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The future of Republicans

| Monday, August 29, 2016

When I was a junior in high school, I ran for president of the model United Nations (MUN) club. I had been a member since I was a freshman, and, while I was no longer as interested in MUN as I had been when I first joined, I knew I had to run for office. My main opponent was, in my opinion at the time, going to radically alter the course of the club in a way that was dangerous to its primary goal of regulated, intellectual discussions on the most pressing issues facing the world. How? Well, he was popular.

When I was a freshman, the club had about 20 members. In a school of nearly 2,000 students, this was quite small. We’d come together for our weekly meetings, make a few jokes about the Holy See and the DPRK, listen to our advisors talk about our upcoming conferences, and then introduce the debate topic for the evening. The executive board of the club would pass out detailed fact sheets about the conflict or problem, so that even the students with very little knowledge of the subject could create and defend reasonable arguments. It was an environment where I was challenged with problems and ideas I had scarcely considered before, where my peers truly wanted to engage in these conversations.

Before the seniors graduated, a new executive board was elected. Many of the members had decided to throw their votes to the less qualified presidential candidate as a joke, assuming the advisors would step in. They were wrong. The new president was a disaster. There was always some issue with the t-shirts or collecting money for the upcoming conferences. He even abandoned our own school’s conference to take the ACT (having known the date months in advance and that, while the exam could be done another day, his duties as secretary general could not) without telling the advisors. The club grew to 30 members, but many of them were new, and because of our president’s natural tendency towards inefficiency, few were taught to debate well.

By the third year, even under a much better executive board, the club began to split: returning members who took the club seriously and new members who just wanted two days off from school for the MUNUC conference, scheduled time to hang out with their friends, and something to put on their college applications. The group had swelled to over 60, but meetings regularly ran for nearly two hours, rarely with any debate time, and our advisors were more than a little frustrated. As one of only two members to remember Model UN as it had been freshman year, I felt my club had gone completely off the rails, and I decided it was my responsibility to get it back on the track.

My main opponent, though a third-year member, was of the new faction. He had, in fact, brought in many of the new members, because he was well-known as a fun (or at least, unintentionally amusing) guy. I thought he would be the absolute end to Model United Nations as I knew it. My fellow opponents did as well, and we all agreed that, in case of a run-off election, we would vote for one of us and not MUN’s Trump.

There wasn’t a run-off. He won by a landslide. I went home and cried. Not because I lost — fine, I cried primarily because I lost and because I took high school Model United Nations far more seriously than the actual ambassadors to the United Nations. But secondarily, I cried because I thought that, had I won, I could have changed course. I realized at the start of senior year that was not the case.

Far more frightening to consider for my fellow Democrats and those Republicans still holding out against their presidential nominee: It’s not the case now. Trump’s support is more dangerous than his presidency could ever be. He could win, and even be reelected, and spend at most 8 years fighting against the bureaucracy, the Supreme Court and Congress to put in whatever strange and unworkable policies he might want. It would be scarring, yes. But the real damage has already been done.

So many voters want change — they want some mystical return to greatness. Should we colonize Antarctica, enslave the penguins, free them over a hundred years later, then allow political and social injustices against them to continue indefinitely? They want to break down what they see as a corrupt political system, led by ‘Crooked Hillary,’ ‘Lyin’ Ted’ and crew – and they see Donald Trump as the way. The Republican Party is forever changed by this candidate who has hijacked their platform, but, more importantly, they are bound by the massive number of supporters he brought with him, all of whom want this kind of ‘Republicanism’ to stay. The party has no choice but to bow down to more polarized rhetoric and murky-at-best ideology, because that’s what people want. Republicans in Congress and famous conservatives around the country are falling in line. The Notre Dame College Republicans shamelessly gave in on a single issue – the single issue at Notre Dame, abortion – one which Trump holds merely for pandering. And while the mechanisms at work here on campus and across the nation could be studied and theorized and discussed forever, the point is that this is actually happening. I think many of us against Trump have fallen into the trap of thinking that this election is a freak accident, and if we can survive it, the parties will return to the status quo. But as much as his name appears in the media, this election is not really about Drumpf anymore. It’s about keeping the attention of his supporters, who may very well decide in the future to call themselves Republicans, independent of this candidate, campaign and election cycle. Win or lose, it seems these new Republicans are here to stay.


Dominique Estes


Aug. 27


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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