The Cowardice of the College Republicans

One would think that in the age of a massively successful Republican president like Donald Trump, most conservative college organizations would be rushing to hitch their wagons to his rising star. But as it turns out, the ignorance and naivety of the Republican elite is not limited to members of Congress.

For the upcoming annual gathering of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), national chairman Chandler Thornton has laid out his vision for the organization’s upcoming conference in his debut op-ed at Fox News.

What exactly is Thornton’s big plan for College Republicans as the 2020 election rapidly approaches? Working to curb mass immigration? Speaking out against blatant Big Tech censorship of the Right? Opposing the Left’s ongoing push for the legalization of infanticide? Condemning the domestic terrorism of Antifa?

No. At this year’s CRNC conference—happening July 11-14—delegates will be voting on a symbolic resolution to condemn white nationalism, which Thornton claims is contributing to a “toxic problem” within the GOP.

It’s a viewpoint that could have just as easily appeared in the pages of the Huffington Post or Vox.

Thornton claims—with scant evidence—that “white supremacists have attempted to infiltrate student-led Republican groups at the campus level.” He offers a single, isolated example in the ousting of an unnamed chapter president at Washington State University sometime in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Because the actions of any one person clearly indicate a frightening broader trend, right?

Thornton follows up with an example that, on top of having nothing to do with College Republicans, should cause many eyes to roll: Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), whom he declares to be guilty of “making remarks widely perceived as racist.”

Beyond the fact that King did absolutely nothing wrong, note Thornton’s weasel-wording: “perceived as racist.”

In Thornton’s mind, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t actually say anything racist or offensive. If the media says you did, then you’re guilty. Damn the truth, the elites will signal their virtue one way or another. Even though such spineless establishment Republicans have left King out to dry over nothingburger comments, King has continued to show nothing but grace, class, tolerance, and understanding in the midst of the ongoing fallout over New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s truly disgusting remarks about the Holocaust.

Thornton also can’t resist digging up a real fossil of a non-argument: former Klansman David Duke, and his short-lived tenure in the Louisiana legislature and his quixotic 1991 run for governor. Never mind that Duke left office in 1992, and there has not been a single white nationalist in elected office in America since.

While Thornton focuses on figures from three decades ago, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has hinted at the possibility of meeting with the black nationalist and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan on the campaign trail. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has called Israel “evil” and explicitly has declared that America is “not going to be the country of white people.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2018 announced from the floor of the House of Representatives her intent to see white Americans replaced with people with “brown skin” that she believes are “the face of the future of our country.”

But in true RINO fashion, Thornton pens but a single sentence about how “Democrats have had to contend with anti-Semitism in their own ranks.” And instead of actually naming names, like Omar or Ocasio-Cortez, he instead simply references Farrakhan before moving right back to the terrible scourge of “white nationalists.”

Thornton then goes so far as to not-so-subtly imply that social media isn’t doing enough to deal with “white nationalists,” claiming that “Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other sites have given them pathways to create communities of like-minded individuals.” Never mind, of course, that these tech giants and others have falsely used the “white nationalist” label to ban thousands of perfectly ordinary right-wing users; Thornton’s implication is that these tech companies are still somehow complicit in a vast white nationalist conspiracy, and need to be doing even more to silence the Right.

Once again, this is not coming from Carlos Maza. This is the national leader of the College Republicans. The fact that this distinction needs to be made at all should tell you enough.

Thornton then shares with readers the text of his precious (and meaningless) resolution. After the first two lines wax empty, feel-good rhetoric about “’Murica,” the third line takes a hard left turn:

Whereas according to the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacist propaganda on college campuses is on the rise.

Yes, you read that right. A resolution before the College Republicans cites the Anti-Defamation League as an authority. The same ADL that declared a green cartoon frog to be a hate symbol. The same ADL that is right alongside that other far-left hate group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, in pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that right-wing and white supremacist terrorism is somehow on the rise in America.

But wait, there’s more!

Whereas according to FBI statistics, hate crimes nationwide increased over the last three years.

Once more, the details are lacking significantly here. Notice that there is no specification of what kinds of hate crimes are on the rise. (But I’m willing to bet it’s not in reference to the hundreds of hate crimes committed against Trump supporters.)

For the second time, the wording is extremely subtle, but very insidious. Note the time span given: “The last three years.” What exactly happened about three years ago? Is this resolution of the College Republicans actually peddling the ADL/SPLC lie that right-wing hate crimes spiked in the aftermath of President Trump’s victory, thereby making him somehow the catalyst for this imaginary epidemic of “far-right” hate? After all, it’s not like any other major American political event happened in 2016.

With the final line of the resolution, the cycle of utter cluelessness and surrender is complete:

Resolved, That the College Republican National Committee rejects and condemns White nationalism, White supremacy, and racism in any form, as hateful declarations of intolerance, which are inconsistent with the values of the College Republican National Committee, the Republican Party, and the founding principles of the United States.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) could not have written a more pointless resolution . . . except he already did. And just as in that case, the sheer amount of rhetorical ground that is surrendered in the making of this resolution is just plain sad.

This entire idiotic notion of a “rising” white nationalist threat in the Republican Party is more outdated than ever before. But with someone like Thornton leading the CRNC, it’s no wonder that the College Republicans have lost nearly all relevance in the Trump era. They have ceded all media focus and cultural effectiveness to more openly pro-Trump groups.

While President Trump has done a masterful job of reframing the conversation regarding racism on the Left, elitist figures in the GOP would rather turn back the clock by almost two years and continue debating on the Left’s terms. What’s next? A resolution calling to combat the “gender pay gap”? A resolution saying that the science on anthropogenic climate change is “settled”?

We all know how that famous phrase goes: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” The quickest way to combat this kind of piffle is simply to acknowledge that organizations like the CRNC—as long as they are under leadership like this—aren’t even our “friends” to begin with.

Photo Credit: Bill Boch/Getty Images

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.