Coming Out of the Conservative Closet

Opinion by Alli Rath
Oct. 31, 2013, 9:28 p.m.

I distinctly remember when I came out to my dormmate during freshman year. “I — I suppose, really, I guess I’m conservative,” I stammered.

My friend’s eyes widened, and she looked quickly over both shoulders as if to make sure no one else was around. She then promptly launched herself into my arms squealing, “ME TOO!!”

The instant camaraderie we felt from having found a fellow conservative-minded student likely stemmed from the staggering lack of “out” conservatives at Stanford.

I choose the word conservative quite deliberately, because I am aware that connecting myself to the word “Republican” could elicit a response akin to admitting that I skin puppies on the weekend. Many people who self-identify as Democrats actually have views that encompass aspects of both parties, but as there is no stigma against Democrats here, one can safely self-identify as such.

Since I cannot identify with the party I voted for in the last election without receiving instant judgment from many of my peers, I am most likely to call myself a libertarian, despite the fact that a libertarian, unfortunately, has little chance of winning the presidency in the near future.

Like many young conservatives and more and more Americans (22 percent of the nation identifies as Libertarian), I have socially liberal views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, but a candidate whose beliefs align both socially and fiscally with mine has yet to emerge.

I know that I am not the only conservative student at Stanford who feels the same pressure to conceal, downplay or refuse to even broach the topic of my personal political beliefs. Tired of receiving the same raised eyebrows, barely hidden scoffs and general condescension, we — with the exception of a few brave (masochistic?) souls — have just decided that it is in our best interests to shut up most of the time.

I have witnessed students I know to be conservative do everything possible to avoid discussing their political beliefs. If issues of voting come up, it usually takes the other student three or four passes to weasel any concrete statements that could be tied to the conservative candidate, movement or the Republican Party.

I hate feeling ashamed of my beliefs here, but being the only dissenting opinion in the room can be deadening at times.

I am not ashamed of my beliefs; I am genuinely convinced that the worst possible political developments in terms of both domestic and international ramifications are further increasing debt and deficit, larger government and less emphasis on state government and free enterprise.

Just because I hold these beliefs and have chosen to base my vote upon them does not mean I am an anti-feminist bent on robbing women of their rights; it does not mean I have weekly beers with my best friend Todd Aiken; and it certainly does not mean that I support all of the actions of the Republican Party.

It actually does not even mean that I hold starkly different views from a majority of the Stanford community. In writing this article, I hope to encourage some of my fellow students to stop mentally linking the word “conservative” with “out of touch,” “ignorant,” “sexist” or “racist.”

These associations can often be presumptuous and hateful and only serve to halt what could be lively debates that have the potential to inform students on both sides of the political spectrum.

And don’t worry; I’ll continue doing my best to not assume that all liberals are idiots.

Contact Alli Rath at allirath ‘at’

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