During your time as a campus activist, you will come across pitfalls or traps that can hinder your effectiveness and reduce your ability to present your ideas. Over the course of the next week, we will outline some of the most common blunders and how to avoid them.
Trap #1: Attempting To Appease The Left
Appeasing the Left is a mistake often made by political leaders in Washington, D.C. You should never attempt to appease the Left. Young activists sometimes believe that if they organize activities or host speakers that the Left will view as “educational” or that they will “appreciate,” then the Left will eventually respect the conservative club, conservative students, and their ideas. In reality, campus leftists neither understand nor care to learn about conservative ideas. They are more interested in keeping their core assumptions from being challenged.
Conservative students sometimes try to appease the Left when selecting a speaker. In doing so, they choose a speaker and topic that the Left may agree with or a speaker who they won’t find offensive. For example, some suggest we shy away from Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, or Michelle Malkin because these speakers are controversial or purportedly do not have enough “academic credentials.” Usually, the most effective speaker is someone who aggressively challenges the Left, not someone leftists or academics are “comfortable with!”
Conservative activists employing appeasement tactics only weaken their cause. First, they adopt the Left’s labels of these great leaders as being too “offensive” to engage in a “rational debate.” Second, students at your school will miss out on the opportunity to hear from a strong articulate advocate. Often, the only impression students have of conservatives is what they hear from the national news media or their professors. By giving students an opportunity to hear directly from Ann Coulter or Karl Rove, you allow students to form their own opinions of conservative leaders, minus the Left’s filter. Often, students come away from the event with a new perspective on conservative ideas.
The Left gets upset when you host prominent conservative speakers because they are effective. The Left wants you to avoid hosting speakers who can draw hundreds, if not thousands, of students to a single event. Prominent conservatives also tend to be the most experienced in forcefully tearing down leftist arguments, whereas more obscure speakers don’t have as much practice.
You should also realize that you will seldom satisfy the Left no matter how hard you try. If they believe self-censorship is required, let them begin “clearing” their speakers with you first. If you want the respect of the campus Left, you need to prove that you and your organization will not back down from advancing your ideas. They are not a filter for your ideas.
This is not to say you should even care what the Left thinks of your organization or even whether it respects you! Your goal as an activist is to reach out to the undecided or moderate students on your campus. The hard Left will most likely reject your ideas, so there is no reason you should attempt to appease them.