An Overlooked Truth

By Jeff Garcia

Last week in the Opinion section of the Weekly, Sarah Levy published a well-written column on recent developments geared toward creating political civility at Macalester; most notably the rise of a new MacGOP. I must say that I do agree with her column, in that political diversity is not the same as, say, ethnic or economic diversity. Unfortunately, it does not follow that political homogeneity should not be addressed as a diversity problem.The first problem in Ms. Levy’s argument is her assumption that encouraging conservative students to organize is Mac’s way of “…adding another diverse political label.” Professors and students alike joke freely about Republicans in what is supposed to be a scholarly environment, and it has become acceptable to equate the Tea Party with all rightists. There are at least 3 political organizations catered to leftists: Mac Dems, the ISO, and Mac Peace and Justice/SDS; add to that groups that deal with “liberal” issues. You find that only one group provides a voice for Macalester’s political right: MacGOP. So it follows that Macalester supports their resurgence, simply because strong Republican voices aid in creating an equal academic and social environment.

I observed another problem: the equation of touchy issues with efforts to make Mac a political forum. Ms. Levy says: “Does it make any sense that if you actually cared about your political position you would wish for more people to be in opposition to you?” She groups wishes of liberal Mac graduates to see more conservative thought with that of a pro-choice group wishing for pro-life picketers to return to MN clinics. This illogical statement also seems a veiled attempt at provoking emotional reactions from liberal students.

I must also address Ms. Levy’s opposition to financing conservative speaker Reihan Salam’s visit to campus as “a result of a skewed mentality.” No conservative speaker has visited Mac in three years. With history and current imbalances considered, the suggestion of putting such decisions to a student vote would probably end in a rejection. On a side note, BHM’s committee is doing great work on a reduced budget. If this outlay was for a social event, I feel that nobody would suggest pulling its funds for BHM’s use. There is no precedent for a popular vote on a student-run event, and no need for one.

Ms. Levy misses a critical point of political diversity. Hearing opposition to your viewpoint forces you to defend it with logic and critical thinking, a vital skill in the working world. It stifles blind ideology, and promotes practical solutions and civility sorely needed in U.S. politics. Levy advocates increasing overall political discussion rather than forcing diversity on students, but consider this: Even if discussion increases, without voices that are encouraged to go against the mainstream, what changes in a community’s mind? Scots are activists, passionate by nature; by letting the whole of our campus add to our political thought, people’s ideas will be challenged, even changed, and common ground will form.

Encouraging political heterogeneity does not undermine other ideas of diversity in the least. If we young Americans can live with people of all identities, we must also embrace the political spectrum that colors our nation. Political diversity is the only way we can become a true community of scholars. Make no mistake: MacGOP is already back. How we all react is the next act of this play.