Exploring the Political Spectrum
A documentation of my interaction with political groups in my neighborhood
A group of young adults congregated around served donuts and coffee. While it was past dinner, the adolescents partook in the beverage in hopes of staying attentive for the next hour. Not far from them, a cluster of senior ladies sat at a circular table, many resting their wrists on their canes. A murmur echoed from the table and scattered throughout the nave. At the front of the church room, sat the heads of the Maple-Grove Democratic Club. Two of the heads shuffled papers in order as the president of the club, Mr. Lopez, gleefully welcomed participants with a soft handshake.
My attendance to this evening meeting was part of a curiosity in the local political organizations of my neighborhood. Through internet forms and searches, I found two open political groups. For the last several years, I’ve primarily followed centrist left politics. Unfortunately, It’s quite difficult to find moderate groups in today’s climate. When I registered to attend the Maple-Grove Democratic Club and the local Young Republican Club, I did not have high expectations. My political perception has been shaped by the media I swallow. From reading the Economist to watching Trevor Noah YouTube videos, I assumed the right and left communities would mirror each other in attitude.
The Democratic club opened by discussing the results of a special election that recently took place in our district. After discussing who won and who didn’t a gradual transition was made to recent policy changes within the party. There was some discussion in utilizing more computers for election and mellow talks over fusion voting.
Mr. Lopez, the head speaker, did draw a distinct line between traditional Democrats and “Progressives”. It was clear that he saw Progressive groups to have a different agenda from his, but not necessarily a malicious one.
Overall, the meeting I had attended was incredibly calm and pragmatic. The group purely focused on local political issues. Discussion on state politics were few and national politics nonexistent. People were concerned over dilapidated public transportation systems, accumulation of trash in public spaces, and increasing voter turnout. There was a feeling of philanthropy in the room, especially as one fragile older women asked the church room to consider donating old prom dresses and suits for her local high school. The most heated the room got was during a discussion over where the Democratic club should host their next annual luncheon. Apparently, the room had grown tired of Spanish cuisine.
I made sure to chat momentarily with Mr. Lopez after the meeting had adjourned. His amicable nature was only more apparent in person. He cared much for the community, painting for me a butterfly effect that a simple littering problem could result in. At times his visions for his community did come of as idealistic. He was a large proponent of more citizen involvement and promoting a direct democracy, a stance that I have grown skeptical over since the Brexit debacle began.
I entered through a thick glass door into a golden room embroidered with a damask pattern. Two ladies greeted me to the Maple-Grove Republican Club by asking me if I’d like to have my coat hung. I politely declined and asked for directions to the Young Republican Meeting.
Eventually, I came to a room filled with several rows of folding chairs directed at a central podium. The room had long gleaming curtains at its front. Two large paintings of club donors hugged the flanks of the room. The room was bustling with roughly forty or fifty people. Although the meeting was hosted by the Young Republican’s Club, the age range had roughly the same variation as the Democratic club. The majority of people appeared to be in their mid thirties or forties. Attendees were dressed fairly well, many wearing suits or nice dresses. Even in my sweater topped button down shirt I felt fairly under dressed.
I took a seat at the front row as close to the podium as possible, a college habit I’ve yet to kick. The room was introduced by a fairly short young girl. The meeting started with the pledge of allegiance, a practice that was adhered to by the Democratic Club as well. The girl proceeded to thank all for coming and continued by introducing the speaker of the night. I was in for a treat. The speaker was Heather Mac Donald.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Ms. Mac Donald is a celebrity in the conservative community. She is well known for her abrasive works on identity politics and diversity, which she recently crystallized in her book “The Diversity Delusion”. Ms. Mac Donald has appeared on Fox news and frequently gives talks on her writing across the country.
Immediately after taking the podium, Ms. Mac Donald dropped a quip about Jussie Smollett as she ruffled her speech pages in order. The thirty minute tirade that followed was full of all the right wing hits. Ms. Mac Donald began with several anecdotes demonstrating the entitled and sensitive nature of millennials. Two of her examples included the black history month Adidas shoe debacle and Spike Lee’s boycott of Gucci and Prada. She then transitioned to lambasting Yale and Princeton students, describing them as spoiled and wasteful of the resources they have.
The remainder of Ms. Mac Donald’s speech rebuked “ivory tower” institutions and their attempts to diversify schools. She used selective science to push her agenda. Quoting an ambiguous paper, she claimed men tended to fields of abstract thinking, while women veered to more physical and hands-on fields. She attributed this to genetics, opposed to social influence and claimed it as the reason for gender disparity in STEM. By promoting academic diversity, the United States would fall behind China in technical progress she threatened. The speech slowly dissolved into forsaking the ideas of white privilege, modern racism, college rape stories, and gender discrimination. Ms. Mac Donald closed her diatribe by warning the room that if the current culture of victim-hood was not curbed, the country would spiral into civil war.
The room was followed by stunned silence, before an uproar of claps commenced. A question and answer session followed, an event that drained the remainder of the hope I had left for the audience.
While I cannot recall all the questions asked, some that stood out included: “How do we stop liberal ideology from spreading? It seems impossible since many liberals come from poor families on welfare that naturally reproduce a lot” and “How can we get our message across? it seems like conservatives have never been in power”.
The most astonishing dialogue came from a question asking whether the current generation should be discouraged from attending college to avoid dealing with liberal propaganda. Ms. Mac Donald, with her academic experience at Yale, Cambridge, and Stanford, stated that academic enrollment needed to decrease by eighty to ninety percent. I can guarantee, this will cause the United States to fall behind China in technological progress.
When starting to explore my neighboring political groups, I earnestly had a pessimistic view. I expected to write an article in a couple of weeks describing that left and right political groups are equally bonkers but in opposite directions.
After attending the Young Republican’s Club meeting, I tried to rationalize the insanity I perceived. Perhaps the guest was a particular aggressive speaker. Yet the delusion behind the questions that followed dissolved any thought of coincidence.
While the naive and prolix speech of misguided thoughts and misinterpreted scientific actions deserve its own article of critique, the absolute lack of pragmatism bothered me most. Unlike the meeting of the Democratic Club which discussed policy and action, the meeting of conservatives focused purely on biased political gossip. I understand Ms. Mac Donald’s desire for a purely merit based academic system. Yet, in between her multiple criticisms of diversity departments there was no reproachment of legacy students and donation influence.
The room came off as a crowd of frightened children, terrified of a exaggerated problem. A problem, that for the most part, hardly leaves the confines of twitter squabbles and tabloid magazines. In recent years, this constant fear of a imaginary external force, whether it be immigrants, socialists, homosexuals, or college students, coming to haunt the values of conservatives seems too common.
For the sake of anonymity the names of associations and individuals, except for that of Heather Mac Donald, have been modified in this article.
For the curious, a modified yet very similar speech of Ms. Mac Donald can be viewed here.