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Applaud constructive behavior from College Republicans

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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The University of Iowa College Republicans will set up shop on the Pentacrest every Monday and Tuesday in September as part of a wider push by the College Republican National Committee to increase participation in college communities. The program’s goal is to increase on-campus awareness, recruit new members, and, most importantly, register students to vote.

“We want students to vote in Iowa City because this is a battleground state, and in most cases, they live here nine months out of the year,” said Kelsey Boehm, the head of the UI College Republicans, to The Daily Iowan in August.

This active push to register voters represents a valuable campus service and is a welcome departure from the College Republicans’ typically inflammatory recruitment efforts epitomized by its annual spring event known as “Conservative Coming Out Week.”

In April 2011, the College Republicans launched its controversial weeklong celebration of conservatism by imploring those kindred spirits keeping a low profile in left-leaning Iowa City to “come out of the closet.”

The message was received quite poorly by many, including members of the local LGBT community, who argued that revealing one’s conservatism did not involve the same degree of personal risk as revealing one’s sexuality.

"We feel that this use of ‘coming out’ is being used to sensationalize and provide satire to the College Republican cause," the University of Iowa’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Allied Union wrote in an April press release.

Though members of the College Republicans, including former President John Twillmann insisted that Conservative Coming Out Week was sincerely named, one night’s tongue-in-cheek “Animal Rights Barbecue” belied the organization’s penchant for mischievous witticism.

So, while the charges of bigotry leveled by some against the College Republicans may have been overblown, it should be said that the group’s annual attempt to get its opponents’ collective goat is harmful to civil discourse, blatantly condescending, and very, very smug.

Attempts to boost voter registration, however, are admirable regardless of the party affiliation or past behavior of the registrars. This is doubly true when such programs focus on young voters, who are typically less likely to participate in the political process than their older counterparts.

In the 2008 general election, only 61 percent of young voters (ages 18-29) were registered to vote, and only 51 percent actually voted, though that number was higher in Iowa and among young people with some college education.

This year’s general election will be competitive, particularly in swing-state Iowa, where President Obama and Mitt Romney are polling in a statistical dead heat. Young voters have the unique opportunity to make a distinct impact on the future of the country if they are effectively informed and mobilized.

We believe that every politically minded group on campus, including the University Democrats, should join in the push to register voters and maximize political participation among students at the University of Iowa.

Despite their divisive recent past, the College Republicans is leading the way this fall by taking the commendable step of moving beyond antagonism for the time being in favor of proactively encouraging civic responsibility. The group should not be alone in its fight.

We give credit where credit is due, and we hope to see the College Republicans remains a positive, constructive force on campus.


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