It is usually assumed that Claremont’s Republicans are housed at one of two schools, Claremont McKenna College or Pomona College. It is slowly being proven that this is not the case. In the 2012-13 school year the Claremont College Republicans received funding from all five schools, a feat that has never been accomplished before. I am proud to say that there are a couple Scripps students involved with the College Republicans and am personally happy to represent Scripps as Secretary of the club.
The Claremont College Republicans now boast a member of Pitzer College, freshman and class president Felix van Der Vaart. I had the opportunity to chat with Felix about his experiences in attending a notoriously liberal college as a conservative student.
How do you define your political views?
I define myself as a conservative. Economically speaking, I am a big laissez-faire supporter and in general believe the less government intervention the better it is for the consumer and the “common man.” In this regard, I am also against progressive rate taxes. If you truly want to motivate the common man to innovate and take on the entrepreneurial spirit this nation was founded on, how can you expect to take away what he has earned and still motivate others to follow suit, knowing they will be treated similarly? People have a right to what they earn, plain and simple. In addition, allow individuals to donate where they choose. I don’t want government making those decisions for me. Socially, I’m also pretty conservative on most issues. While, admittedly there should be greater background checks within firearm sales (and to some degree, assault weapons aren’t really needed by the common man), I am a firm believer in the right to bear arms and the Constitution as a whole. Once part of that is taken away from the people, the question becomes what piece of freedom is next to go? I am also pro-life. Since life is considered “over” when the heart stops beating, and since the human heart is beating 18 days into conception, I believe that abortion of the child after this is “ending a life” unnaturally. However, as Church and State were meant to be separate, I don’t believe gay marriage should even be an issue; people should be able to do as they please. This is part of the idea of government regulating more than they should.
How did you decide to join the Republican Party?
I decided to join the Republican Party when I found it fit more of what I believe than the Democratic Party does. Note that no person should be totally aligned with one party. I think it’s important for people to think through what they believe in, more than just based on what others are all believing or what is “in” at the time (bandwagon fallacy). Additionally, it is important to continue the discussion. Not being able to relate and discuss views with the opposing party prevents progress and limits (at the very least) one’s understanding of a situation/issue.
How do you feel about being a Republican at Pitzer College?
Overall, I like being a Republican at Pitzer. Sure, a couple people have written me off, but I still have found people who have been willing to discuss things respectfully and politely, and have had great discussions and widened my knowledge and appreciation for their different views. I will say it is frustrating sometimes as some of the boldest speakers who tend to dominate class discussions are not open to contrasting opinions and I have learned some “battles” are not worth fighting, so to speak. Additionally, there really isn’t any community in this regard for me, but I knew that coming in to this school and still am proud of what I believe and enjoy being around those who are interested in discussing issues in polite dialogue. Contrary to popular belief, Republicans have souls and do care about social issues and other people as well.
Are other students accepting of your political views?
A good amount of the students are accepting, but only a few are really open to discussing politics. I think a lot of accepting people are non-confrontational but that’s understand- able with the general rush and hubbub of school life and work. That being said, I will say some people are not accepting, but that’s something you have to deal with in going to one of the nation’s most liberal colleges.
Do you feel that you are as open about your political views as your peers are?
I would say I am more open about my political views in most circumstances. That being said, I have chosen classes that are objectively graded (math and economics classes) to avoid any prejudice in grading that might come around from my contrasting beliefs. I think a lot of my peers don’t talk much about their political views since the vast majority of people agree on their views.
Congratulations on being Pitzer’s freshman president. Can you talk a little about the election process you faced?
I have to admit that I do not believe Pitzer’s election cycle was nearly as advertised as some of the other 5Cs. I do know we had the highest amount of voters in school history during this election cycle (I want to say close to a third of freshmen voted), however. I know a couple of people knew I was conservative but a lot of them were my friends already and had seen I was open to discussion and didn’t feel threatened by me. I guess the dialogue could not have been all negative as I was elected.
Have you felt attacked due to your differing views?
A couple of times but not regularly. I might get a skeptical look or a little judgment when I say something, but I have pretty thick skin from playing sports so it’s nothing serious. Like I said, a lot of people are non-confrontational so I don’t always feel attacked but I don’t always feel welcomed either.