Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorial originally appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
When politically active Republican students at Washington’s two largest public universities had their state and national charters revoked, followed by the University of Washington College Republicans losing their status this month as a registered student organization, it grabbed our attention.
Censorship of any kind is detrimental to the intellectual laboratories that universities are supposed to support; it’s why we object when student groups are criticized for inviting controversial speakers to campus, or when they’ve been shut down for being “offensive” or “triggering.” You don’t have to like ideas to defend them, and defend them we will.
Still, the College Republican National Committee and its state affiliate, the Washington College Republican Federation, had a right to withdraw their official blessing from students who crossed the boundaries of what the 125-year-old CRNC deems decent.
When it revoked recognition of the Washington State University College Republicans in January, the federation cited promotion of a “radical ideology.” The chapter was formerly headed by James Allsup, who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a white nationalist group and who reportedly attracted like-minded individuals to WSU’s club.
WSU Republicans also drew attention for escapades such as trying to build a Donald Trump replica border wall on campus.
Their counterparts at the UW Seattle have staged eye-rolling stunts, too, such as an affirmative action bake sale where the price of cookies varied by a customer’s race and gender. Their state and national charter was revoked for alleged “hurtful and inappropriate conduct,” a reputation magnified by inflammatory social media posts and right-wing rallies that spun out of control.
It had to be an embarrassment for a university that produced Dan Evans, Washington’s former three-term governor and a paragon of moderate Republicanism.
Clearly, Republican organizations are unhappy with the direction young Washington conservatives are going, and they’re chartering other students to take up a more moderate mantle at UW and WSU.
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But if they want students to return to those traditions, they’ll first have to send in some clear-headed role models and be clear about what constitutes acceptable behavior.
Right now, students take most of their cues from social media, where they can be as outrageous and divisive as they want. It’s a tactic President Trump uses daily.
There’s no need to go into the litany of ways Trump has demonstrated incivility, but it’s important to note, the CRNC has never formally or informally criticized the president. And yet when students matched Trump’s vitriol, they were disenfranchised.
University students took the CRNC’s silence as consent, and now they’re being punished for it.
The CRNC can’t expect these young Republicans to party like it’s 1969. The measured tones of old-guard moderates like Dan Evans and Nelson Rockefeller have been replaced with a much louder mouthpiece.
But not all conservatives wear red hats that say “Make America Great Again. Moderates serve in the Washington Legislature and in municipal governments; unfortunately their voices can’t be heard over chants of “Fake news!” “Send her back!” and “Lock her up!”
The removal of college charters should serve as a wake-up call not only to Washington university leaders, but to center-right Republicans in our state who are slow to realize their roots are being choked out by weeds spread by the cult of Trump.
If old school conservatism is to make a comeback, Republicans must be willing to get their hands dirty tending the soil.