BEN GAMBUZZA ’20
Ethan Yang ’20 is reviving the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter at Trinity. Recently, the chapter was dormant under Jake Lord ’18. Now, Yang wants to wake it up and create an outlet for conservative members of campus, as well as welcome debate from all sides.
The national chapter of YAL, a 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, was created soon after Ron Paul’s failed run for President in 2008. Its status makes it exempt from federal income tax. Yang cites Paul’s persona as “a more conservative version of Bernie [Sanders].” Paul became a charismatic inspiration for right-leaning young people, and a kick-starter for the “largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses,” according to YAL’s website. Yang says YAL is “born out of [Paul’s] example.”
Yang told the Tripod that YAL is an “officially non-partisan” organization.” “We aren’t officially conservative,” he says. Much of the political orientation of the chapter stems from its president. It’s current president, Yang, says he leans more left. At its core, Yang says the chapter will maintain a “strong commitment to civil liberties and economic freedom. In a nutshell, it’s essentially libertarianism.” The chapter does not officially endorse Trump “in any way.”
Yang is looking for members of all political orientations, not just conservatives, to join in with YAL. “If you like low taxes…you can come in. If you want to stop the drug war, [want] freedom of speech for the oppressed, and want communities of color to stop being brutalized by the police, we’re all for that as well.”
In light of Trump’s rhetoric, as well as the recent controversial social media posts by Trinity students, reported last week in the Tripod, free speech and hate speech are salient issues. Yang told us that “[YSA] believe[s] in free expression, no exceptions.” By virtue of having vocal cords, he says, you can say “anything you want.” However, they believe racist speech should be punished as harassment is.
Some would take issue with some of YAL’s funders. The Koch Brothers are a prominent one. They are libertarian, and staunch believers in what Yang calls “economic freedom and civil liberties, just like [YSA].” But Yang was himself an intern at Koch this past summer. “I’m a proud Charles Koch intern. I’m a big fan,” he says. He calls them the face of the libertarian movement.
Last week’s feature on the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) is a coincidental counterpoint to Yang’s chapter. It begs the question: what is the status of current political involvement at Trinity? Yang says in the past it’s been “horrible,” and that Trinity needs to “catch up.” But he is hopeful, for as incoming classes become more diverse, there will be an increase in political activity.
YAL will meet every Thursday at 6:00pm in the ConnPIRG office next to the bookstore, in Mather basement.