As a graduating college senior, I check emails about 20 times a day in the faint hope someone will actually contact me for a summer internship or job. Imagine my surprise when I checked it one day and noticed I had received an email from the College Republicans.
The email was in support of both the cuts and increased university autonomy included in Walker’s budget plan. I read it and thought it was incredibly vague, as well as a bit misleading. But honestly I didn’t think much of it and just went on with my day.
Yet, little did they or I know that their email would cause an explosive amount of responses. According to posts on their Facebook page, they were told to fuck off and were called ignorant and hateful. Someone even threw the word cunt in their email. Following the Facebook post, the story picked up like wildfire across conservative media. Members of the College Republicans were getting interviews with Vicki McKenna and the story of the email was picked up by both the conservative think tank The McIver Institute and the even more conservative news site The Daily Caller.
I’m definitely not writing this to defend the liberals who authored these horrible and immature emails. As someone who shares political views with many of these people, it’s really embarrassing to see them conduct themselves in that way, especially in response to an email that didn’t have an ounce of vitriol in it.
It seems like the College Republicans genuinely want to bridge the political gap and have substantive conversations about Walker’s policies. I’ve seen this first-hand from them during the last semester. I was in awe at their contributions to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election and thought they handled themselves incredibly well during the debate with the College Democrats. My problem is the email they sent was not a great example of the substantive, transcendental politics they repeatedly claim to want.
First off, just listen to the tone of the email. To me at least, the email was pretty condescending and suggested people are not able to make up their own minds and do their own research regarding political matters. This more than likely may be the case, but talking down to people is not how you get them to listen. Additionally, they claimed the UW System stashed over a billion dollars in a slush fund. But even The McIver Institute reports the true reserves, which were spread out over all the universities and saved because of expected cuts, were actually only around $175 million.
Finally, the claim of more autonomy being good for the university does not say anything about what this will do for the students. Some (like me!) have claimed this increase in autonomy for the university will potentially cause subsequent increases in tuition and further hurt the university. I’m not saying the College Republicans set themselves up to be called those nasty things. I’m just saying that if they really wanted people to listen, they should not have approached the email with such a condescending tone and with claims people know are either not true or dubious at best.
The saddest thing about this situation is that something that could have been productive and beneficial to all of us has turned into another vulgar, partisan clusterfuck. We’ve seen this time and time again. Certain sites take tweets or emails from a few people and use them to paint a whole movement with a broad brush. These emails should not be used to say that all liberals are vitriolic and hypocritical.
I’m sure if I sent emails to Waukesha County residents lauding the Affordable Care Act, I’ll probably see plenty of angry emails. Emails so angry that their contents would make the Grand Wizard of the KKK blush.
There are rude extremists on both sides. But there are also sensible people, both liberal and conservative, in between those extremes, whose voices get drowned out because their questions and concerns can’t be used to push an agenda forward. I know very liberal people who responded to the College Republicans’ email with sincere questions I don’t think were answered because of everyone’s focus on the extremists.
Trying to depict one side or another as extreme does not make your argument any better. It just muddles up the conversation and takes away from the real issues. The biggest lesson from this whole saga is that if we all want substantive political and societal change to occur, then we need to stop trying to score political points, roll up our sleeves and really get to work.