The week prior to the Nov. 2 midterm elections the UMW College Republicans did something that no other club on campus has done before: we advertised our beliefs. Our message was simple and our technique was ordinary. With overnight advertising and complete campus coverage, our message was not only unavoidable, it was in your face. We were going to turn Fredericksburg red, and we wanted Mary Washington to know it and feel it.
Since the beginning of September the College Republicans worked over 600 hours campaigning for Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-1), the Republican candidate in his pursuit for reelection. To conclude the campaign season, our club made one last push to gain support for Wittman. We reached out to our student body in attempts to gain support from the inwardly moderate population, typically masked by campus’s openly liberal zeal.
By plastering the campus, we were aiming to advertise our controversial ideas and encourage students to be both aware and involved in Election Day, arguably the most important time of year for our country. We did not attempt to force our beliefs on others. Rather, we used our provocative campaign to drive other students to take a stance and, in turn, care about voting.
Lastly, we sought to raise awareness for our own organization, the Mary Washington College Republicans, a group that has been relatively unknown until recently.
Our actions are a product of our passionate feelings toward Republicanism, Wittman and above all, political involvement. The amount of time and effort we spent making and redistributing the signs and flyers that were torn down illustrates our dedication to these outlined causes. Before beginning our endeavor, we were fully aware of the potential controversy and consequences of our actions. We were willing to put our club, our candidate and ourselves out there regardless of such possibilities. Every flyer, banner and poster was OSACS approved, and had contact information for questions and concerns.
While we knew there would be negative reactions to our effort, we hoped that people would respect us for taking a risk and being ambitious about our unpopular cause.
Not only did our work directly correlate with Wittman’s reelection and Fredericksburg going red for the first time in 17 years in a federal election, it also clearly made a difference on campus.
Since students felt so inclined as to rip and insult our posters, that proves that we not only got the attention we were striving for, but we also ignited a sense of political values on campus.
The College Republicans never meant to offend anyone, and we maintain that it is better to believe in a cause than none at all.
With this letter, I hope our actions are understood clearly as products of harmless motivations, and that students can reflect on them with respect and understanding.
Erica Gouse is a senior and the chairman of the Mary Washington College Republicans.