By MARILIS DUGAS ’16
On Nov. 14, the Wellesley College Freedom Project sponsored a lecture by CNN Republican political correspondent Margaret Hoover, who spoke to Wellesley students about the future of the Republican Party and college-aged voters. Hoover argued that the Republican Party’s distance from the millennial generation has caused it to lose younger voters on many social issues.
Her refreshing take on the Republican Party should be taken seriously by younger conservative voters who have become disillusioned with the bulk of the Republican Party. Moreover, her proposal to revitalize young conservative voters by reworking the party’s stance on key social issues can help kickstart a larger conversation about political ideology on Wellesley’s campus—a conversation that is much needed and long overdue.
Hoover, the great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover, worked for the Bush administration before becoming a political commentator for Fox News and then for CNN. In her lecture, she spoke about the general political trends of the millennial generation—our generation.
We’re a group of voters that, despite media portrayal, shows up to vote: according to the New York Times, over 50 percent of millennials voted in the last Presidential election. As we are the largest generation in American history, our votes and voices are critical in elections. But the Republican Party has lacked consistent and sustainable millennial support. One of Margaret Hoover’s main projects is to capture more millennial votes by helping the Republican Party transform its stance on key social issues for millennials, including the right to marriage.
While working on the Bush reelection campaign in 2004, Hoover realized that the 16 states where Republicans proposed to block the right to marry were battleground states—the party’s stance was a political maneuver to secure socially conservative votes. Although she disagreed with this tactic, she stayed with the campaign because of her strong belief in Bush and her party. She is now the president of the American Unity Fund, a Washington-based lobbyist group that targets Republican politicians to sway their votes on gay marriage laws.
Hoover noted that right to marriage is an essential issue for millennials, and that the Republican Party is losing a block of potential voters by not embracing a more liberal stance in support of individual freedom over the traditional definition of marriage. Hoover’s American Unity Fund has had a lot of success recently with lobbying Republican congressmen and state legislatures to vote in favor of the right to marry; its latest victory was in Hawaii.
The Republican Party is often portrayed as being made up of rich, old and white men who are out of touch with the times. This image is what Margaret Hoover is trying to shatter. It’s an image that, especially here at Wellesley, should be shattered.
In the midst of the last presidential election, a survey went out to Wellesley students asking for their political affiliations. The results, published in the Wellesley News last year, showed that Democrats on campus outnumber conservative students seven to one. Less than 15 percent of Wellesley students identify as “conservative” or “very conservative.” This political divide is relatively the same at most liberal arts colleges.
While these numbers probably won’t change drastically anytime soon, they do pose problems for the conservative students at Wellesley. With the lack of a strong conservative voice on campus, students are left with hollow stereotypes of conservative politics and politicians. Opinions about the Republican Party are often poorly founded. Because conservative students don’t often see their beliefs represented on campus in the form of speakers or lectures, there is little room for campus-wide political discussions between both sides.
Bringing in speakers like Margaret Hoover, speakers who present new and thought-provoking opinions on conservative politics opens the door for real political debate on Wellesley’s campus. Wellesley students, regardless of political affiliation, should hear a wide variety of political beliefs. Differences in ideology provide the opportunity for students to engage in formative debate.
We have to challenge and defend our beliefs in order to grow intellectually. Hoover brought to Wellesley a new take on the future of the Republican Party; hopefully her talk will provoke discussions on campus about what it means to be a conservative student and what we, the millennial generation, see as the future of our political parties.