Opinion: Guy Benson at Drake University
Amidst a swarm of criticism from both the political left and right, Drake University appears to have extended an olive branch to conservative students and right-leaning community members on Tuesday, November 13. The Drake University College Republicans hosted Fox News contributor and editor for Townhall.com, Guy Benson, to deliver a lecture on social conservatism and the nature of the current Republican and Democratic parties. Benson has coined himself “the Millennial Conservative,” offering a fresh look into conservative ideologies that often go unheard. Demographically, the GOP is dominated by voters aged 65 and older. Gallup polling reported in 2014 a dramatic realignment of senior voters over the past two decades. In 1992, seniors made up 39% of the Republican Party. In 2013, that number rose to 48%. Benson, now in his thirties, markets himself as emblematic of the younger margin of the GOP.
The lecture delivered by Benson took on an informal tone. He sat on a stool at the front of the room, knees apart, speaking with his hands. He delivered his remarks to a room of over 100 people, including students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. His demeanor was charming and light, frequently cracking jokes with the audience. Admittedly, I laughed at most of them.
Full disclosure, I often think of myself as a liberal pragmatist. I believe in equality, I revere strong institutions, and I believe that positive, incremental change is possible. I prize democratic practices and I admire our constitution. Compared to many of my peers at Drake, I am more of a “middle-of-the-road” Democrat. There were many students like me, and many more that aligned more closely with the Warren/Sanders wing of the party in the room that evening.
I was, in all honesty, surprised by the diversity of thought in the room. I saw a woman wearing a Trump 2020 flag as a cape, a number of MAGA hats juxtaposed with Planned Parenthood backpack buttons and Elizabeth Warren t-shirts.
I was even impressed by the civility in the space. There were no disruptions (other than a few sporadic cheers in favor of Benson), the room was very tame. Based on my looks around, most people seemed to be, dare I say, enjoying themselves, even when faced with direct opposition to their core values and beliefs.
That night showed me that there is a genuine desire amongst members of the Drake community to learn about viewpoints that oppose their own. It was clear that mild discomfort was worth sharing a communal space with other politically-minded individuals. There was a genuine desire to learn from one another, which is a feeling that feels less and less common every day in the political era that we currently live in.