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Bryn Dennehy says that it’s tough to come out of the closet as a conservative on the University of Oregon campus. The school’s reputation as a liberal haven and the abundance of left-minded groups on campus paints a negative stereotype of right-wing individuals.
That’s why Dennehy is heading up one of two new student political groups on campus that aim to give students with conservative views a forum for discussion. Both Young Americans for Liberty and College Libertarians are hoping to give students an alternative outside the two-party system.
“We believe that the size and scope of the government should be reduced,” said Dennehy, president of Young Americans for Liberty. “So it only serves its most basic functions, which is to protect people’s life, liberty and property.”
A recent Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of Americans support a need for a third political party with 26 percent believing the government is doing an adequate job at representing their views. Over the years, the Libertarian Party has seen an increase in party registration — still, they are far behind the 40 million plus registered in either of the two major political parties.
Dennehy is hoping to inform more people about Libertarian ideals through Young Americans for Liberty. He was raised in a conservative household. But frustration over former President George W. Bush’s involvement with Iraq led Dennehy to explore the other side.
The Eugene native took an interest in then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama and read his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Ultimately, Dennehy described himself as becoming disillusioned by President Obama’s time in office.
“I kind of went through this phase where I thought that maybe the Democrats had it right,” Dennehy said. “Then the more I started to think … I realized that Democrats and Republicans, when it comes to really crucial issues, are actually kind of like the same party.”
He recalls hearing presidential candidate Ron Paul’s anti-war message during the 2008 Republican presidential debate as a defining moment that helped establish his current political views. Although Paul ran under the Republican ticket, his beliefs most line up with Libertarian principles.
“Everybody on stage kind of laughed at him and he was ridiculed,” Dennehy said. However, he became a firm supporter of Paul. In 2012, Dennehy became involved in Paul’s third try for presidency by joining Students for Ron Paul, which would later transform itself to Young Americans for Liberty.
“There’s a lot of people in both parties that really aren’t liberals or really aren’t conservative,” said Marshall Kosloff, organizational relations coordinator for the UO College Democrats. “They’re libertarians.”
Like Dennehy, Kosloff has explored both major political parties to see which side he most identifies with.
“I was a registered Republican in the past,” Kosloff said. “But today … when it comes to basic fundamental issues, I agree with the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party.”
Former College Republicans member Alex Titus also saw the need to add another political perspective on campus. Titus is currently in the process of forming College Libertarians.
Similar to Young Americans for Liberty, this group fully supports the notion of liberty. Titus hopes College Libertarians can work on different issues that affect his peers like gay marriage, drug legalization and the National Security Agency.
“It’s great that we have that flow of communication and exchange of ideas going on at the University of Oregon,” said Caleb Huegel, chairman for College Republicans.
Libertarians and Republicans share a similar base of conservatism for fiscal policy but differ in opinion on different social issues. Still, Huegel doesn’t feel “threatened” by the formation of these two groups. He hopes the rise of more conservative parties on campus will create a stronger impact.Published in