supporters. An explanation or justification for such belittling of Trump’s supporters, was of course, always lacking. Some of the “smartest” people at Columbia engaged in such behavior, and refused to even acknowledge that there could be someone on campus of a different mindset. When I did reveal for who I’ll vote for come November to teachers or fellow students, their shocked and triggered faces contorted into shapes. I lost many chances for personal relationships with professors and students this way.
Looking back on my time at college, I didn’t make many political allies, but I kept true to my principles and values, and that’s more than I can say for many of my friends who entered Columbia with right-leaning political views, a large percentage of whom now revel in the attention and affection one receives in the academic community for voting democrat and shouting liberal platitudes.
At Columbia you either die a conservative or live long enough to see yourself become a liberal.