Today we are going to continue our series on activist traps. Another common mistake made by campus conservatives is to engage in debates and organize activities using the Left’s terms. Doing so only makes your job more difficult and immediately puts you at a disadvantage.
The most prominent example is the term “Affirmative Action.” Many young conservatives rightly want to challenge this program and do so by hosting “Affirmative Action” bake sales, debates, and speakers on this issue. However, in referring to “Affirmative Action,” students are using a phrase crafted by the Left to define a divisive program in a positive manner.
Instead, frame your argument against “Affirmative Action” by using terms such as “racial preferences” or “racial profiling” which more accurately describe the race-based practices of most colleges. The Left complains incessantly about racial profiling used by law enforcement, but it never speaks out against racial preferences or “Affirmative Action”—the campus-based form of racial profiling. It is just as wrong to reject an equally qualified applicant because of his race as it is to stop a driver because of his skin color. Administrators create “profiles” of students and assume certain races cannot gain admission to the school without preferences and quotas.
Some may argue that the phrase “Affirmative Action” is more widely-used and understood among students and should therefore be the term conservatives use to critique the issue. However, Young America's Foundation speaker and civil rights advocate Ward Connerly has successfully passed resolutions in California, Washington, and Michigan effectively ending all use of race in university admissions. He did not refer to “Affirmative Action,” instead he used racial preferences.
Another example is the pro-abortion movement’s labeling of themselves as “pro-choice.” If you tackle abortion, never address the opposition as “pro-choice.” The only “choice” liberals are in favor of is to allow women the option to kill their children. When it comes to individuals keeping more of their hard earned money, business owners deciding whether their patrons can smoke in their establishment, or whether one can help the poor through private donations rather than through a government program, the Left always advocates for more government control.
Similarly, if you choose to defend the Reserves Officer Training Corp (ROTC) emphasize the importance of students’ rights to participate in an ROTC program on campus. Do not be lured into countering the Left’s primary argument that ROTC violates your school’s non-discrimination policy because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Left opposed ROTC before such policy existed. This government policy is the Left’s latest anti-military argument. However, this policy does not justify banning ROTC programs for students who voluntarily choose to participate.
Young America's Foundation’s Campus Conservative Battleplan lists several activities you can organize to educate students on the failures of racial preferences and to defend students’ right to participate in ROTC.