Many conservative students are involved in partisan groups like the College Republicans and see non-partisan groups as redundant, unnecessary, and unimportant.
But in fact, non-partisan, conservative groups have several advantages over partisan groups:
Principle over Party or Person: Conservative groups are more likely to actually be and stay conservative. Their mission is to stay loyal to timeless, unchanging principles rather than to party platforms that may change over time or to politicians that will sacrifice principles out of fear and self-interest. What is the point of winning if you aren’t going to use your power and influence to promote conservative principles and policies?
Greater Dedication: Because non-partisan groups are explicitly and inherently about principle, the members of those groups are naturally going to be more dedicated. People who are more dedicated to a principled cause itself than to any party or person are the most dedicated people in the world.
Resources Available: The resources available to non-partisan, conservative groups are much greater than those available to partisan groups. There are a wide variety of conservative non-profits like the Leadership Institute that cannot and do not engage in or support partisan politics.
Click here to take a look at all the wonderful benefits that non-partisan student groups recognized by the Leadership Institute can take advantage of! Take notice of the publicity/media relations and fundraising assistance in particular.
Larger Pool for Recruitment and Support: More Americans identify as conservative than with any party affiliation.
But just because non-partisan, conservative groups have these advantages doesn’t mean that partisan groups are unnecessary or do not fulfill a vital role in a conservative coalition of campus groups.
In order to develop as many dedicated and effective young conservative leaders as possible and to win political battles on campus and beyond, a coalition of many conservative groups is necessary.
The more groups on any given campus the better, provided each has an effective leader-organizer. The left has tons of student groups on the typical campus, not just the College Democrats, and they are successful because of it. Conservatives should have just as many groups, if not more.
Specialization is key to movement success:
Quality: Specialized, single-issue groups usually attract and can harness students and non-student supporters with more dedication and enthusiasm.
Leadership Development: More groups means more opportunities for students to take leadership roles and develop as leaders.
Division of Labor: Specialized, single-issue groups can also do more regular, ongoing, and effective outreach and activism on their issue area than a general conservative group which must split its time, resources, and energy among many issues. Why have one group do everything and accomplish little when you can have many groups each focusing on their one issue and accomplish a lot?
Quantity: Specialization also brings more people into the movement overall than would otherwise join with only one general conservative group. It also helps diffuse tension among students on the center-right who don’t agree on every issue.
Here are eight groups that a complete conservative campus coalition would include:
- General conservative (e.g. Young Conservatives of America, Young Conservatives of Texas)
- Students for Life (pro-life)
- Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (pro-2nd Amendment)
- Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (pro-free market environmentalism)
- Students for Love & Marriage (pro-marriage, pro-love, pro-chastity)
- Youth for Western Civilization (cultural conservatism; anti-racial preferences, anti-illegal immigration)
- Young Americans for Liberty (pro-free market and individual liberty)
- College Republicans
Partisan and non-partisan groups play different activism roles in the campus coalition.
Non-partisan, conservative student groups should focus their activist efforts on the campus, culturally and institutionally, and on Republican primary campaigns and elections. Partisan groups like the College Republicans should focus on general elections, hopefully after a principled conservative has won the Republican nomination. Non-partisan, conservative groups should help conservatives win Republican primaries; College Republicans should then help get those conservative Republicans elected.
The activism of non-partisan, conservative student groups should push the political culture, the collective political conversation on campus, as far to the right as possible. That way the College Republicans can occupy a more middle position on a political spectrum that has been shifted to the right. (Click here to learn more about this strategy called shifting the Overton Window!) College Republicans chapter leaders need to consciously understand this strategy and not join in on the left’s attempts to push back against and discredit this shift. Republicans should not throw conservative movement activists under the bus.
If both partisan and non-partisan groups understand the big picture of the coalition and how their role fits into that big picture, both the conservative movement and the Republican Party on campus will achieve more political victories.
How will this conservative coalition on campus come to be?
The general conservative group should be the foundation of the coalition. It should play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining the campus coalition. This group should become a permanent, established group on campus, serving as a human resources department for the movement on campus:
- Identifying, recruiting, and training new leaders to start the other coalition groups
- Educating about and instilling dedication for conservative principles
- Providing the other coalition member groups with manpower, research, training, and other guidance and assistance
- Directing the coalition on two crucial, mutually beneficial projects: a campus canvass and a donor/alumni canvass.
Working together, the members of the coalition can help each other identify the hot-button issues of students, donors, alumni, parents, and other supporters and channel them to the appropriate group where they will be most dedicated. Their time, energy, labor, resources, and funds are crucial to real change on a campus and beyond.
This coalition only works when student leaders see the effectiveness of and embrace the necessity of movement politics and coordination. Little, if any, individual group’s self-interest is sacrificed, for the gains more than make up for the investment in teamwork. The coalition also requires leaders to get along with each other and work together even if they don’t agree 100% on all the issues. It will require dedication, but the rewards are immense and enduring!
A few organizational features of this coalition of groups will enable it to operate effectively in practice:
Interlocking Membership/Joint Group Meetings: Initially, if one is starting from scratch, a group of eight or fewer cadre conservatives could each become the leader of one conservative “group” in the coalition and be a member of the other coalition “groups.” These student groups could hold joint meetings to discuss their progress in building up the membership of their individual groups. Each leader could help the others recruit for their groups. Organization building should be the focus of the joint meetings.
Coalition Leaders Meetings: As the membership of each individual group grows, joint meetings should give way to separate meetings for each individual coalition group. The joint group meetings should transform into meetings for just the leaders of the individual coalition groups. Inter-coalition communication and coordination and joint canvass and activism projects should be the focus of these meetings.
To start a non-partisan, conservative group on your campus today, contact your Regional Field Coordinator for advice, assistance, and many kinds of support all along the way.