One of the curious phenomenons at UMASS Dartmouth is the fact that, like most of the country, Young Republicans tend to outnumber the official college democratic organization on campus. Granted, UMASS's democratic organization is new and more students at the university identify as liberals than conservatives, but the fact remains that Young Republicans tend to band together like a pack of rabid, hungry (or should I say starving?) wolves. However, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, at least for selfish, little me: it makes for interesting conversation.
I just got out of the Underground Cafe (where I got a delicious caramel-coffee smoothie) and bumped into two Young Republicans. Out of the several things we talked about, two things jump out at me in particular. The first: who they think will be nominated for President, from both parties. Interestingly, neither of the two picked John McCain. One of them was a die-hard Romney pick; the other thought Rudy Guiliani would eventually win. For democrats, one thought Barrack Obama would jump ahead - the other thought he was running for VP to Hillary Clinton's invulnerable campaign war chest.
The second interesting bit of the conversation was a small debate on how Deval Patrick won. While it wasn't the longest part of our conversation, it was one of the few moments where there was some heat in the room - and I don't mean the hot java. Did people really agree with more of Deval's positions than Kerry Healey's? Was she just a campaign train wreck? Or, did Deval Patrick merely say all the right things? One of the Young Republicans demanded that, point by point, citizens in this state agreed with Healey more than Patrick. I disagreed - and he seemed stunned.
There seems to be this (largely media-driven) campaign among many circles in this state that suggests that while Deval Patrick won, Kerry Healey was actually the person people tended to agree with - they just didn't vote for her, for whatever reason. Maybe it's some conciliatory offer to the final GOP circles in this state, now that they're completely out of power. However, it forces the notion that the GOP is really the party of the people - and I'll challenge that assumption any day of the week. While people may have disagreed with Deval on issues like immigration, they seemed to be very keen on his strong defense of public education, civil rights, disastrous consequences of property-tax hikes and the importance of not cutting the income tax anymore, at least for now. Heck, I'd bet people trusted Deval more on matters of criminal justice.
That said, I don't think people actually voted for Deval because of any laundry-list of issues. I don't even think it's all that important. Besides, it's probably next to impossible to come up with any empirical evidence supporting any side. After all, the only difference between such a list and the Mississippi River would be that the river is blue and wet. Otherwise, they'd be just as long and unchartable (and that's if it were written in 8-pt font). The list would have to include such important issues as "should we allow a Dunkin Donuts on Eastern Ave in Swampscott?" Man, the people from Springfield are really going the care about that!
Ultimately, any list of issues would have to be weighted - and that's the point I should have made in between drinking my smoothie. People obviously cared about Deval's messages on education, fiscal sanity and - most of all - hope than anything on Kerry Healey's check list. That's something one of the College Republicans - the one who was stunned - just didn't get.
Ultimately, it makes me all the more confident going into the future. I don't think these Republicans are alone - most of the institutionalized party suffers from a narrow viewpoint. I don't care how big the dormitory is at the Heritage Foundation, at least when the only interns accepted into the program are the ones who tote the party line. Group Think is a powerful device, but not so much when everyone's privy to what the group is up to and most people aren't a part of that group. America's not really keen on Republicans at this moment.
That's one of the great things about the progressive movement: while people may tend to be more liberal than other constituencies inside the Democratic Party, we tend to have a more critical viewpoint than others. We've gone against our own party, including traditional liberals, as often as we've gone against Republicans - at least in recent years. We're inherently trained to question every aspect of authority, from our own leadership to Republicans. Subsequently, you get people challenging old party conventions - such as narrow-minded issue groups and politicians that were previously the party's warp core.
So, when I said Mitt Romney has a lot of baggage, the Romney fanatic just didn't see it. It doesn't matter what Mitt says now, a lot of people won't ever be able to get past the fact that Mitt Romney demanded he was a stronger proponent of gay rights than Ted Kennedy. Is Focus on the Family ever going to willingly get behind that? The few conservative republican voters who could forgive him are probably going to have a problem with the discrepancies that exist between what he says and the truth.
The same narrow thinking could be applied to the other Republican's opinion that Hillary is some insurmountable mountain that no other dem could defeat. Obama's going to mount a credible challenge with free publicity alone (I can just imagine him debating Hillary) and Governor Richardson may just catch on. Al Gore could decide to run tomorrow and be able to raise the money and power to steal it. Heck, he got a standing ovation at the Grammies last night, with the Queen (Latifa) by his side - that's right, Al Gore is cool now!
Republican institutions are as strong and well funded as ever, but ultimately they've been producing few ideas and the one's they have created have proven to be abject failures. Hello, tax cuts and war on Iraq... My little talk with Republicans on campus today illuminated many of the party's faults: they couldn't even agree with the notion that the Republican co-sponsor of a nonbinding resolution on Iraq filibustering his own resolution was a tad hypocritical and could come back to bite them. The Republicans who 'don't support' President Bush's escalation were just helping their party by filibustering debate - no biggie. Well, my Republican friends, we'll see in two years - won't we? I look forward to many years of narrow-minded Republican Group Think before they realize that their party is rotting from the inside. It may just give us enough time to fix all the crap they've screwed up.