Political activism on campus: the Gore-y truth

| Staff Columnist

When I walked into Umrath House last week, the first thing that grabbed my attention was a digitally-demonized image of former Vice President Al Gore in front of a twisted (literally) version of the American flag that had been transformed into a hurricane on a flyer advertising the premiere of the movie “Not Evil, Just Wrong.”

I sincerely enjoy living on a politically diverse campus. At times, however, political debate can become a bit overwhelming, as students of the major political parties seem to forget the common individual in their zeal for their own political views.

The Wash. U. Young Americans for Liberty certainly grabbed my attention with their image of Gore, but I don’t understand why representatives of a party that prides itself on respect for America would contort both the national flag as well as a former vice president. Further, though the independent movie’s title may claim to the contrary, it’s clear from the movie cover’s altered image of former vice president Al Gore that “Not Evil, Just Wrong” does, in fact, portray a national symbol as demonic. Unable to watch the premiere, I found the movie trailer online and was astonished by the claims. A man in the movie said, in complete seriousness, that global warming would not be undesirable because everyone likes warm weather. I am astonished by how cavalierly the party can ignore the dangers of global warming.

It would appear that the Young Americans for Liberty’s extreme posturing is not unique. My inbox is frequented by e-mails from student organizations. One of these groups is the Wash. U. College Democrats, who recently encouraged students to help chalk in order to push the issue of health care reform on campus. As one of the reasons for the necessity of health care reform, the group states that, “Japan has the #1 life expectancy in the world; the U.S. ranks 42nd. They pay $2581 per person per year; we pay $7290.” I understand that the large amounts of money we pay may seem ineffective, but the group is assuming correlation between statistics that are not necessarily related. The results are surely affected by ethnic, dietary, and lifestyle differences between Americans and Japanese, and if we lower health care spending per person in the United States, average life expectancy may drop further. It would appear that, in their excitement about the issues, the College Democrats have allowed their excitement to cloud their pursuit of more analytically sound facts.

The political groups on campus seem to have missed the larger picture due to excess zeal. I have rarely found individuals who completely adhere to a party’s every doctrine, and political candidates themselves, in fact, often do not. At times, it can be entertaining to stand back and watch the mud-slinging between political factions both nationally and on campus. But as a student to whom these events are promoted, I feel compelled to offer my perspective: If political groups on campus hope to secure the allegiance of students who are beginning to test out political ideologies independent of their parents, these groups must show more sophistication.

In a mid-October survey of “registered and likely voters” in the United States, only 22.5 percent affiliated themselves with the Republican Party and 33.7 percent with the Democratic Party. Winning in numbers, 35.0 percent of those polled called themselves independent. Both Democrats and Republicans clearly have the potential to swell their ranks if the majority of the nation’s population is unaffiliated. For this very reason, political parties cannot afford to lose their message by getting caught up in attacking altered versions of national figures and using data that in fact does not corroborate the group’s argument. Rather than being effective, these strategies only undermine the intelligence of the targeted audience.

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