In case you weren’t aware, the presidential election is tomorrow.
Walking around campus, you’ll see fliers for candidates, cars shuttling people to vote early at Assembly Hall, and students preparing their absentee ballots.
It’s even crazier in my home state of Ohio, where my parents have all but stopped watching TV due to the barrage of political ads.
Even in Indiana, though, a state destined to go red this November 6th, political commentary amongst the general populace is at an all-time high.
Nearly every day on campus, one of my fellow classmates or teachers turns to me and begins ranting about any number of topics. I’ve been told pro-lifers abhor women. I’ve been told conservatives are all racists. I’ve been told Romney is “just a jerk.”
All of these unsolicited opinions were served with a heavy dose of rage and passion and without inquiring about my views. If you’re here, it’s assumed you’re a liberal.
The problem? I’m a conservative.
I knew coming here that IU was an overwhelmingly liberal place. Still, it shocked me that, to this day, I have yet to meet a single fellow conservative through classes, the newspaper, or any number of groups in which I am involved. I recently attended a College Republicans meeting, which was the first time I was aware other conservatives existed on campus.
Honestly, this ubiquitous liberal bias can become exhausting.
I have only told two of my friends here than I am a conservative because I don’t want to start heated debates with them.
It’s been frustrating, but it isn’t all bad. There are even advantages to being surrounded by so much liberalism. You can become acclimated to the environment, and there are certain strategies that can help.
1. Join the College Republicans.
I wasn’t originally planning to join the group due to the time commitment. That one meeting I attended, however, was a breath of fresh air. To finally hear something people saying things I agreed with was such a relief.
2. Attend a College Democrats meeting.
No, this is not a joke. I also happened to attend at College Democrats meeting the day after my Republicans one. It was actually quite interesting, and I might attend again in the future. The group discussed the most recent presidential debate and their reasons for supporting President Obama. I was able to ask questions, and we had an open dialogue—without the name-calling and avoidance of questions that are so common in politics. I could hear what they believed and why they believed it—and it has made me a stronger debater.
3. Be aware of your class choices.
Any class risks veering into the left wing. There are certain classes, however, that are essentially guaranteed to have liberalism ingrained in their class material. My sociology class, for example, teaches liberal positions on everything from gay marriage to income redistribution. I hear the Kelley School of Business, naturally, is more embracing of capitalist viewpoints, and, really, any subject matter unrelated to society or politics should be safe.
4. Be knowledgeable.
In those classes seeping with liberalism, professors will still often welcome opposing viewpoints (within reason). I’ve found it’s helpful to frame your opinions as questions, which makes them less offensive and more welcoming of other beliefs.
For example, bring up research that opposes the course material by asking if the professor was aware of it and what his opinion is.
You’ll learn know the liberal argument better—and therefore become a better debater—and making the class aware of alternate viewpoints benefits your peers, as well.
5. Pick your battles.
Be educated, but don’t viciously attack everyone who disagrees with you either. You have to choose when to voice your opinions. If someone is entrenched in his viewpoint, don’t go beyond an occasional comment. Or don’t even bother at all. Debating is only going to make your friendship tense.
In fact, try not to debate with friends at all, unless they show interest in your viewpoint or are open to hearing a conservative’s explanation. Sometimes they’ll have a question about a recent political event and allow you to weigh in. These opportunities are somewhat rare, but cherish them when they happen.
The free exchange of ideas? That’s what college is for.
Make sure you’re ready for these occurrences by staying up-to-date on the news and reminding yourself of the exact reasons for why you believe what you believe. I’ve found that I often know my opinion, but it’s been so long since I’ve read the arguments for my viewpoint that I cannot quickly recall statistics, history or facts in their defense.
Don’t let that happen. You want to show others you are well informed. Then they might even take you seriously.
6. Have the right attitude.
Sure, it’s difficult being an ideological minority on such a bracingly liberal campus. So don’t be surprised when people protest outside a debate between Karl Rove and Robert Gibbs, or someone tries to convert you to “transcendentalism” on your way to journalism class.
It happens. Approach it as a learning experience.
I had a friend in high school who disagreed with every value I profess. But he was well informed and insightful, and, though he didn’t change my beliefs, I learned a lot from talking about politics and social issues with him.
Find those people. Talk to them.
And most of all, when you pick up a flier in a restaurant advertising for a meeting of anarchists in the local park, just smile.