“Do you like ice cream?” This is what a canvasser asked groups of students passing by. He was attempting to persuade people in the Bates dining hall to come to the ice cream social for Bernie Sanders. I was not thrilled about this, though not surprised. He didn’t make his way to me, but if he had, I was very prepared to put on a big smile and say “Actually, I’ve already voted and I’m a registered Republican. But thank you and good luck.”
My name is Lauren Stimpert and I’m a senior at Bates College. I’m the Vice President of the Bates College Republicans as well as the Secretary for the Maine Federation of College Republicans. I’m a New Hampshire native and a self-identified political junkie. I’m a Republican, a not so common thing on my cozy liberal arts campus. Being a conservative in such a liberal hub has been quite an experience throughout my four years at Bates. There’s been some good, some not so good and many perks.
As one of the seemingly finite conservatives on my campus, I see firsthand the grip that liberalism has on my fellow peers. Sometimes people don’t even fully understand what they stand for. “I’m a liberal/progressive because I care about social issues.” I’ve heard someone identify with the democratic party “because it’s a college thing.” I would really love to follow these student’s political views as they progress to have their first job, and have an enormous amount of their salary taken by the government for taxes. Some views won’t change. But others will slowly realize the economic value of republican policies (cue the Winston Churchill quote “If you are not a socialist in your 20’s, you don’t have a heart. If you are a socialist in your 40’s, you don’t have a brain”).
The unbelievable amount of liberals on campus in general can become frustrating and even overwhelming at times. I also know among certain people my viewpoint is not welcome or represented. Sometimes in class I speak up and voice my opinions, but there are times where I stay quiet for fear of not enough knowledge on the subject, or too much opposition from my peers. But maybe that’s what makes the Bates Republicans such a close knit club.
I’m very proud of the Bates College Republicans. Each one of them is knowledgeable and passionate about their party politics. They know how to have a lively discussion or debate about politics in class or with friends-and they are armed with facts to back themselves up. At Bates, and on college campuses in general, it’s important to introduce students to every viewpoint, even those they don’t agree with. To those college students who kick and scream about opposing viewpoints: I can’t wait to see how you fair in the real world.
Another perk I didn’t expect of being conservative at a liberal school: it has made me a stronger conservative. I have to be able to know what I’m talking about when I voice my opinion. I identify as a member of the Republican party because I believe in small and limited government, strong national security (among all my conservative views) and I need to explain why I believe those ways are the best. Endless amount of Reagan quotes won’t save my political views on this campus.
I’m also proud of the members of the Bates College Democrats. They, unlike many on college campuses who are liberal cause its “cool”, are well versed in their viewpoints and decisions. While I don’t personally agree with their politics, it’s their given right to believe what they believe. And it’s because of that, we have been able to come together as two clubs with members who are crazy about politics and host bipartisan viewing parties and events.
So being a Republican at Bates: it’s weird, its uncomfortable at times and it completely defines you on my campus. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Would I love more conservative minded thinkers at Bates? Absolutely. But today, that wish is not realistic. I’ve learned to work with, and be grateful for, the people and opportunities you have. Being a Republican on a liberal campus has made me a stronger conservative and solidified my beliefs. It taught me so much and definitely had a role in shaping who I am as well as what I want to do with my career. I hope to intertwine politics and law, and continue to be involved with the Republican party. I’ve been in an institution for four years where so often I was the only Republican in the room. If that doesn’t help me build tough skin for a career with politics and law, I’m not sure what will.