Conservative Students Deserve Better Representation in Campus Media

As written by a Red Tory and former editor of The Runner

Tristan Johnston, The Runner's resident devil's advocate and "small c conservative" pundit. (Photo by Braden Klassen, art by Danielle George)

Tristan Johnston, The Runner’s resident devil’s advocate and “small c conservative” pundit. (Photo by Braden Klassen, art by Danielle George)

It’s no mystery that, even in some of the most conservative areas, universities tend to be islands of liberalism. Because of this, it’s important to ensure that reasonable conservative voices are heard in student media.

It certainly isn’t hard to find reasonable, intelligent and non-bigoted conservatives in broad Canadian media, such as Andrew Coyne, David Frum and Tristin Hopper (no relation). Unfortunately, finding similar voices in university newspapers is much harder.

With Doug Ford and Donald Trump in the news, conservatism has recently gotten a pretty bad rap, and deservedly so. Trump in particular has guaranteed that, at least in the U.S., voting for the right-wing party is synonymous with endorsing Muslim bans, kicking transgender troops out of the military, and building walls. The extreme has found itself in the mainstream.

However, I would suspect that the average person who voted for Stephen Harper did so because they preferred lower taxes, a greater ease of doing business, and perhaps, more esoterically, the idea that people should become stronger instead of society becoming softer. Most conservative-leaning people in the country probably don’t really care what their neighbour looks like.

I feel that there’s a great number of young people who are turned off by backwardness on social issues and just want more careful economic policies. I have found, very anecdotally, that there are many people in Ontario right now who hate the provincial Liberals there but hate Doug Ford just as much and wish that there was an option closer to the middle.

Right now, the extremes of both ends of the political spectrum are the loudest. We need to get people with more balanced voices to be heard, because the extreme is never reasonable. Someone needs to explain why a pipeline might be good for the economy, or why lowering business tax rates is good for the average worker. Someone needs to explain the logical motivations behind voting Conservative without making swaths of people look stupid using straw man arguments.

During my time as the editor of The Runner, it was very difficult to find someone to write the kind of conservative-leaning opinions we wanted to see. After all, some 20 per cent of university-aged students voted conservative in 2015. My uneducated guess is that they’re all in the School of Business and simply couldn’t be bothered.

Admittedly, I often felt like a right-winger when I went to work. No one ever accused me of being racist or anything like that. But my single lifetime vote for the Conservatives (in 2011) was the only such vote cast by anyone in the office, it seemed. When it was time to talk about how bad Stephen Harper was, I was the person who felt the need to explain that calling him a fascist was ridiculous to the point of absurdity.

In campus publications, students shouldn’t fear conservative representation as something one sees on Breitbart or Rebel Media, but rather as a reminder that there are a lot of people who have different philosophies than them, and that there are often sound reasons for holding those views.

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