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Brandeis Republicans: the right side of ‘Deis on Super Tuesday

By Ariel Wittenberg

Section: Features

February 15, 2008

It’s 9 p.m. in East Quad’s airport lounge. The Phillips T.V. is blaring FOX news, and Karl Rove is the guest analyst. Six to seven Brandeis students are sitting around, watching as the “tsunami Tuesday” results role in. Mitt Romney is up in Massachusetts, no surprise—but Obama just won Connecticut.

The students in the lounge are upset—they want Hillary to win the Democratic nomination. But while many of them would rather that Hillary was President over Barack Obama, the real reason why they want her to win in the primary elections is so that she can loose in the general one.

This is not the typical scene at Brandeis on “tsunami Tuesday,” or, frankly, on any Tuesday. At a school where “democrats have more fun” t-shirts are worn and the one joke you know everyone will laugh at is one about President George W. Bush’s latest grammatically incorrect sentence, it seems surprising to think that anyone would prefer to watch FOX news over some other, more liberal, news outlet.

But those six to seven students in the airport lounge are not your average Brandeis students. They are a part of the few, the proud, the Brandeis Republicans.

“Obama’s pretty charismatic. If he won, I don’t know if McCain could beat him, but Hillary’s polarizing,” said President of the Brandeis Republicans, Amanda Hecker ’10, who supports McCain for President. “McCain could beat her.”

There is one Hillary supporter in the room, who, after hearing Hecker say this, immediately tries to convince the room that “the Clintons know how to win elections.”

But when FOX cuts to a shot of Hillary speaking, the room erupts in protests.

“Tonight…” Hillary says to a sea of supporters holding up red, white and blue “it’s time for a change” signs.

“We dine in hell,” interrupts a boy sitting closest to the T.V., who has been checking various political blogs on his Dell laptop all night.

No one in the room, not even the Hillary supporter, can help but to burst out laughing, and it’s all down hill for Hillary from there as the conversation quickly turns to the question of whether or not Hillary has had plastic surgery, or botox, or both.

“Can I make a radical request?” one of the boys sitting in the chair furthest away from the T.V. interrupts, meekly.

The rest of the students turn to him.

“Can we check out CNN for a bit?”

The boy is quickly shut down. Fox news is much better. FOX news is where it’s at. And, according to another boy with glasses sitting in the corner, “FOX news has hot women.”

A girl with brown wavy hair down to her shoulders turns around and says, “That’s ‘cause Conservative women are hot.”

While the Brandeis Republicans may not be your average Brandeisians, they certainly aren’t who the average Brandeisian would expect upon hearing the word “Republican.”

All of the Republicans in the room support McCain, although some supported Giuliani until recently.

If Mitt Romney won the nomination, some say they would vote for Obama. Almost all of them say that they would vote for Obama if Huckabee got it.

“I think that people assume that I’m from the South, or from the Bible belt when they find out that I’m a Republican,” Hecker said. “But I’m from New Jersey.”

Hecker also mentioned, however, that her being a republican at Brandeis has not been an issue for her.

“I don’t feel ganged up on at all,” she said. “When people find out that I’m a Republican, it’s like when they find out someone’s left handed. They say it with the same tone of voice. ‘Oh, you’re left handed? Oh, you’re a Republican?’ They only really comment about it because we’re a minority here. Most people don’t know that we exist at Brandeis.”

Yet while Hecker, like most of the Republicans in the room, says that being Republican is not a problem for her at Brandeis, after talking to them, it’s clear to see that they probably get stereotyped just as much as, if not more than, any other minority group here.

There is an ever-apparent attitude among the Republicans that while they are not the victims of biases, they are certainly misunderstood.

At least two of the people in the room come from families where one or both of their parents are Democrats.

Hecker is one of them, but said that her parents “raised her with conservative values” and so being a republican seemed like the right choice for her when it came time for her to register. Hecker also said that her older brother is a Republican.

Asher Tanenbaum ’08 only regstered Republican over winter break so that he could vote for McCain after being registered Democrat in order to vote for Jo Lieberman in 2004. He says that he’s a particularly unique Republican because he is both Pro-War and Pro-the environment.

These are the types of Republicans that the average Brandeis student wouldn’t expect, according to Hecker.

‘There are a lot of liberals here that are not as open minded as they say they are,” she said. “There’s a lot of sides, many more than what most people believe.”

Andrew Brooks, ’09 agrees with Hecker.

“We’re not all George Bush clones or investors that want to take advantage of poor people,” said Brooks, who voted for Bush in ’04. “That’s not what the Republican Party is about.”

Brooks is quick to remind you that Abraham Lincoln founded the Republican Party and that “the Democratic party was the one of the racist bigots in the 1950’s.”

According to Brooks, Abraham Lincoln would still be a Republican if he were alive today.

“We still stand for the same ideals of rough individualism and doing it yourself that we did all those years ago,” he said. “I don’t see Abe seeing a welfare state and expecting the government to save people from themselves.”

Many of the Brandeis Republicans, including Brooks, take a page from the libertarians—they are conservative on economic issues and issues of national defense, but liberal on social issues.

“The Media always portrays republican’s as backwards people,” Brooks said. “We are not bible-thumping preachers that want to legislate anti-gay positions and who want to have school prayer.”

As he says this, Fox news pans to Karl Rove. The subtitles at the bottom of the screen say “Latte Liberals v. Black Coffee Conservatives”—referring to the “caffeine stereotypes” of each party.

“Latte Liberals,” Rove explains, is a term invented by conservatives to describe the “holier than thou” attitude that many upper class, New England liberals have. These liberals are Starbucks-goers who read the New York Times every morning and think that that makes them better than the rugged, honest working “black coffee conservatives” of the Republican Party.

Karl Rove says that he is 100 percent “black coffee conservative” and that every good republican is.

Brooks, on the other hand, breaks not only the political stereotypes of the two parties, but the “caffeine stereotypes” as well.

“I would consider myself a Latte Conservative. People think that conservatives are hicks from the Bible belt and that liberals are well educated new Englanders, and that’s true to some extent. But there are poor Democrats living in rural areas and there are a lot of educated Republicans out there and here at Brandeis,” Brooks said.

“I drink chai-tea lattes all the time. I go to Starbucks. I drive a Volvo. I like to eat sushi. I watch the Daily Show. And I’m from the northeast. I’m everything that people say in the conservative party to put down the Democratic Party—except that I’m obviously not a left wing nut job”

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