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Wail of the Voice

I was sitting on the Orange Line on my way home from Romney for President HQ in Boston. It was late July, hot and muggy, and I was all but exhausted from the four coffee runs, 100-plus faxes and nine games of minesweeper I had accomplished that day. With my intern badge dangling from my neck, apparently I was a welcome sign for some healthy political dialogue. A middle-aged woman approached, stared longingly at my name tag, and scornfully scoffed, “I hope working for the Devil is worth it, young man.”

Being a Republican at Penn isn’t much better.

In an interview with 34th Street magazine earlier this semester, I quipped that working for the Romney campaign, “was by far the most uncomfortable thing to say in a bar.” On campus, if romantic interest is sparking too quickly with a girl, she is bound to introduce me to her friends as “The Republican”, to assure them that our relationship is completely platonic.

These social downsides, however, don’t really capture the true angst one experiences as a conservative on campus.

In the interest of full disclosure — and if you let your eyes wander down to the blurb at the end of this column — you’ll quickly find out that I am not an American citizen. Nonetheless, this country’s internal politics — despite all of its partisan polarization, seemingly incapable Congress and hatred of undergrads drinking alcohol — enthralls me.

So let’s take a step back from the “woe is me, I’m from the GOP” narrative. It’s not that I feel stranded on some island with kids from Texas and Wharton, isolated from the Penn community’s political discourse — I just don’t believe there is any.

As vice president of College Republicans, students are quick to disagree with me. Trust me, I heard tougher jests during the campaign season on campus than “working for the Devil” can encapsulate. But that is the beauty of being a member of the so-called opposition.

By its very nature, I am thrown into more potentially riveting debates, interesting bar-banter and am given more time in the classroom to voice my opinions. To an extent, people enjoy disagreement. I get to be the Devil’s advocate that actually means what he is saying.

This dialogue, however, quickly shifts to an overarching ideological or philosophical battle, rather than one that challenges any specific policies endorsed. Students are prone to discuss the moral, not the legislatively possible.

Therefore, my fellow students, we have a major disconnect. What Penn lacks is a policy-oriented mindset. It’s a rarity when students truly engage in the details of legislation, the chances a bill has of passing or how said bill actually affects the student body. A great example of this is Pell Grants during the election season.

Prior to Nov. 6, 2012, a solid talking point for pro-Obama students was a comparison between Romney and Obama’s platforms on Pell Grants. President Obama has followed through on his promise towards students that he made during the campaign cycle. He has raised the allocation to the Department of Education by 4.5 percent, which translates to helping 50 percent more students than in 2008. But this is not a conversation you will have on campus.

During the election season, students at Penn partook in the spectator sport of politics with relentless enthusiasm. Now that Obama has been re-elected, the student body has, on average, officially checked out of anything policy-oriented.

We repost trending articles about gun control and change our profile pictures to equal signs, but don’t have a discourse about how Proposition 8 or DOMA even surfaced.

Penn is in a race towards social apathy, and we’ve allowed that to cross over into political apathy as well. Forgive me for the intellectual elitism, but more should be expected from an Ivy League university.

Instead of Boston, I’ve accepted the irony of spending this summer in Chicago. I’ve traded in my Romney intern badge for a more innocuous suit and tie combo. I doubt my summer will contain the same fiery jests — as once experienced on the Boston T — but part of me will be eager to re-experience them in the fall. And while jests make for good anecdotes, let’s not end it there.

Don’t tell me that I’m wrong, tell my why I’m wrong.

Anthony Liveris is a College junior and vice president of College Republicans from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. His email address is Follow him @AnthonyLiveris. “Liberatus” appears every other Monday.

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