The late Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld (1925-1990) was a genial giant of about six-six with broad shoulders. He once entered his bank, a student in tow, to cash a check. The teller was awed by his size and blurted: “Wow, you are the tallest rabbi I have ever seen.” When she saw the amount on the check, she sent him upstairs to the manager’s office.
“I don’t know about this, Rabbi,” the manager clucked. “Your account lately has been a bit short.”
“You see the lesson?” Freifeld asked his student. “Down here people think we’re tall, but up there they know we’re short.”
As true as this is of life in general, it is more poignant by half when applied to what remains of the Republican Party. The farrago of futility that has recently attended their efforts has not cost the midgets running the party any sleep. They think they know it all, if not more, and their time would now be best spent running down the one effective campaigner of recent years, Sarah Palin. Probably I am not alone in looking forward eagerly to see what delights they have in store for us in coming years.
But what about “up there”? When seen from a higher vantage point, is it all desolation from here on out?
HERE IS MY IDEA. It strikes me that the cycle of defeat will almost inevitably continue unless the Republicans go on offense a little earlier in the education of the individual citizen.
Remember how the odds are stacked. Each American attends elementary school with all Democrat teachers. Thence to high school, all Democrat teachers. TV and newspapers, all Democrats. There are some Republicans on radio, but radio is boring. Onward to college, with all Democrat professors, but wait… who says that Democrats have to own college too?
Actually, going to college is your first individualistic move. There is no government compulsion, no parental control. For once you are engaged in a Republican free-enterprise limited-government type of move and it feels good. Democrats are hijacking that delivery but that need not be the case.
So how about this for an approach to revitalizing the College Republicans and converting it from nerdy to cool? The College Republicans, perhaps under a new name, should design a strategy stressing how the very independence university life should foster is expressed in the conservative view of governance. The way to do it might be to drive a put-up-or-shut-up wedge into the college population with this implicit challenge: Are you really your own person?
Driving around campus would be a huge thrill if half the cars had a bumper sticker saying: “If your parents made you go to college — you are a Democrat. If you went to college on your own — you are a Republican!”
Try these: “Those who can’t do, teach… that the government should do it all.” “I came to college to be stand on my own two feet, not on Uncle Sam’s stilts.”
The larger point is this. We have grown accustomed to the notion that the college years tend naturally to leftism, because people are not yet (for the most part) required to earn their own money. This is ceding vital territory to the Democrats, giving them a four-year head start on Republicans for winning hearts and minds. Every new Republican needs to be not only won over, but won away from a first love. Bad for business, that.
By taking up the cudgel and fighting hard to inspire young college students, with the argument that freedom from government control is cool and liberating, the playing field can be significantly leveled.
The proof that I am right is the late Sixties and early Seventies when the Democrats swelled the ranks of their voters by using this exact method. The government was described as fascist and warlike, and pushing back against its excesses was the quintessential expression of collegiate liberation. The government represented Republican law-and-order, the enemy of freedom.
Live free or die, the American Revolutionaries said, and it is the Republican Party of today that expresses this sentiment. A party that can’t sell freedom to a college student is not likely to win many elections.