Young Americans for Liberty’s Flaw

Promoting liberty on our college campuses across our nation is important. In fact, it is one of the most important activities one can do if he or she wishes to advance the principles of limited government to our next generation of students. However, neither of the two largest student devoted college organizations, the College Republicans nor the College Democrats can be relied upon for this task. Sure, both of these groups may do so from time to time and on certain issues, but the simple truth is that the overall focus of these groups is to advance political parties and their candidates, but not principles.

Image from YAL's Facebook page
Image from YAL’s Facebook page

With the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, several groups came into being that sought to advance liberty first and foremost. One such group, Young Americans for Liberty, focused primarily on colleges and college-age individuals. On my own I have been actively assisting and encouraging liberty-minded college students and political dialogue for the last five or so years. Therefore, as you might imagine, I eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to join forces with a group like YAL. Unfortunately, the opportunity never seemed to present itself. At our local university of James Madison groups blossomed and quickly disappeared. Over the last several years two separate YAL groups sprung up and died.

But, last year, that changed. I heard that the Virginia State Director of YAL had moved on to other things and they now had an opening, which I jumped to fill. In November of 2015, Students for Liberty (another pro-liberty pro-student group) held a conference at the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While there, I met with the regional coordinator for YAL and briefly discussed the opening for a state director and the conversation seemed promising. When I returned to my computer, I sent her a copy of my resume.

The Young Americans for Liberty stater kit
The Young Americans for Liberty stater kit

Several weeks later, I was called for an interview that went really well.   As a test and prelude to employment, I was asked if I would be willing to try and set up YAL chapter at one of our local colleges. Although I don’t like the idea of working for free (after all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?) the thought of finally working for YAL convinced me to allay my misgivings and give it a shot. They asked me to come up with a plan to promote student activism and, based upon my work and experience with other political organizations I did. They then sent me a box of materials for tabling and I traveled to the nearby Bridgewater College to see what I could set up. I ran into a snag with the college administration and, with winter finals and the break only a week or two away, it became readily apparent that there was not time to set something up. I then visited Eastern Mennonite University, but ran into similar time constraints.

Therefore, I sent the regional coordinator this message on December 17th:

Well, as you predicted, trying things so close to break has put a damper on the plans.  However, I have spoken with one student and although we don’t have a date set yet, we are planning to meet some time this break.  And then when break is over we will see what happens.  Besides that, I’m looking forward to Star Wars, but who isn’t?

If you could put a good word for me to the people at YAL I would appreciate [it].

Thanks and have a great day!

Joshua

I hoped to try and set something up at a local college for early in the next semester as I waited for the YAL representative to get back in touch with me. Weeks passed. Then, on January 7th, I finally heard back. In the reply, I received some shocking and dismaying news.

Here’s the most important paragraph from their email:

“…I don’t doubt your abilities and I really would like to see you be a part of the movement, but the biggest hick-up that I’ve come across is your previous involvement with YAL. With the way our field program is structured all of our state chairs have been involved with YAL in the past, in one leadership role or another. This is to verify that they know what a successful YAL chapter looks like and what it takes to make one. With you, you have never been a part of a chapter with no fault of your own, but they will not let me bring you on because of that and this will not change in the future.”

Note what they are saying. I wasn’t being rejected either due to a lack of expertise or talent. Apparently, because I wasn’t a part of Young Americans for Liberty during my time as an undergraduate (because YAL didn’t exist before the 2008 Ron Paul campaign) I couldn’t be considered for employment. However, why didn’t they announce this policy from the onset of our conversation? Were they hoping to get as much free labor from me as possible before casually pointing out their policies preventing them from hiring me? It felt like a turn of the century business that had picked up an Irish laborer at no cost and when he finally asked to be hired for a wage, the business revealed a previously hidden “No Irish Need Apply” sign. As I thought more about it, I began to wonder how many other people have been taken advantage of by this policy.

As I wrote in reply, “I’m disappointed to hear about this policy and it makes little sense.  As you mention, I couldn’t have been part of YAL as an undergrad as it didn’t exist then.  By the same token, neither could Jeff Frazee (the founder of YAL), Ed King, or many others.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  And, it isn’t like I haven’t I started student groups once out of college, as mentioned in my work for Students for Life, but I guess that means nothing to YAL.  To me this is about as fair as excluding a person based upon skin color, country of origin, or gender, as no one has control over any of those things either.  And what of the people who discover liberty after they get their degree?  Does YAL treat them as second class citizens too?”

I went on to add, “Unfortunately, based upon this position of your group, I guess I won’t be able to recommend that any liberty-minded students become a part of YAL as long as this policy remains in place.  The idea of working with YAL has been a goal of mine since the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, but I guess it is best to finally forget about it.  I suppose it is finally time for that dream to die.  Nevertheless, these words are a poor representation of the depth of my disappointment.  It is regrettable that the movement has to be fractured, but I am still hopeful to find work for a group which actually values my experience and dedication without this kind of inane policy.”

Since this exchange at the beginning of the year, I have heard nothing further from YAL. Several months afterward, a local student came to me with the idea of restarting the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at James Madison University. Unfortunately, given their hiring practices, I advised against him allying with YAL. For better or worse, YAL recently underwent a leadership change, but I do not know if their policies have remained the same.

This disappointing episode with Young Americans for Liberty has not dampened my enthusiasm for promoting our values to our next generation of leaders and, as such, during the 2016 spring semester you could find me at JMU almost every week. If you are interested in either working for Young Americans for Liberty or considering donating to the group I believe you ought to know this detail about them upfront and not after you have offered them your time or money. It is my hope that YAL will jettison this fatal flaw or, if that doesn’t happen, I hope another organization will rise up to become the premier liberty-promoting group on campuses nationwide. That’s something I would be excited to be part of.

The R3volution: Two Years Later

Let me start with some background.  After finishing my work for a pro-life organization in the state of Tennessee, I faced a tough dilemma.  What would I do next?  What about working for a presidential campaign?  After all, I had been rigorously volunteering for political campaigns for about a decade at that point, and in the last election I had the opportunity to work for the Republican Party of Virginia.  But which one was best?  For starters, the candidate had to be completely conservative both socially and fiscally.  One thing was certain; I wasn’t about to offer my services to any sort of pro-choice politician, no sir.   In addition, I had become increasingly frustrated with a growing number of Republicans over their apparent abandonment of the principles of a constitutional, limited government (George W. Bush anyone?).  And so I researched.  One candidate far and away drew my attention…Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.  Sure, I had heard of him, but I didn’t really know too much about him.  After all, with 435 members in the House of Representatives, who can keep track of them all?  Many fellow Republicans regarded him with derision calling him Dr. No due to his track record of voting against so many bills.  But the more I read, the more I liked.  Unlike so many other members of Congress, he consistently voted in accordance with the Constitution, even though doing so meant he wouldn’t bring home pork to his constituents.  He opposed tax increases; he favored state rights, slashing spending, and the elimination of many federal programs, departments, and agencies.  Although heavily controversial, he also opposed the conflict in Iraq, a big selling point for me.  Even though I was, and still am, leery of the legalization of many types of drugs, he was right, it was a state issue, not a federal one.  He represented, in my mind, the true ideals of the Republican Party and conservatism.  My goal was clear.  I had to promote Ron Paul aggressively.  I had to work for his campaign.

Trying to get employment with the Ron Paul campaign was a difficult task, a job in and of itself.  I called weekly and spammed the campaign with email.  Finally, when I heard a Ron Paul campaign staffer would be in Winchester, I hopped in my car and headed north.  It took months, but my determination finally paid off and I was soon headed to South Carolina.  This effort was not simply another campaign, but a revolution.  Although I can’t find a backwards l or a proper backwards e on my keyboard, you could often find signs that read, “Ron Paul Revolution” with a backwards e and l so you could simultaneously see the words revolution and love written backwards.  In many ways, we were just that, a nonviolent revolution.  Although we certainly wanted to win the primaries, we had an objective much more far reaching than a single election.  Our goal was the hearts and minds of the average citizens of America.  Some people treated us with skepticism; others, like Rudy Giuliani, rudely and openly mocked our principles.  But, we labored on, never second-guessing the importance of our cause, winning converts slowly but surely.  Unfortunately we didn’t win South Carolina.  Then again, the campaign didn’t win a single state.  Some people might view such a result as a failure, but we knew better.  After the South Carolina primary, I had hoped to continue on with the campaign to my home state of Virginia, but fortune had other plans.  Even though I was sidelined, a spectator, that didn’t stop me from cheering as loudly as I could.

During the primaries, Rush Limbaugh mentioned that the nomination of John McCain would destroy the Republican Party.  Now, if John McCain had actually won the election, I think Rush would have been right.  Given his plethora of non-conservative tendencies, we would be a party without a clear ideological direction, leaderless.  Although not necessarily as a result of, but definitely concurrent with, the election of Barack Obama, conservative activists began to rise in great numbers in opposition.  Even though I do not have the specific data in hand at the moment, a majority of Virginia Republicans viewed Ron Paul unfavorably in 2008.  By 2009, opinion had shifted greatly.  Had Ron Paul or his positions changed?  Not as far I as could tell.  One by one, activists and ordinary American have come to understand that maybe Ron Paul wasn’t a crazy tinfoil, hat-wearing lunatic.  Maybe the government had grossly overstepped its constitutional bounds.  Maybe we had to react now, before our liberties diminished further, before we totally become vassals of the state.  As proof of this trend, one only needs to look to rise of the tea party movement.  Although I can’t pinpoint the exact origins of this protest, I can easily see some roots from both the message and tactics of the Ron Paul campaign.  Conservatives of just about all stripes are fed up with the status quo, the steady lurches toward a socialistic nanny state, and demand a halt!  Many are discovering the merits of the 10th Amendment for the first time.

Although the Ron Paul campaign wrapped up back in 2008, I’m pleased to say that the movement has taken new forms, morphed to become useful post election.  The two largest and organized children are the Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty.  Many of my former coworkers are heavily involved in these organizations.  I encourage you to visit their websites and learn more about them.  Take it from me; they are both worthy of your time, your money, and your support.  As history is still being written, it is impossible to gauge the full impact of the revolution, but in many ways Ron Paul could end up being the Barry Goldwater of this generation.  If you will recall, although he didn’t win the presidency himself, the movement that he started led to the rise and election of Ronald Reagan.  I will always respect Ron Paul and his followers for their devoted, principled stance and am pleased to count them as my allies.  Even if tomorrow is uncertain, two years later the R3volution lives on!