By Ronald King, MD MPH
COL, USA (Ret)
Alabama Young Republicans, like Stephanie Petolos, chair of the College Republican Federation of Alabama and former president of the University of Alabama College Republicans, have been getting their choke chains pulled pretty hard lately. So hard, in fact, that she has been told to muzzle her opinions on the issue of gay marriage in social media; in exchange, she would be allowed to hold her current position on the steering committee.
Basically, the senior GOP leadership is giving young Republicans tremendous grief for being like so many young people in Alabama and the rest of the United States.
These young Republicans are not so concerned about other peoples’ personal choices nor do they necessarily wish to impose conservative will and morals upon all other Americans. Rather, they understand that these issues sap energy and resources from a party that should be dealing with more important and relevant issues: jobs, education, immigration and a cogent foreign policy. Perhaps they are the ones following the true Republican principles of smaller government and less regulation both in and outside of our citizens’ personal lives.
At their recent convention in Mobile, reports suggested that the newly elected national chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, Jason Weingartner from New York, understands the concerns of young Republicans. He stand against hyperpartisan politics and the consistent chorus of legislative “No!”
Young GOP leaders realize that compromises with immigration and health care are in order. They also stated that the Republican party can keep its “socially conservative identity” while accepting a range of views on same-sex marriage and abortion.
In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling throwing out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, the law that became a major turning point in black Americans’ struggle for equal rights and political power, the GOP has even greater reason to be more circumspect. “We don’t have to lose our principles,” said Angel Garcia, who leads the Young Republicans in Chicago. “But we have to have a conversation on all these issues so we don’t leave Democrats to say we’re just old white men and racist, bigoted homophobes.”
But the controversy surrounding proposed restrictive by-laws for the ALGOP makes it clear that these ideas are not given much credence or respect by establishment Alabama Republicans. Perhaps the GOP is now losing an entire generation of younger Alabama Republicans so this should be seen as a clarion call to Democrats not to continue giving up on the South.
After signing that Voting Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Johnson famously said,
“I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.” Maybe the GOP establishment is correct to reign in young Republicans and force them to tow the party line to prolong Johnson’s dire prediction. On the other hand, young “republicans” might want to consider that when they look in the mirror, it is a moderate “democrat” that looks back at them.