It’s long been known that the College Republicans are a collection of villainy, with hard right youngsters turning a once relatively reasonable student organization into an ideological nightmare of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. So it’s hardly surprising that several College Republican leaders went to Charlottesville for the white supremacist rally. The worst part about this is that College Republican leadership is the first step into the wingnut welfare world. These are the people the Mercers and Kochs are going to be paying for their internet attacks and propaganda in just a few years. Pareene has a sobering piece on all of this.
Another attendee was Peter Cvjetanovic, a college student from Nevada. When photos began circulating of Republican Senator Dean Heller posing for a photo with the avowed white nationalist, it was explained that Heller couldn’t have known of Cvjetanovic’s abhorrent beliefs, as the photo-op happened merely because Cvjetanovic was a member of the College Republicans at the University of Nevada at Reno.
I’m far from the first to make this joke, but one way Senator Heller might’ve been able to tell that this kid was racist was that he was a member of the College Republicans.
I’m not merely being glib: Racial resentment has been a diving force behind College Republican recruitment for years, but at this point it’s really all they have left to offer. In the age of President Donald Trump, what inspires a young person not merely to be conservative or vote Republican, but to get active in organized Republican politics? Do you think it’s a fervent belief that Paul Ryan knows the optimal tax policy to spur economic growth? Or do you think it’s more likely to be something else?
While only a few hundred white nationalists descended on Charlottesville to unite the right, and only a couple of those white nationalists have been identified as active College Republicans, College Republican chapters have been signaling their sympathies for the goals of the marchers ever since the rise of the alt-right.
Cast your mind back to the time when the greatest threat to free speech in American civic life was liberal students attempting to shut down conservative celebrities on college campuses. What was the actual cause of that spate of stories? It was college Republican groups constantly inviting alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at campuses in order to drum up controversy. It is a trolling tactic, yes, but it is also a pretty clear sign that college Republicans are allied with Milo Yiannopoulos.
Elliot Kaufman, writing in The National Review, blames College Republicans for elevating alt-right figures like Milo. He points out that the Columbia College Republicans—Columbia! Surely the last vestige of legacy admissions drawn to conservative politics mainly to protect their inheritances, right?—has already extended speaking invites to Pizzagate propagandist Mike Cernovich and, even more bizarrely, Tommy Robinson, founder of the crypto-fascist English Defence League. They could not be making their affiliations any clearer.
The pool of people the Republican Party will be drawing from when selecting candidates a generation from now will contain these men and hardly anyone else. Cvjetanovic wasn’t the only marcher photographed with a current Republican elected official. Allsup, the erstwhile WSU College Republicans president, was photographed with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “I communicate with people from their office on a fairly regular basis,” he told his student paper a few months ago, also mentioning that members of his organization had earned to internships and jobs in her office.
This is the state of the GOP leadership pipeline. In a decade, state legislatures will start filling up with Gamergaters, MRAs, /pol/ posters, Anime Nazis, and Proud Boys. These are, as of now, the only people in their age cohort becoming more active in Republican politics in the Trump era. Everyone else is fleeing. This will be the legacy of Trumpism: It won’t be long before voters who reflexively check the box labeled “Republican” because their parents did, or because they think their property taxes are too high, or because Fox made them scared of terrorism, start electing Pepe racists to Congress.
It’s sad but true. College Republicans is effectively a near-fascist organization. These aren’t country club Republicans, looking to marry each other and have the local Republican leadership attend the wedding. These are racist young white people in a race to push each other to extremist positions. When Heller and McMorris Rodgers complain about being associated with extremism, I have a tiny amount of sympathy because they get their pictures taken with people all the time. On the other hand, the College Republicans are supposed to be building the next generation of Republican leadership. The next generation of Republican leadership are white supremacist radicals. Heller and McMorris Rodgers should know this. They rely on it for their elections.