Staff Columnist

Iowa College Republicans mount revolt over rogue endorsements

Are the kids all right? Some of them are.

Person putting Republican elephant political symbol in box
Person putting Republican elephant political symbol in box

In a world where everything political is extremely stupid, it would be nice to think that young people have not yet been jaded by the cynical trickery that pervades American politics. Not so, according to an ongoing controversy among one of Iowa’s largest student political groups.

The Iowa Federation of College Republicans had an insurrection on its hands after leaders badly botched candidate endorsements for the June 2 GOP primaries. The central committee voted Thursday night to impeach its executive committee and elect new officers.

The federation, which is as an umbrella organization for local chapters, last week released primary endorsements in Iowa’s four congressional districts through news releases and social media posts.

That was peculiar, since the statewide federation traditionally does not make primary endorsements, although campus chapters sometimes do. Worse yet, many members said they were either not consulted about endorsements, or their preferences were disregarded.

It appears that some insular subset of the College Republicans’ leadership decided to go it alone and make their own endorsements, never mind the grassroots, and pervert the organization’s banner in an attempt to boast legitimacy. That’s a style of cutthroat partisan maneuvering we expect from seasoned political professionals, but not necessarily from our undergraduates.

In a statement signed by seven campus chapters — including Drake and University of Iowa, two of the largest local groups — students disavowed the endorsements.

In a letter to the National College Republicans Committee chairman, Iowa’s College Republicans dissidents cited a list of troubling allegations — including that outgoing executives initially blocked a vote on their own impeachment, and attempted “blackmail and/or extortion” against fellow student leaders.

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The ousted Iowa Federation of College Republicans chairman declined my request for a phone interview.

I have great respect for young people involved in politics, and they are allowed to make mistakes. But by influencing elections through endorsements, they are playing a grown-up game, and they deserve to be held to grown-up standards.

To be sure, this is not a problem unique to young conservatism or the College Republicans network. Convene some faithful University Democrats and their Democratic Socialists of America counterparts and I’m confident you will witness the same tensions.

America often looks to our younger generations to revive some sense of hope, idealism and unity. The politicians who rise to visionary statesman status in their parties — think Obama or Reagan — are those who harnessed young Americans’ passion.

But humans are not born with any political integrity. Whatever young people know about politics, they learned it from old people.

One take-away from this College Republicans saga is that young people are susceptible to the same toxic impulses as aged politicos. But the other take-away is that, facing an opportunistic power grab, other young people admirably swatted the hand away by making a fuss about a corrupt process.

So, are the kids all right? Some of them are.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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