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Political activism is an important student trait

By Anthony Lauriello     9/7/11 7:00pm

My second grade teacher, Ms. Clark, once told me that I could have a full conversation with a brick wall. In fact, those who know me are, for better of worse, aware of my ability to talk for long lengths of time about even the most asinine topic. Lately however, I have been having a harder and harder time discussing one of my favorite topics, politics.

The reason for this is my awkward position as a moderate conservative. American political discourse has always been polarized, but with the recent tactics on Capitol Hill, especially those of the Tea party, there seem to be only two options in American's minds: liberal democrats and the radical right.

This summer, every time I mentioned the fact that I prefer smaller government, people assumed that I believed all unions are evil. Every time I mentioned my distaste of tariffs, other people assumed I was lining up for Rick Perry's Prayerathon. It is hard to imagine the correct workings of democracy when sides are rigid that occupying the center remains impossible.

Arguing politics when there is a simple dichotomy is easy. Instead of arguing policy, you can simply spout the same lines about the faults of the other side as you further your steadfast belief in how correct you are. However, this lazy method is a lie. Obama's debt ceiling plan was a conservative one, it cut spending by vast amounts and increased revenue only through tax reform. I felt no shame in supporting it and his plan. Yet, almost no Republicans supported it. Some of this has to do with the tea party movement, but I think most of it is that it came out of Obama's mouth.

If we want a responsible small government then conservatives must follow in the tradition of pragmatism that came before us. Zealotry is not what allowed the Republican House to compromise with Clinton and make meaningful welfare reform and other successful policies. While I am depressed about the state of the national political conversation, fortunately Rice is faring far better. The three political groups on campus — the Rice Conservative Forum, the Baker Institute Student Forum and the Rice Young Democrats — represent a thoughtful way of discussing and debating politics that is rarely seen today. While not enough students participate in these three organizations, those that do remind me of what Hamilton and Madison envisioned as citizens participating in a democracy.

For my own part, as president of the Rice Conservative Forum, I can say that the homogenous face attempted by the country's current right wing has no real basis. I am far more liberal then most of my fellow members, and none of us agree on every issue. I know it is a pipe dream, but imagine how different the debt ceiling debate would have been if senators such as Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe had the gumption to publicly denounce the Balanced Budget Amendment and other polices everyone knows they do not really support. Maybe this will never happen, but it most definitely will never happen if students our age don't get involved. That's why I implore you to get involved with politics at Rice, no matter what your ideological beliefs, and help us add color to the black and white debate.

Anthony Lauriello is a Wiess College junior and Thresher Backpage Editor.

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