In the midst of an increasingly partisan political atmosphere, junior Kelly Shea, a moderate Republican, is trying to find some middle ground.
Shea is starting an organization to give Republicans who share her views on abortion a voice. She and some fellow Republicans are in the process of creating a GW chapter of WISH List, a group that funds Republican women at all levels of political office who are pro-choice.
“I think that there are a lot of Republicans out there who don’t fully agree with the direction of the party,” she said. “We’re hoping to fill a niche that has yet to be filled.”
Shea said she became involved with WISH List, a D.C. organization, because she is passionate about women’s issues and believes that the Republican Party is not wholly representing her views.
With so much attention focused on partisan politics, some may believe there are no moderates left. WISH List leaders disagree with that sentiment.
“Some people think that pro-choice Republicans meet in a phone booth, but we are the majority,” said Gail Schneider, executive director of the WISH List.
A WISH List student organization at GW will be the organization’s first college group. Chrissy Trotta, president of the GW College Republicans, did not return several phone calls for this article.
“(We want to) get the word put out on college campuses,” Schneider said. “When they vote, they vote very thoughtfully, they look for the facts.”
The group says a recent poll by American Viewpoint supports its views. According to that poll, 73 percent of Republicans believe that a woman, her family and her doctor should decide whether to have an abortion and that the government should not be involved. Also, 61 percent of polled Republicans said that although they would not want an abortion themselves, they did not believe that the right to choose should be taken away from women.
For Shea, that logic makes perfect sense, because she believes her party should be committed to small government.
“True Republicans should be in favor of less government intrusion in women’s lives,” she said.
While there are many high-profile Republican leaders who are pro-choice, such as Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, John McCain and Christine Todd Whitman, the 2004 platform of the Republican Party contains passages that are clearly anti-abortion.
Still, this platform does not seem to discourage the party’s moderates. Adam O’Brien, intern coordinator for the moderate Republican Youth Majority, which also has an interest in starting a student organization on campus, believes it is necessary for people who disagree with their party’s leaders to speak up.
“It’s important for both sides to make your voice known,” he said. “It’s important to criticize your own party as much as the other. If one side moves so far to the extreme, then that’s not good. If you keep running to the extremes, you’ll lose.”
Ann Stone, chair of Republicans for Choice, agreed with O’Brien. As Democratic leaders are re-evaluating their pro-choice stance on abortion, she views 2005 as an important year politically.
“Pro-choice Republicans are swing voters on many issues,” she said. Stone argues for what she terms “common ground” – a movement that favors abortion rights but also tries to reduce the number of abortions through education.
Many moderate Republican groups stress involvement on college campuses. Schneider especially believes in the importance of reaching young voters through college groups.
Both Schneider and Shea expressed interest in expanding to other colleges in D.C. and eventually to campuses nationwide. The group will focus on bringing like-minded moderate Republicans together to discuss and help candidates.