Neo-conservatism club? What is that? Why would someone start that? People greeted Matthew Wildenradt’s announcement for the first meeting of this club with similar bewilderment. We were struck by our own snap judgments, as well as the snap judgments we saw in the expressions of the people around us, and decided to explore the foundation of these immediate reactions.
When asked for first impressions of what they thought Neo-conservative club would be like, most of the students we asked had very visceral reactions. One student exclaimed, “When I saw his club listed I was like ‘What are you doing? Why are you starting a neo-conservative club?’” Another stated that they “would be be skeptical about the intentions of such a club.”
And to be honest, we were not too far from the camp of people that dismissed the idea of neo-conservative club as an angry, radically right wing group of students who spent their lunches praising Trump and Cheney.
But we were surprised to find a small group of serious people interested in debating real world issues pertinent to the lives of everyday people. It turns out that Neo-conservatism is not hyper-conservative. It is actually a group that was founded in the 1960s, a group that was tired of extreme leftists and moved more towards the center. As explained by someone who attended the meeting: “Neo-conservative people are basically classical liberals who have kind of gotten tired of the extreme left and moved towards the middle.”
In short, neo-conservatism combines the morals of liberals and the economic plan of conservatives. The club meeting itself wasn’t anything like what we expected. Instead of a group of angry people shouting at each other, we found the most diverse, open debate we had experienced yet at UHS. The topics ranged from tax rates to flaws in economic plans to Trump’s wall proposal (which was violently rejected). The debate highlighted a range of opinions, and was open to the ideas of everyone: liberals, conservatives, and moderates.
We asked two of the more vocal participants of the club, Jeremy and Warren, why they attended meetings. Jeremy explained, “(we) don’t support that type of conservatism, but it was the only club that has that type of support for ideas less mainstream at UHS. Because people have this image of conservatives not being tolerant, so they’re not tolerant towards conservatives.”
We as a community need to respect the views of everyone, and need to control our immediate skepticism about any views other than the mainstream liberal at UHS. What we found in the neo-conservative club was an open discussion, which was far more left wing than we expected. But even if Neo-Conservative club was filled with radical Republicans and even if meetings were spent praising Donald Trump’s immigration policies, everyone in this community still needs to respect those views, no matter how different they are from our own. So argue your own opinion as much as you want, but never dismiss your peers views out of hand.
And next time you find yourself generalizing about a certain political party, come to Neo-Conservatives club. You might be surprised how much you learn.