As I walk across the quad on any given day I wouldn’t think twice if I passed by one, two, five shirts, stickers, etc. supporting Obama. It’s just the community norm. When you go to a liberal arts college you will run into A LOT of liberal kids. In our Politics 101 class alone of over 30 students, one is republican, a handful are somewhere in between, but over the super-majority identify themselves very strongly as democrats. To quote a student review of Occidental College in the US News college rankings, “The Occidental College Democrats is a thriving club. The Oxy Republicans should be renamed the Oxy Republican because there is only one member. Rock on.” Although very humorous, it holds a lot of truth in our school, in thousands of schools all over the country and plays a huge role in how college students choose to vote.
In high school, during the 2008 election, I was attending a school that offered a liberal education much like the one I am receiving at Occidental. At that time, I was a little thrown off by the extreme disdain I saw towards republicans. I was even more surprised by how passionately my friends in high school talked about their liberal views even though we couldn’t vote. I thought about my own political views. At this point in my life, I just assumed I was Republican because my family was, but it felt weird being in the minority as a “Republican” and I felt a lot of pressure to become more democratic from friends and teachers alike. A lot of this pressure caused me to realize that I really didn’t know anything about politics and rather be chastised after telling my friends that I was republican, I just stopped affiliating myself altogether.
The only difference between then and now is, we actually have the power to vote. With this power in mind, swing voters in college are blasted with jaunts at Romney among friends, Obama propaganda all over campus, teachers with liberal viewpoints, and pro-Obama/anti-Romney posts cluttering Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Every time we encounter something like this it registers in our minds as another reason we “should” vote for Obama.
Not only are we blasted with this information, but many Republicans on campus can feel victimized. I’ve heard people say that if they knew someone who was planning on voting for Romney, that they simply didn’t want to be friends with them. That seems like a lot of pressure on someone who now believes no one will be their friend if they are a republican. In addition, a liberal friend of mine told me she was watching the RNC in Rangeview gym and she got dirty looks from the other people there, just because she wanted to be a better informed voter. This can cause republicans at Oxy to either conform their beliefs or worse, be silent about their beliefs and become suppressed by the vast majority of students.
Liberal Arts schools are almost free campaigning for Obama, and for what? I just read an article that college students should NOT vote for Obama and I guarantee that no one will believe a word the author has to say because, being surrounded in a liberal environment, it is hard to believe that conservatives hold any validity when all we hear about them is how Christian they are, how much they hate gay people and women, and how dumb Mitt Romney is.
I know, I myself, succumb to this bias all of the time. Although when I registered to vote, I checked the box that said “I do not wish to affiliate with a party”. I believed that this gave me power but I have to ask, am I denying the inevitable? When watching Romney’s speech at the RNC it was hard for me not to make fun of him and to disagree with him because that is what all my friends do. I am constantly surrounded by this opinion that Romney is an imbecile, and the more I hear it, the more I can believe it. What if I was not surrounded by this bias? Would I still have the same reaction to his speech? Maybe, maybe not.
I was shocked in class when Professor Heldman gave us a lecture on why Obama should be losing the election. Being so surrounded by this liberal bias I could have never thought that Romney ever had a chance in this election. If we don’t start exposing ourselves to the other half of the argument, than we are depriving ourselves of knowing how an approximate half of our country thinks about the government and we are sheltered from forming our beliefs in a healthy non-biased way.
What is the cause of this social tyranny of opinion at Liberal Arts colleges? Well first off, the professors, who are, for the four years one attends college, going to mold us into critical thinking adults, are, in overwhelming numbers, Democratic. According to David Horowitz and Eli Lehrer in their report “Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities,” out of 32 colleges studied, the average ratio of democrat to republican professors was 10:1 (1397 Democrats, 134 Republicans). Jere P. Surber tries to explain this lean in his article “Well Naturally We’re Liberal” by arguing that for both social background and economic reasons shared by most college professors cause them to lean left. (Economic, being that their interests as professors at college usually are attended to by the democratic platform while social is they too were likely to have attended a liberal arts school.)
In addition to our liberal teachers, Professor Heldman explained in class that the basis of Liberalism is critical thinking and, when you think of the foundation of Conservatism (tradition and moral values), critical thinking challenges tradition. Therefore, the students, as well, will experience themselves leaning left (if they were not already before) because they are there to learn how to think critically.
Now, I can only imagine the disaster that would come if I decided one day (for science) to sport a pro-Mitt Romney t-shirt on the Occidental campus. First off, half of the campus would think it was a joke and laugh, maybe even give me a high five. From those who didn’t think I was joking, I would get dirty looks all day. People who I’ve never spoken to, would come up to me and drill me with questions. My support for Mitt Romney would be so unbelievable on a campus like Occidental, it would have to be, either a joke, or something would have to be wrong with me.
I have a challenge for anyone who has made it to the end of this post. The next time you see someone supporting pro-Obama gear ask them, why do you support Obama? Ask them, how do they think Obama will get our economy back in shape? Ask them, do they expect Obama to follow through with his promises this time? Asking questions are critical to our own development of beliefs and I believe that we should never write off someone because they are republican or pro-Romney. In fact, these are the people we should want to be friends with, because we want to be better informed voters and we want to make them better informed voters as well. We have to remember that even though we’re not in high school any more, peer pressure is all around us and swing voters, who I guarantee are ALL over campus, are extremely swayed by the extreme and expected support for Obama that hangs over the campus. Now that we are of voting age, it is our responsibility to promote political liberty and to become as informed as possible so when we submit our vote for the first time we know that we have made a well rounded decision.