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Why we wore red for ‘Progressive Day’

Notre Dame College Republicans | Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yesterday College Democrats sponsored an event called “Progressive Day.” Inviting all of those on campus who consider themselves progressive to wear blue, the campus political group cites that the reason for Progressive Day was to expose the fact that progressives on campus do exist and are actually quite numerous.

The Facebook event page questions:

“Do you ever feel like you’re the only progressive student on campus? Have you ever been afraid to watch Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert in a public place? Have you ever had an itch to speak out but felt that your message was unwelcome?” Then it goes on, “Well, fellow progressives, fear no more.”

Thus, there seems to be some perception of an anti-progressive machine on Notre Dame’s campus, one that stifles the freedom of students to speak their “progressive” minds.

But what defines this idea of “progressivism?” The posters advertising Progressive Day call upon members of the Notre Dame community to wear blue in support of “social justice and environmental harmony, an equitable and sustainable society based on tolerance and a respect for human dignity that demands access to the American Dream for all.”

With terms such as these, it is fitting for College Republicans to feel left out from sponsoring Progressive Day. Indeed, social justice, the environment, an equitable and sustainable society, human dignity, and the American Dream aren’t what Republicans are looking to destroy. Quite to the contrary, the ideals embodied in yesterday’s event, vague as they may be, constitute nothing that the Republican Party opposes. That is, if “Progressivism” is what College Democrats are touting it to be, then Republicans find themselves in strong support of this political movement.

That being said, we feel a little slighted that students and faculty were asked to wear blue on a day championing this brand of Progressivism. A move like this not only presents human rights and equality goals as single-party issues (which they’re not, at all), but it contributes to the demonization of Republicans both on and off campus. In wearing the color of the Democratic Party in support of the issues mentioned above, a false dichotomy is created, one that mischaracterizes Republicans, casting us as the opposition party to the American people. This is not the case, and it offends us to be portrayed as such.

Purple would have been a better color to express the ideals of the day, with Republicans and Democrats apparently unified on Progressive ideals. Even white, the color of peace, would have been nice. Or black, indicating our mutual solemnity at the fact that global inequality and recognition of human dignity remains unachieved. Instead, blue was worn, falsely painting the very relevant issues behind Progressive Day as solely Democratic, united against a dastardly red menace that comprises the non-left.

This brings us back to the invented oppression of progressives on campus by a cruel right. “Fear no more,” should more have been, “What are you afraid of?” There’s no suffocating conservative presence on campus threatening students from watching Stewart and Colbert. In fact, ironically enough, the last College Republicans meeting included a smart and rather hilarious critique of the Obama administration’s empty promises- by none other than Jon Stewart.

There’s no threat to those who want to speak their minds but aren’t conservative. Coming from the very club that is in political opposition to College Democrats, we would never condone unfair quashing of liberal views. There should be no reason for anyone in the Notre Dame community to fear speaking up or supporting a side of politics — and that’s not a unilateral issue.

So, when progressivism is defined in terms of compassion and desire for the preservation of human dignity, College Republicans indeed find themselves amid the progressive bunch on campus. In realizing this, but also in realizing that issues like those “Progressive Day” is about fall under the domain of not one, but both major political parties on campus, we’re showing our support by wearing red. It’s not done in mockery; it’s not done in protest of the causes.

Having attended the Progressive Day rally on South Quad, goodwill from some was obvious. Professor Julia Douthwaite’s speech on bipartisanship and becoming informed spoke volumes, and she exemplified her point by wearing both blue and red. Others were less encouraging, bringing partisanship into the debate, but the overall “pro-neither-Party” message was well-received.

If the ideals being promoted by College Democrats comprise Progressivism, please let the College Republicans into the movement. If that seems at all unfitting, perhaps Progressivism should be explained further.

This column was written by members of the Notre Dame College Republicans: Josh Varanelli: president; Guillermo Pi: vice-president; Amanda Randolph: treasurer; Michael DeJaegher: secretary. The club can be contacted at colrep@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.