By Adam Khan ('23)
As polarization overshadows America’s politics, and division sweeps the country, many residents of South Brunswick are familiar with the Democratic and liberal beliefs, but what about the perspective of other political ideologies?
The Republican party dates back to the 1850s when antislavery leaders joined forces to oppose the extension of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories by the proposed Kansas-Nebraska Act. The party is famously attributed as being founded by Abraham Lincoln. During the 20th and 21st centuries, the party came to be associated with economic capitalism, the thought of a smaller government, lower taxes, and conservative social policies.
Dr. Justin Negraval, a political literacy teacher at SBHS, said, “Like many political parties, their core beliefs have changed over time. From their foundations as the anti-slavery party of Lincoln to the GOP leadership embracing the doctrines of Donald Trump, they continue to flex and change. Through the late 1800s into the early 1900s different groups have moved in and out of the party through various stages of what's known as ‘realignment’. However, I think it's fair to say that there are certain core Republican beliefs such as limited government, an emphasis on personal responsibility, and the role of traditional religious and family values that come back time and time again.”
Within the Republican Party is a spectrum from those having center to further right beliefs, broadly known as conservative. Some beliefs of conservatism include; individual freedom, limited government, peace through strength, free markets, transcendent order, the right to life, the right to bear arms, and several more concepts and ideas.
One of the criticisms of the Democratic party that people often cite, is the disagreement within the Democratic party itself, leading to a stalemate in government decisions. With the main two wings, Moderates and Liberals, some propose to split the Democratic party into two, with a separate moderate party, and a liberal one. The ‘Progressive Left’ make up just 12% of Democratic voters, yet has a significant influence within the government. That is not to say Republicans do not have disagreements in their tent.
In an exclusive interview with Chairman of New Jersey High School Republicans, William Atkins, he said, “The Grand Old Party (GOP) is truly the big tent party. Some Republicans are more libertarian and moderate while others are more socially conservative. Because there are so many wings of the party, which are sometimes at odds with each other, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what the GOP stands for. I would say that the party most strongly represents a compromise, both between its wings and other parties.”
Atkins is a sophomore at Bridgewater-Raritan High School. Despite being interested in conservatism since 2017, he first became active in local politics in 2020, where he participated in door-knocking for Tom Kean for Congress and helped re-establish the Somerset County chapter. Atkins is a part of the New Jersey High School Republicans, which is a statewide political organization that serves as an entry point to Republican politics for youth activists from across the state.
Founded in 1965 as the Teen Age Republicans of New Jersey, NJHSR is currently one of three youth auxiliaries of the NJGOP and an official state chapter of the National Teenage Republicans.
In another exclusive interview, Chairman of Passiac County Teenage Republicans, Nicholas Stilianessis explained the purpose of establishing a Republican youth group.
He said, “The point is that student voices should be heard. Our goal is to let the adults that vote hear and understand our viewpoint. When adults vote, minors are affected in every little detail, so every vote counts.”
One of the biggest factors of ensuring a stable and well-versed political field in America is contingent upon the youth seeking knowledge and being involved with their politics, whether that be discussions, or keeping up with current events.
Stilianessis said, “I would encourage students to reach out to their local politicians. I encourage them to also sign up for their local Republican clubs and High School clubs. Don’t hold yourself back if you're not interested in Republican politics, our group represents the broader patriots of America who wish the best for the country.”
Unfortunately, many stereotypes of Republicans adhering to racist or ignorant views have been spread by various media outlets for the past few decades. Many young students might refrain from exploring other political ideas, and by default lean towards a more leftist view because of this. This often inaccurate image has also caused many to conceal their political beliefs out of fear of being falsely labeled as something they are not.
Atkins said, “To students who perceive the Republican party negatively, Republicans are not simply old and out-of-touch white men. The party is full of all the different types of people in our nation. Young, old, black or white, men and women. Skin color and sex don’t matter as long as you have a love for America and its liberty.”
Conservative values are also found within many cultures and neighborhoods within America. For example, churches are a cornerstone for Black and Hispanic Christians, with temples for Buddhists and Hindus, as well as the minarets of mosques for Muslim Americans
Late Kansas Senator Bob Dole, during a 1996 speech in the Republican Convention of San Diego said, “But if there is anyone who has mistakenly attached himself to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race or religion, then let me remind you. Tonight this all belongs to the party of Lincoln and the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of, as I stand this ground without compromise.”
After his statement, the crowd burst into cheers and applause. Unfortunately, Dole passed away earlier in December of 2021. He had served in World War II and later became involved with American politics for over 70 years conveying the beliefs and face of the Republican party. He had come from a political time period in which people of different political views had mutual respect for one another, and many aspects of life were not made political. Entertainment mixing with politics and reality in recent years has become all too common, thus leading to the spreading of stereotypes.
Moreover, in SBHS, there is no established Republican Youth organization. Instead, there are other politically-related clubs such as The Dead’s President’s society, Amnesty, Model UN, and others.
Dr. Negraval opined on the possibility of a Republican and/or Democratic club in the future.
He said, “I think it's very possible to start a school-sanctioned club... perhaps a "Young Republicans" club. Despite the political nature of such a club, it would be regarded as a "special interest" activity and as long as a faculty member is willing to moderate it, then the club should be able to run. I believe there is precedent for these clubs even in the past at SBHS... and certainly around the country.”
For many students, this would be a great opportunity to represent their beliefs and socialize with like-minded students. A fresh way for students to participate in politics respectfully.
Junior Amaan Kashif said, “I’d love to participate in a young Republican club if SBHS introduced one. Politics has always been something I had an interest in, and a youth club would be a great platform to exchange ideas.”
For many students, their political ideology, whether they were influenced by their family, media, or religion, can dictate many aspects of their lives and decisions. Supporters note that it is essential to have political education for our youth. Not only does it build a better future, but one where others tolerate opposing beliefs. Whether an individual may be a Democrat or Republican, or an independent, finding common ground leads to stronger unity, something much needed in our current political atmosphere.