Penn’s political groups hosted the editor of a leading conservative publication on Tuesday to discuss the future of conservatism in the age of President Donald Trump.
Penn Political Coalition — the umbrella organization for political student groups — joined with College Republicans and Penn in Washington to host Reihan Salam, the executive editor of National Review, in Huntsman Hall.
Salam said his biggest concern about politics now is “racial stratification.” He emphasized the need to “have a multiracial democracy and a society in which everyone really feels like they have a chance.”
“I think that a lot of people feel that Donald Trump is a terrible person because he is this kind of a populist who represents identity politics and the idea that he will be the last person like that just seems strange,” he said, explaining that aspects of Trump’s ideology are shared by other politicians.
Moderated by political science professor Daniel Hopkins, the discussion was part of the Penn Political Coalition 2017 Policy Week.
“The big goal of this week is to bring people together on campus who are already interested in politics and public policy, but who maybe have only dealt with politics from one side,” said Wharton sophomore Owen O’Hare, Penn Political Coalition vice president of external relations and College Republicans political director. He said Policy Week invites students to participate in discussions with experts on topics such as environmental, trade and education policy.
Throughout the night, Salam addressed possible changes to policies such as immigration under Republican leadership.
“I want a society in which people who are coming from today’s poor immigrant families are going to be in a position where they can enter the elite of our society, or at least expect to have a good middle class life — and I don’t think we are there right now,” he said, adding that his parents are immigrants.
Salam, Hopkins said, was a valuable speaker for one of the week’s events because he does not conform to all aspects of Republican or conservative orthodoxy.
“Reihan is a tremendously sharp-minded, original and heterodox speaker in the best meaning of the term in an age when political orthodoxy often defines people,” Hopkins said. “Reihan’s thinking is always challenging and always grounded in principle.”
College freshman Dominic Gregorio said after the event that he enjoyed hearing Salam’s perspective because he ”[does] not align with just one party or just one ideology all the time.”
Salam said the diversity of views among self-identified conservatives has created confusion about the Republican Party’s ideals.
“One way to think about conservatives is that some people are dispositional conservatives who are comfortable with the status quo and do not want really radical change,” he said. “And there are other people who identify as conservatives, but who have a really strong ideological worldview and a really strong sense of what they want the world to look like.”
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