The Political Paradigm Shift:
How I Went From College Republican President
to Passionate Anarchist
Every libertarian has a story of how they came to “see the light” – i.e., break away from the establishment right-left paradigm to embrace an independent perspective. In this excerpt from her self-published book, Allie Went Rogue, LPKS Communications Director Allison Ross shares her journey in college and early adulthood, and illustrates the shift towards freedom that occurred as she began to understand liberty issues more clearly.
The transition from high school to college is a big adjustment for any eighteen-year-old. For me – a former homeschooler and youth group kid, from a family of Reagan Republicans – it was severe culture shock. It didn’t help that I attended the Oberlin College-Conservatory, one of the most progressive schools in the nation. The Oberlin reputation is one of intellectualism, inclusivity, and forward-thinking political values. Built on a history with ties to the Underground Railroad and minority rights, the school prides itself on a student population that is open-minded and seeks to enact positive change.
There was no question that attending this prestigious school would be a quality education. Unfortunately, I would learn that inclusivity didn’t always extend to a naive conservative girl from the suburbs.
The first semester of dorm life was rough. I wasn’t morally upset about the shared bathrooms on each floor, for example, but it did make me uncomfortable to be continually on edge in my own living space. One particularly self-righteous freshman would march right in and turn off the running faucet as I brushed my teeth, leaving me staring into the mirror wondering what I had done wrong. If I felt peer pressure to be tolerant of others’ lifestyles, it didn’t win over my instincts of self-preservation. They certainly weren’t tolerant of mine.
It soon became clear that I wasn’t going to encounter many like-minded students. Just as in high school, I keenly sensed my position of “otherness” and for whatever reason, it wasn’t bothersome that I didn’t fit in. I thought what I thought and believed what I believed. Though now I can look back on this period and recognize how narrow those thoughts and beliefs were, at the time they provided the foundation I needed to navigate the unfamiliar campus culture.
At another college, with a more varied political spectrum, the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians might have been split into two factions. But at this school, the spectrum of ideologies right or center was almost nonexistent; you either identified as a leftist/progressive, or as something else. So the establishment-right, centrists, libertarians, neocons, and independents were all lumped together by nature of our sparse enrollment. It was a longstanding joke that, due to the OCRL’s small numbers, it was only a matter of time until we each served in a leadership capacity. Sure enough, sophomore year I was voted in as club president. (In my defense, I was voluntarily chosen for my speaking ability and people skills.)
Wearing glasses and clipping back my long brunette hair, I was frequently told that I resembled Sarah Palin. So in between classes, my friends and I took to the sidewalk in a series of freestyle comedy sketches, them playing the reporters asking me policy questions, and my responses mimicking her iconic Alaskan twang. The discussion nearly always had something to do with either moose, Russia, or world peace. We thought we were hilarious.
It was 2008, and the Presidential debates approached. The OCRLs hosted an open viewing of the debates in a lecture hall, with the request being that everyone keep the discussion civil. One of the positive things about this school was that students were encouraged to loudly assert themselves. Unfortunately, within the context of our club events, this manifested as give anyone who’s not voting for Obama a hard time. As a result, I was harangued mercilessly by students who thought it acceptable to be hateful to a pleasant 19-year-old who happened to think differently than them. But the amazing thing is, I never remember feeling bullied. Instead, I owned my individuality and relished the attention.* Standing at the podium making politics into comedy was sort of addictive. It was fun stirring the pot in a way that got noticed, and that wasn’t hurting anyone’s feelings – unlike what the other side tried to do to me.
*Scroll down to section titled “Wavemakers”: https://www2.oberlin.edu/alummag/fall2008/ats.html
There was a successful Oberlin alum in New York City, passionate about preserving conservative ideologies, who sponsored a campus lecture series. The diminutive OCRL club worked tirelessly to publicize and host these events, amid our classmates’ boos and jeers. One semester we invited Congressman Bob Barr to speak; another we presented Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Dinesh D’Souza and Michelle Malkin visited as well.
All the speakers were fairly establishment-right, until Dr. Ron Paul. His address in the campus chapel changed my understanding of politics, of society, and of my own school. Dr. Paul, who first ran as the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988 and rustled up grassroots support for the liberty movement before some of us current students were alive, was a bold orator. The whole speech was electric, but the line that stood out was his calm reply to a question clearly meant to bait him:
“Look, people should be able to do what they want with their lives. It’s that simple.”
Though he did detail more specifics, it was this succinct concept that made something in my brain click. Why hadn’t I heard a politician say this before? Living in a world of rules, guidelines, policies, and expectations, it was rejuvenating to grasp that each individual holds the freedom to live by their own agency. The message of common-sense liberty that Dr. Paul had been spreading for two decades hit me like a lightning bolt. The philosophy was inspiring, non-aggressive, and easy to utilize.
The OCRLs were a much-needed support for unpopular opinion. A few of the senior members of the club went on to impressive law or political careers, sharpened by their time spent in an abrasive campus culture. Personally, it was most rewarding to come to my own conclusions on social and ideological issues, regardless of how the school pushed me to think. But Ron Paul’s bold speech had remained alive in the back of my mind in subsequent years, as I took the concepts introduced at college and wove them into a tapestry of adult ethics.
During a period of voracious reading in my mid-twenties, I came across the non- aggression principle, and took it on as a personal mantra. Don’t hurt others or threaten their property. To this I added Ron Paul’s words, don’t tell them how to live. It seemed like the most concise way to retain pleasant, well-adjusted family and friends in my social circle, while pursuing fulfillment. (Of course, that’s assuming those in my circle follow the principle as well.)
I discovered the writings of Mises, Rothbard, and Rockwell, who introduced me to the Austrian school of economic thought. Though I’d already been familiar with Ayn Rand, there were essays on Objectivism and individual freedom that resonated strongly. Around when Trump was elected, I stumbled upon The Tom Woods Show, and almost haven’t missed an episode since. I was voraciously studying, attempting to strengthen my libertarian knowledge for a simple reason: because it’s the outlook that made sense.
The Non-Aggression Principle sounded to me like the most sensible foundation for healthy human interaction. Religious beliefs differ and political views are divisive, but virtually no one argues that it’s good to be respectful of your neighbor (and not to take things from them, something our government oversteps constantly). The more I read, the more I was drawn towards anarcho-capitalism. Suffice it to say, traditional libertarianism is a philosophy that an independent, self-employed bookworm could be easily drawn to. Decentralized authority. Voluntary decisions. Freedom to explore, to create, to live, according to my own conscience.
Since individuality is paramount, a liberty lifestyle also means there’s a huge array of non-conformists within the community. We may not have much in common at all besides our veneration of liberty. Our meetings are friendly and non-judgmental, and the members run the gamut of interesting personalities. I realized that I’d rather hang with the eccentric freethinkers than those who live and preach the status quo.
In August prior to the 2020 presidential election, Dr. Jo Jorgensen visited Kansas City. I volunteered to show up early and distribute material to the attendees, who sprinkled their colorful folding chairs over the lawn of the World War I Memorial. It was discouragingly hot that day, but the energy in the crowd was humming, like a live wire waiting to spark. “Mama Jo,” as her fans called her, was a senior lecturer at Clemson University with a PhD in psychology. Prior to her academic career, she founded a software sales company and also worked in business consulting. I was hooked on this brainy STEM-female entrepreneur with good taste in bourbon (hello, life goals!). Dr. Jorgensen was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President of the United States.
Two weeks later, her vice presidential candidate, Spike Cohen, visited Wichita. I made the three-hour road trip to volunteer again for the campaign. There was no better time for a philosophy to take political shape than in an election year.
It was exhilarating to spend my free time devoted to a philosophy I believed in. I was tired of endless war (for what?), bipartisanship (surely there’s an alternative?), and excessive waste of our country’s resources (numbers hard to fathom). I was over being told who to vote for. I was done, above all, with Washington bureaucrats dictating the “rules.”
To me, independence and freedom aren’t political. They’re common-sense foundations for a meaningful life.
Excerpts from Allie Went Rogue: How Being An Outlier Helped Me Think Clearly and Live Fully © 2020 Allison Ross. All rights reserved.
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