James Kirchik, a liberal writing at the libertarian DoubleThink, describes undergraduate political life at Yale, the parties currently making up the Yale Political Union, and winds up ruefully paying tribute to an organization I belong to: The Party of the Right (POR).
Mr. Kirchik is misinformed on one detail. The current Conservative Party was formed in the 1990s by a gentleman who had been defeated for a second time seeking election as Chairman of the Party of the Right. The name “Conservative Party” was technically vacant, since the real Conservative Party, tracing its history back to Union’s 1930s beginning, had in a moment of 1980s flaccidity changed its name to the “Independent Party,” having become ashamed even to be called Conservative.
The Party of the Right, early in its history, chose to create a cult of devotion to the memory of King Charles I of England, on the basis of his martrydom for the simultaneous causes of Legitimacy and Liberty. The POR Chairman wears a medal commemorating Charles I, and POR toasting sessions (a formal drinking bout held at Mory’s) are opened by the Chairman reciting Charles I’s scaffold speech, which, in part, goes:
For the people. And truly I desire their Liberty and Freedom as much as anybody whomsoever. But I must tell you, that their Liberty and Freedom, consists in having of Government; those Laws, by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves.
Sirs, It was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an Arbitrary way, for to have all Laws changed according to the power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here; and therefore, I tell you, (and I pray God it be not laid to your charge) That I Am the Martyr of the People.
Itâ€™s easy for the average student to poke fun at the bow-tied, intellectual conservative. The conservatives have fewer (though closer) friends; they are not members of the once-vaunted secret societies (with few exceptions, visible campus conservatives have been unofficially barred from Yaleâ€™s secret societies); they are not characters on the campus party scene, opting instead for â€œgame nightsâ€ with their fellow party members. But, I suspect, many Yale students know, deep down, that they are missing out on something by avoiding the political union and its misfits. Amidst all of the average Yalieâ€™s resume-whoring extra-curricular activities, hard-partying, and frantic searching for top internships and jobs, the intellectual life they had hoped to find at Yale, indeed, that they assumed would just appear the minute they walked through its ivy gates, proves ever elusive. Having become pre-professional training colleges, the modern liberal arts university is simply not what it appears to be in the movies and novels of old. Meanwhile the right-wing subculture at Yale has become the bastion of intellectual life on campus. At the PU, I always knew that getting into a debate with a Tory, Con, or a member of the POR would be more challenging than any classroom discussion. Yale students suspect that this is more or less the truth of the matter. They just wish it werenâ€™t so.
As the POR chairman said in a recent YPU organizational meeting speech, â€œGetting drunk and hungover at every opportunity may be intense, but without something more, youâ€™ll wake up one day and find yourself as empty as the keg by your head. You may find something intense in varsity sports, musical organizations, secret societies, and debating clubs, but make sure that your college experience informs your life. You need authenticity.â€
I will forever remember my days in the Yale Political Union with great fondness. There really is no body like it in the world. I know that new characters will replace the old ones, but the PU will remain its lively, irascible old self. And while I will not soon be joining any secretive conservative organizations, I will, at the very least, have a greater appreciation for Charles the Martyr.
Hat tip to Matthias Storme.