"The Young Hipublicans" is an engaging article written by John Colapinto that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Surprising in its objectivity, especially coming from an editor of Rolling Stone and one of the largest liberal newspapers in the country, it details the rise of the new conservative, the college conservative. Mr. Colapinto tells the reader how an organized Republican effort to find new recruits is reaping huge dividends with the formation of highly-publicized and popular conservative organizations on major campuses, spreading their message to thousands of politically undecided students. He also examines how the conservative movement is becoming mainstream, attracting women in large numbers and composed of students who, unlike their predecessors in the Reagan Era, fit in easily with mainstream society.
Mainstreaming the Conservative Movement
Mr. Colapinto, in his investigations, stumbled upon what is perhaps the defining characteristic of these new conservatives, they are still a part of mainstream culture. Unlike the Reaganites, who defined their movement by dressing differently than the average college student (men wore suits and red ties and women wore skirts and high heels), today's right-wing activist fits in with the crowd, sporting the average set of jeans, shorts, and baseball caps common to most people. Some even, as Mr. Colapinto puts it, "let their freak flag fly a little" by adorning themselves with Gothic and punk memorabilia.
Even more surprisingly, the new generation of conservatives holds an important ideal shunned by the so-called "paleoconservative" old guard: homosexuals deserve protection from discrimination. Most also favor marital rights for homosexuals. Mr. Colapinto attributes these novel beliefs to years of being raised in a socially accepting atmosphere fostered by public education combined with the traditional conservative libertarian respect for privacy.
Mr. Colapinto finds that this mainstream conservative movement is also reaching out to demographic groups traditionally overlooked by Republicans. For example, a black conservative group has sprouted in Howard University known as the "hip-hop Republicans." Women are also being openly courted and are holding senior leadership posts in the movement. Conservatives argue that they are the solution to what they call the "infanticization" of women caused by the left-wing feminist movement. The college students argue that complex college sex codes and feminist courses make women feel like they "need their hands held" in the real world. Instead, female conservatives stress self-reliance and independence, saying "no" to what they believe is stifling female independence.
A Reaction to the Left
As Mr. Calopinto's article unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that the college conservative movement is largely a reaction to the liberal left. Many students are frustrated at the enforced political correctness pervading campus life. Instead of protecting students from insult, the activitsts contend that the PC trend has stifled intellectual discussion. Fed up with same-sex hand holding days, "Vagina Monologues" performances, diversity training workshops, and PC-purified textbooks, activist Denise Chaykund laments, "A lot of the courses are mushy stuff about sex and gender and social relations...Everything is so dumbed down because no one wants to offend anyone." These new conservatives voice their party's beliefs in individual responsibility and freedom of speech in an attempt to combat these perceived wrongs.
Mr. Calapinto also details the activists' struggles against what they see as anti-American faculties and students. While a group of students and professors at Bucknell University protested against the bombing of Afghanistan, the local conservative club held a rally supporting American troops. Mr. Calapinto also discovered that such tactics are highly effective; in the wake of 9/11, previously unaligned students have joined local conservative clubs in droves, believing that the groups are more patriotic than their usually more liberal faculty.
Dividends Pay Off
How is it that the new campus conservative movement has spread so rapidly, moving from almost nonexistence to commanding national attention in the space of a few years? The answer, according to the article, is the Republican Party and its branches. From the beginning, larger conservative organizations have assisted their younger college cousins, providing financial aid to run conservative newsletters, handing out "conservative handbooks" to activists, soliciting free advice, and providing moral support. Groups such as the Collegiate Network hold regular seminars to train college conservatives in techniques to help spread their message. Conservative women's groups such as the Independent Women's Forum and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute bring prominent conservative-minded women to speak at college campuses. Among them is the almost-ubiquitous Ann Coulter, one of the most outspoken activists that the women's conservative movement has. Behind all of this strategy, Mr. Calapinto submits, is an attempt to wake the "latent conservative" in students. Instead of arguing their philosophy, activists instead aim to show students how they already embody it in their beliefs and actions.
In "The Young Hipublicans," John Colapinto presents the reader with a fascinating analysis of the newest movement attempting to change the landscape of collegiate America. He weaves together a variety of sources and presents the reader with a comprehensive picture of the movement. Mr. Calapinto examines the anti-PC reaction that began the movement, its mainstream qualities, and the conservative organizations that guide it. "The Young Hipublicans" definitely gets an "A" for journalism and an "A+" for fascination.
"The Young Hipublicans" by John Colapinto appeared in the May 25, 2003 issue of The New York Times Magazine. It is copyright 2003 by The New York Times.