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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

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Upholding true conservative values means standing with Senator Todd Young

The Notre Dame College Republicans' stance challenges the core tenets of American conservatism and sparks a broader discussion on the future direction of the GOP

In a recent move, the Notre Dame College Republicans withdrew their endorsement of Sen. Todd Young, citing his refusal to align closely with former President Trump. This decision, framed around “allegiance” to a single individual over foundational conservative values, merits a thorough examination and, indeed, a reasoned challenge.

In the aforementioned tweet, ND College Republicans announced on March 19 that “Dedication to President Trump is more important than any ‘principled conservative’ position [Young] claims.” 

Evaluating dedication to any individual as the sole adjudication of one’s fitness for office indicates that ND College Republicans are more interested in parroting purity tests reminiscent of the Kremlin than articulating substantive policy disagreements.

While ND College Republicans openly deride principles in one sentence, they cite Young’s supposed abandonment of “America First” principles in the next, saying, “It is time to replace the Indiana political establishment with America First.”

Expecting total loyalty to Trump, although Orwellian and ill-advised, is at least honest. The same can’t be said for ascribing “America First” principles to Trump, a man whose conciliatory tone toward Vladimir Putin and ongoing refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election offend anyone who values American principles.

To suggest that loyalty to Trump should supersede a commitment to such enduring principles is to fundamentally misunderstand the very principles of American conservatism. Conservatism, at its core, champions individual liberty, limited government, free markets and a robust national defense. Young's legislative record aligns with these tenets, showcasing his role in pivotal legislation, from national security enhancements to economic reforms that spur innovation and growth. From any policy or ideological perspective, it is purely illogical to remove Young from the GOP.

Beyond the language of the tweet itself, its timing alone reveals that ND College Republicans take no issue with Young’s political positions or legislative record. Their endorsement of Young ultimately remained after he attributed responsibility to Trump for Jan. 6, after Trump refused to endorse Young in his 2022 Senate race and after Young refused to support Trump in the 2024 GOP Presidential primary. If Young didn’t previously “kiss the ring,” why have ND College Republicans only now cared?

The answer, of course, lies in their introspective and subconscious recognition of the frailty of their candidate. The growing chorus of Republicans, many of whom served in Trump’s administration, who refuse to endorse Trump now includes his own Vice President, Mike Pence. Someone needs to remind ND College Republicans that silencing dissidents is possible in a country where Jan. 6 had succeeded. Because of Mike Pence, it didn’t.

Apart from ignoring ideological agreement with Young, do ND College Republicans not see the irony of demanding total allegiance and submission from fellow Republicans to a man who so flippantly disregards his own oaths to office and constitutional responsibilities?

Despite the “Make America Great Again” movement not attempting to hide their destain of moderate Republicans who they label “RINOs,” ND College Republicans’ performative purity test for fellow Republicans directly contradicts their own self-interest. 

It will inevitably occur to Republican voters that Trump’s endorsement now earns little more than an invite to Mar-a-Lago and a late-night Truth Social shoutout. Hand-selected Trump loyalists have time and again proven to be rat poison for Republicans in general elections after 2016. Dismissing the likes of Todd Young or Mike Pence is not a declaration of an ideological victory, it is an irrational surrender of critical political support.

If Republicans are interested in electoral success in November, they would be better off broadening their coalition by inviting those who agree on many policies into their fold. It’s a shame ND College Republicans have strayed so far from Ronald Reagan, who wisely reminded us that “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an 80 percent friend and not a 20 percent enemy.” 

Young has proven, most importantly, that compromise is not a dirty word – it’s effective legislating – and is harder than shouting during the State of the Union or aligning blindly behind a man so vastly hampered and incapable of implementing conservative policies. 

Punishing one of Washington’s most bipartisan senators for the crime of expressing any disagreement with Trump shows that ND College Republicans are more interested in enforcing absolute conformity than they care to reward a productive, bipartisan and pragmatic leader. I find it curious that a party so infatuated with President Biden’s age and supposed senility would themselves prefer to elect puppets.

Sadly, ND College Republicans have followed the path of today’s GOP – trapping themselves into defending the indefensible. ND College Republicans don’t have to partake in the same attacks on their fellow party members – an exercise of hubris unbecoming of a party that has so willingly strolled into repeated electoral defeats. Notre Dame students are smart – they should know better than to blindly drink the Kool-Aid.  

The Republican Party stands at a crossroads, where it must decide whether to anchor itself to the whims of one man or to the enduring principles that have historically defined it. Pushing out voices like Young's — voices of moderation, pragmatism and profound commitment to American ideals — diminishes the party’s credibility and effectiveness.

In embracing leaders like Young, the GOP can begin to reclaim its standing as a party of principle, not personality — a party that values the rule of law, the integrity of our democratic institutions and the welfare of the American people above all. In doing so, they can revive not just the legacy of a party, but the enduring promise of our nation.

You can contact Thomas at tdobbs@nd.edu. 

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