In case you missed it: Aging Berkeley professors lamented "a political drift to the right" at California's premiere radical university, as College Republicans from all over California gathered at the U.C. Berkeley campus for a three-day convention last weekend. Hoping to stir up a bit of controversy among the Berkeley establishment, the buoyant throng chanted gleefully in support of President Bush on their way to People's Park, waving flags and banners encouraging their fellow students to "Give War a Chance" and "Bomb France." The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that at the convention's opening, their leaders urged its members to "be Republicans, be dignified, engage in debate and have some fun with the Berkeley weirdos." They did precisely that.
Borrowing from the time-tested techniques of the radical Left, the Republicans marched, chanted, and debated with hecklers who left their cozy confines at Sproul Plaza to see what the fuss was all about. The street vendors along Telegraph Avenue looked on in astonishment as the boisterous marchers went past, elated by the sense that they were "behind enemy lines"—the theme of this year's convention.
Long-time denizens of the University tried to explain this shocking development by a shift in demographics at the U.C. campus: "the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically," U.C. Librarian Thomas Leonard told the Times. He explained that protests in the Berkeley area are often organized by aging political activists in the community rather than on campus. And you can almost hear the wistfulness in their voices as two senior political science professors explain that the noontime information tables set up in Sproul Plaza are no longer dominated by the SDS or the traditional Marxists and socialists. These days you're as likely to see a table run by Christian groups or Asian ethnic societies or the Berkeley chapter of the GOP, which recently drew fire and accusations of racism from campus lefties for selling chocolate chip cookies on an affirmative action plan—minorities got a reduced price. In fact, the Berkeley GOP group is one of the largest student groups on campus.
And who are these young, wild-eyed radicals? According to a poll taken at the convention, most of them have political aspirations and intend to run for political office. But in the meantime, they are having some fun at the expense of Berkeley's treasured reputation as a breeding ground and training ground for liberal activists, promoting their event as the "biggest Republican presence on campus since 1960 when then-Governor Reagan dispatched the National Guard troops to the campus to quell demonstrations over People's Park." And what's in store for the People's Park—a site of violent protests during the late 1960s? If the Berkeley Republicans have their way, bulldozing may be in the offing. As Bob Dylan said, "the times they are a changin'."