That old Jesuit motto, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” is significant, although the age is arbitrarily specific. Shape them early and you can do all kinds of rotten things to the adult. Fundamentalist Christians also know this; we’ve seen the consequences here in the US, where they’ve invested a huge amount of time, money, and effort in school boards and corrupting the educational system. Creationists don’t just spontaneously appear, they are the product of years of indoctrination.
So what do we do about College Republicans? The school year has started, my university has over a hundred clubs (anyone can start one, for any cause or reason), and there are first year students signing up this week for the College Republicans, in a sincere belief in conservative values, and they’re going to stumble right into a toxic atmosphere.
Racial resentment has been a driving force behind College Republican recruitment for years, but at this point it’s really all they have left to offer. In the age of President Donald Trump, what inspires a young person not merely to be conservative or vote Republican, but to get active in organized Republican politics? Do you think it’s a fervent belief that Paul Ryan knows the optimal tax policy to spur economic growth? Or do you think it’s more likely to be something else?
Ha ha, no.
Our two-party system has us locked into this weirdly limiting binary dynamic, where power is driven entirely by the party qua party, both for the Democrats and the Republicans — we might as well rename the factions the Blues and the Greens. Unfortunately, it means party membership is driven more by gamesmanship and identity and hatred of the opposition than by policy and civil service and sensible leadership. The next generation is not looking any better, either.
Meanwhile, the only people entering the Republican Party candidate pipeline in the Trump era almost have to be allied with the alt-right, because the alt-right absolutely comprises the only effective and successful youth outreach strategy the GOP currently employs. The future leaders of the GOP aren’t the hooded Klan members or Nazi-tattooed thugs who presented the most cartoonish faces of hate in Charlottesville, but they are their clean-cut fellow marchers, and the many young right-wingers around the nation who sympathize with their cause.
Alex Pareene makes a terrifying prophecy.
This is the state of the GOP leadership pipeline. In a decade, state legislatures will start filling up with Gamergaters, MRAs, /pol/ posters, Anime Nazis, and Proud Boys. These are, as of now, the only people in their age cohort becoming more active in Republican politics in the Trump era. Everyone else is fleeing. This will be the legacy of Trumpism: It won’t be long before voters who reflexively check the box labeled “Republican” because their parents did, or because they think their property taxes are too high, or because Fox made them scared of terrorism, start electing Pepe racists to Congress.
It’s sad. There are some optimistic young people entering the university, and one of the mistakes they’ll make is to join CR and breathe the mind-rotting poison, and next thing you know, they join the staff of the Morris North Star (or its equivalent; it seems to have gone belly-up, but we’ve had a succession of right-wing rags with different names and different editors, all the same) and start writing bigoted drivel to qualify themselves for the wingnut welfare program.
And I can do nothing. The people who ought to be cracking down on this malignancy are the mythical Responsible Republicans, who believe in cautious conservative values, but who, it seems, don’t actually exist. Conservative has become a code word for racism and misogyny.