New group offers students alternative to two-party approach
As the general election approaches, students who may not entirely align with the College Democrats or College Republicans have a new club to turn to: the Young Americans for Liberty.
The group, which has over 700 chapters nationwide, promotes discussion and activism on liberty issues and now has a little less than 30 active members at Washington University. But junior Andrew Eichen, the club’s president and founder, stressed that while the club is composed of a majority of Libertarians it emphasizes an open exchange of ideas and members need not hold libertarian views. The club is not affiliated with the Libertarian Party, and Eichen aims for it to serve as a place for liberty-minded students to share ideas.
A former Vice President of the College Republicans (CR), Eichen said his motivation for starting the club stemmed from a combination of his evolving political views—aided by political theory he’d read and conversations with similar-minded students—and a disapproval of the way the College Republicans was being run.
“They weren’t really big fans of freedom of speech I felt,” Eichen said of the College Republicans. “It felt that kind of when people came out saying—even things I disagreed with in one direction or another—the president would kind of try to silence and make the club a little more moderate and not seem like an extreme right club and I kind of was offended by that.”
Eichen said such behavior emphasized to him the need for Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to be accepting and to hear out all different ideas—even if they seem radical or random.
“I guess I’m just a big believer that if issues—even if they’re something that comes out of left field and they really offend you at first—are addressed with logical consistency and by setting your emotions aside, you can really start to get to the truth of the matter,” he said.
However, junior and president of the College Republicans Ruben Schuckit said he was unaware that Eichen had issues with the way the club was being run—and that Eichen left voluntarily on amicable terms.
“The whole idea was that he wanted to start a libertarian club because he thought it was an ideology so distinct from the conservative ideology that it should be its own thing,” Schuckit said. “He never made it clear to us that he was upset with the direction of the club. He didn’t run for anything this semester so it was really news to me that there was a problem.”
In fact, what made the issue clear to Schuckit was that Eichen used the College Republican’s email distribution list to send an email to the membership encouraging them to join YAL.
“I was taken off the email, obviously, because he didn’t want me to see it, but it goes to 300 people, so it came back to me,” Schuckit said. “I couldn’t even tell you what his problems with CR are because he hasn’t really talked to me about them, but even regardless if he does have a problem with the club, I don’t think he’s obligated to share it with us, if he wants to start his own club I think more power to him. I think that’s great.”
In the coming months, the College Republicans and College Democrats will join together to host events prior to the debates—specifically the second presidential debate that Washington University will host on Oct. 9—and the election, however, YAL will most likely not partner with the two. Eichen said this is because the club is focusing on recruiting and member retention.
One way Eichen said the group is recruiting members is by administering a political test that diverges from the typical left-right political spectrum. He said people are surprised to see that they are more Libertarian-leaning than they might have thought.
While the College Republicans recently came out saying that they will not endorse Donald Trump—most notably with a sign at last week’s Activities Fair that claimed “Trump scares us too,”—Eichen said he doesn’t think that distancing will affect recruitment for YAL.
“I don’t think it’s hurt us really that much because I think people who are like me, people who are liberty-leaning, really find that they don’t fit in with the Republicans because of their interventions foreign policy abroad, because of the fact that they really do completely sideline social issues which I feel right now are things that really are affecting people and their day-to-day lives,” he said.
Both Eichen and Schuckit agreed that membership in both clubs is possible—especially, Schuckit added, in the context of this specific election. Similarly, neither is worried that the other club will steal members.
“If there is one positive light from Trump being the nominee it’s that the party can more or less redefine itself because there was such a seismic shift that a lot of things had to be rebuilt, especially if Trump loses,” Schuckit said. “I think that a lot of Republicans—a lot of young Republicans—do lean a little bit more Libertarian, so they’d be definitely more willing to become engaged with Republican candidates who lean more Libertarian.”