From a very young age, we have all heard the phrase, “It’s okay to be different!” My peers at West Chester University rightfully embrace this individual-loving philosophy. For example, our majors cover an array of topics such as education, biology, history, economics, and music. Our campus offers clubs ranging from the grit of rugby to the art of a capella groups. Truly, we encounter opportunities every day to showcase why “different” can be a good thing…except in one area: politics. A two-party political system has long dominated the United States. Anyone who does not define themselves as a conservative or liberal does not fit the norm. While the young people of West Chester agree that encouraging unique thought and traits is a positive, many of us still feel trapped in the two-party paradigm.
Coming from a conservative background, freshman year was a confusing time. I firmly believed in government allowing free trade, upholding traditional values, and securing our nation through foreign intervention and closed borders. My freshman year’s classes, however, exposed a side of the world I seldom thought about. Gay marriage seemed more and more like a civil rights issue. Keeping marijuana illegal seemed expensive and frivolous. Demonizing illegal immigrants seemed inhumane. Invading other countries in the name of self-defense seemed illogical and counterproductive.
As mounting evidence and empathy converted me to the side of social freedom and non-interventionism, I felt politically homeless. On the one hand, how could conservatives advocate small government in our economic lives while simultaneously advocating big government in our social lives and international relations? On the other hand, how could liberals advocate social freedoms while simultaneously seeing it fit for the government to control the economy as it pleases? No professors, media, or peers acknowledged that any political philosophy other than conservatism or liberalism could exist. Yet, both philosophies were overtly contradictory.
During the second semester of my freshman year, I encountered representative Ron Paul (TX) during a Republican Presidential Primary debate. Ron Paul did not fit my political view perfectly by any means, but he caught my attention in that he did not buy into the conservative belief that government should throw us in a cage for marijuana or tap our phones in the name of “freedom.” While not everything Ron Paul said appealed to me, he was the first mainstream politician I and many other youth discovered who spoke his own truth, as opposed to the “truth” that would get him conservative votes.
Finally, through some Internet searching, I realized there were many people like me. These people who do not fit the conservative or liberal models are “libertarians.” While libertarian views vary, at heart they believe government has a track record of failure and has neither the right nor the wisdom to control our social or economic lives. They include celebrities such as Drew Carey, Vince Vaughn, Penn Jillette, Big Boi, Kurt Russell, Trey Parker, and Angelina Jolie. They host TV shows such as “The Independents” and “Stossel” on Fox Business. They dare to be different. Sophomore year, I decided to embrace my unique views and join Students for Liberty on campus. Presently, as a junior, I am the president of a Students for Liberty organization that continues to grow significantly.
This growth should come with little surprise. Conservatives no longer appeal to most young people, as evident by the last Presidential election in which 60 percent of young voters chose Barack Obama. This is expected considering conservatives disagree with students on many of the issues we consider most important: gay rights, the failed Drug War, and continuing war overseas. Only 32 percent of youth voted for Mitt Romney. President Obama in his second term, however, offers little of the hope he offered in 2008. With numerous promises broken, it is evident President Obama is more of the same. Taxes have been raised on the middle-class, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) leaves much to be desired, Al-Qaeda does not appear any weaker, Guantanamo Bay remains open, our debt is mounting, and the NSA scandal demonstrates an even more intrusive policy than President George W. Bush’s Patriot Act. Furthermore, pending insolvency of government benefits bodes poorly for us students.
While both political parties blame each other for our current and future problems, both have been in power for over a century. Both are to blame. Hopelessness may be the immediate reaction, but change never derives from apathy and despair. If you believe, as many of your peers do, that we have too much debt, our Drug War is failing, gays should share in equal rights, our presence in the Middle East is counterproductive, our college debt is unsustainable, the goal of politicians on both sides of the aisle is votes, bankers should not get bailouts, the government should not tap our phone calls, or government should just leave people alone in general, consider the liberty movement. Many students on campus are already exploring the cause of liberty. Many students are joining Students for Liberty or Students for a Sensible Drug Policy which calls attention to America’s failing Drug War. Some students are even attempting to start a Young Americans for Liberty chapter on campus. The liberty movement is alive and well.
Contrary to what society has taught us since a young age, it is okay to look into different political philosophies. It is okay to break the two-party paradigm. It is okay to say, “I am my own person. No politician in Washington DC owns me.” It is okay to be different.
Tom Mandracchia is a third-year student majoring in history and secondary education. He can be reached at TM760425@wcupa.edu.