Yale Political Union
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Banner of the Yale Political Union
|Purpose||to provide Yale with a non-partisan forum for parliamentary debate and to encourage the discussion of matters of public interest by other suitable means.|
|Website||The Yale Political Union|
The Yale Political Union (YPU) is a debate society at Yale University, founded in 1934 by Professor Alfred Whitney Griswold. It was modeled on the Cambridge Union and Oxford Union and the party system of the defunct Yale Unions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which were in turn inspired by the great literary debating societies of Linonia and Brothers in Unity. Members of the YPU have reciprocal rights at sister societies in England. The Union is the central forum for political discussion and activism at Yale, and is Yale's largest student organization.
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The Union is an umbrella organization that currently contains seven Parties: the Liberal Party (Lib), the Party of the Left (PoL), the Independent Party (IP), the Federalist Party (Fed), the Conservative Party (CP), the Tory Party (Tory), and the Party of the Right (POR). These parties are independent debating societies that host their own debates and activities apart from Union activities, though members will come together for weekly Union debates. The Parties are traditionally listed in the order above.
In the past, the Political Union has had other Parties, including a Radical Party, a Bull Moose Party, a Constitutional Union Party, a Labor Party, a Liberal Democrat Party, a Progressive Party, and a group called the "Third Force", but not concurrently. The minimum number of parties has been two, the maximum seven, while four is typical.
Though party size and membership varies greatly over the decades, the Independent Party has consistently been the largest party in the Union for a decade. In recent semesters, the Party of the Left, the Party of the Right, and the Tory Party have each had their turn as the second largest party. The other parties have been comparatively smaller but always met the minimum voting requirement (25 active members).
The Liberal Party
The Liberal Party is one of the three founding constituent parties of the Yale Political Union. The Liberals rarely use parliamentary procedure or dress up for their weekly discussions.
The Party of the Left
The Party of the Left (PoL) was formed in the spring of 2006 by a group of left-leaning and former Party of the Right students who were looking for more formal philosophical debate on the Left of the Union, emphasizing a synthesis of first principles and policy. PoL debates are more formal than Liberal Party discussions, as they are conducted following parliamentary procedure.
The Independent Party
The Independent Party (IP) covers nearly the entire political spectrum, in accordance with its motto, "Hear All Sides." The IP is one of the founding parties of the YPU and the oldest continuously existing party in the Union. Originally named the Conservative Party, it officially switched to its current name in the 1970s. The Party debates policy as well as philosophy and generally adheres to parliamentary procedure.
The Federalist Party
Founded in 2010 by group of students dissatisfied with certain aspects of the Tory Party, the Federalist Party is the youngest party within the Yale Political Union. It is a group of staunch conservatives that seeks, according to its charter, "to resist the errors of the age and to promote...the tempering of taste, the ennoblement of custom, the correction of judgment, the cultivation of virtue, and the perfection of friendship." The Federalist Party is particularly interested in understanding the institutions—social, economic, religious, and political—that are essential to preserving the foundational virtues of the United States.
The Conservative Party
The Conservative Party, founded by a loser of a party of the right chairman election, is dedicated to the production of principled and profound leaders. It recognizes the rights and privileges of members and officers of the Conservative Party prior to 1977, though no party by its name existed from 1982 to 1996, when the contemporary Conservative Party was formed. It considers ideas important and logic, practicality, and pragmatism essential. It seeks guidance from the lessons of history, especially from Western civilization.
The Tory Party
The Tory Party is the party of reasoned conservatism at Yale. The Party was founded in 1969 and is known for its alumni network, a strong tendency towards a British aesthetic, and a fondness for speeches delivered with wit and levity.
The Party of the Right
The Party of the Right (POR) is the oldest political Party on the Right of the Yale Political Union. The Party of the Right was founded in 1953 by members of the Union who believed there needed to be a stronger, more intellectually rigorous voice of conservatism within the Union. The POR has been described by the Yale Herald as "at once flamboyant, intellectually elitist, aggressive, mischievously subversive, eccentric, and maniacally eager to challenge anyone and everyone."
The Party of the Right is distinguished from other parties in the Union for the intensity of its debates and the convictions of its members. Whereas most parties' debates end after three hours, the Party of the Right typically debates for five or six. Members pride themselves on being willing to defend conservatism and more radical Rightist beliefs amidst a predominantly liberal and leftist campus. The dominant ideological discourse of the Party of the Right typically strikes a balance between libertarianism and traditionalism. Nevertheless, its membership represents a diverse range of political and philosophical beliefs: members often say of the Party, "We care not what you think, only that you think."
|“||This Union can be of undoubted value to nation and to the University, provided it maintains independence and voices the true thoughts of those participating [...] honest debates will help in the search for truthful answers.||”|
|— Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1935|
Founded in 1934, the Yale Political Union originally had three parties: the Liberal Party, the Radical Party (reorganized as the Labor Party in 1937 - now defunct), and the Conservative Party. It has seen the rise and fall of others since. Over the years, the Union has played a key role on Yale's campus. It has had periods of flourishing, as well as less prosperous spells. Once the only organization devoted to political debate on campus, it remains a primary forum for oratory and political dialogue.
Although the Union has fluctuated in its influence over the years, many claim that the Union is not as influential as it once was. Members note that this is the result of several factors. Many believe that it is simply one of the effects of Yale's metamorphosis from Old Yale into the vibrant modern Yale of the 21st century, which has notably included the rise of activism on campus. Eventually, Union debate came to be a combination of a keynote speaker and ensuing student speeches. This push and pull between outside speakers and student debate has characterized the Union for at least thirty years.
The YPU regained strength throughout the 1970s, during which period the Liberal Party was by far the largest, but then suffered a severe blow shortly after A. Bartlett Giamatti became the Yale President. Giamatti, violating numerous agreements and covenants established with the Union, "repurposed" the YPU building/debate hall. Today, it is used for office space and storage.
After several years of rebuilding, the Union recovered its numerical strength. This recovery moved into rapid gear during Spring term of 1984 (under the presidency of Fareed Zakaria) when membership tripled to 900 during a term highlighted by a nationally televised debate. By the end of 1987, active membership rolls comprised over 1,200 members, nearly 1/4 of the entire student body at Yale, and the YPU successfully launched a Model Congress, a magazine, an annual three-day visit to Washington DC (for meetings with Cabinet Members, Supreme Court Justices, IMF and World Bank heads, foreign Ambassadors and the Director of the National Gallery of Art), and an on-topic debate team (which sent two union members overseas to the world debate championships). Then, the one-vote failure of an attempt to acquire the financially significantly stronger Yale International Relations (Model UN) program at Yale in Spring 1987 (which would have made for a political powerhouse on campus), and the earlier 1980s loss of the YPU's dedicated facilities slowed momentum, and membership declined after a poor recruit in the fall of 1988.
In the early 1990s, membership reached its overall peak. It then fell again, as a series of new political organizations on campus diverted politically active Yalies. Though smaller, the parties were relatively stronger and tighter institutions during this period. Most have remained intimate organizations, though with somewhat larger membership, to the current day.
One of the few enduring YPU spinoff publications, Rumpus Magazine, was founded by members of the Progressive and Tory Parties in 1992. For the first 3–4 years of its publication, Rumpus remained closely linked to the YPU. One of the more sordid scandals of the period, involving a member who misappropriated the YPU's long-distance phone access number for calls to a racy 1-900 number from his senior single, was broken by Rumpus in the Fall of 1994.
As more and more Yale undergraduate organizations were founded, the YPU lost its offices under Bingham Hall. It managed to retain its small office on Crown Street, where it currently resides, although the Union has recently begun a capital campaign to raise funds for a new building. During its various moves, irreplaceable historical archives were lost, although the YPU's collection of paraphernalia signed by noteworthy public figures is sizable. The YPU hit a low point in membership in the late 1990s. The YPU President, an Independent Party member, was impeached in the Fall of 1997, leading to the near collapse of the Independent Party. The effects of this crisis took some time to reverse, though by 2001 the Independent Party was largely restored and began a period of significant growth. Although membership remains roughly 30% of its last peak in the 1990s, the Political Union is the largest undergraduate organization at Yale, with approximately 325 members (as of the end of 2007).
Notable alumni of the YPU include:
- Akhil Amar, Chairman of Liberal Party, Spring 1978. Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University.
- Richard S. Arnold, Vice President, Fall 1955 (POR). Former Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
- Michael J. Astrue, President, 1977, Chairman of the Tory Party, 1975. Former Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
- John Avlon, Chairman of the Independent Party, Fall 1994. Author, journalist, Editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast.
- Senator John Glenn Beall, Jr., Vice President, Fall 1949 (Conservative). Former United States Senator from Maryland.
- Peter Beinart, Chair of the Liberal Party, Fall 1990. Former Editor, The New Republic.
- John Bolton, Floor Leader of the Right, 1968 (Conservative). Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
- David Boren, Speaker (Conservative). Former Governor of Oklahoma, former Senator from Oklahoma, current President of the University of Oklahoma.
- L. Brent Bozell Jr., President, Spring 1949 (Conservative). Conservative activist and Catholic writer.
- Richard Brookhiser, Chairman of POR, 1975. Senior Editor at National Review.
- Senator James L. Buckley, Conservative Party. Former U.S. Senator from New York and former Federal Judge on the United States Court of Appeals.
- William F. Buckley, Conservative Party; in 1967, as an alumnus, was inducted a member of the Party of the Right. Leading conservative author and journalist. Founder of National Review and host of Firing Line.
- McGeorge Bundy Chairman of the Liberal Party, Spring 1939. United States National Security Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
- William Bundy, President, Spring and Fall 1938 (Liberal). Foreign affairs advisor to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
- Steven Calabresi, President, Fall 1978 (Independent). Co-Founder of the Federalist Society, Professor of Law Northwestern University
- David P. Calleo, President, Spring 1954; Chairman of the Liberal Party, Fall 1953. Intellectual and political economist.
- Brian Carney (POR). Editor, journalist and member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.
- Meghan Clyne, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Spring 2001. Speechwriter in Bush Administration, Senior Editor of National Affairs
- Keith Ferrazzi, Chairman of the Tory Party, 1985. Author of Never Eat Alone.
- David Frum, Tory Party, Author, journalist, and political commentator.
- Maggie Gallagher, Chairman of the POR, 1981. Former President of the National Organization for Marriage.
- Austan Goolsbee (Independent). Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
- Paul Gottfried (Party of the Right), former professor at Elizabethtown College
- Samuel P. Huntington, Leader of the Labor Party, Fall 1945 (Labor). Harvard Professor who theorized The Clash of Civilizations.
- Peter Keisler, (Party of the Right), Speaker, Chairman of the POR, co-founder of the Federalist Society.
- United States Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, President, Fall 1964 and Spring 1965; Chairman of the Liberal Party, Spring 1964.
- Marvin Krislov, Chairman of the Liberal Party, Fall 1979. President of Oberlin College.
- Fred Krupp, President, Spring 1974 (Conservative). President of the Environmental Defense Fund.
- Robert C. Lieberman, Chairman of the Liberal Party, Spring 1984; Speaker, Fall 1984. Political scientist and former provost of Johns Hopkins University.
- John Watson Lungstrum, Speaker, Fall 1966. Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1964 and Spring 1965. Federal Judge on Kansas District Court.
- David McIntosh, President, Fall 1979 (Progressive). Former United States Representative from Indiana, President of the Club for Growth.
- Edwin Meese, President, Fall 1951, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Spring 1951. Former United States Attorney General.
- Dana Milbank, Chairman of the Progressive Party. Columnist for The Washington Post.
- John J. O'Leary, President, Fall 1967 and Spring 1968; Chairman of the Liberal Party, Spring 1967. Former United States Ambassador to Chile.
- Walter Olson, Chairman of the POR, Spring 1974. Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.
- Governor George Pataki, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1965. Governor of New York.
- Robert Pollock, Chairman of the POR. Member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.
- Richard Posner, Chairman of the Liberal Party, Spring 1957. Legal theorist and Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
- Raymond Price, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1949 and Spring 1950. Chief speechwriter of U.S. President Richard Nixon
- Grover Rees, III, Chairman of the POR, Spring 1971. Former United States Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of East Timor.
- Whitelaw Reid (journalist), Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1935. Editor, Chairman and President of the New York Herald Tribune.
- Avik Roy, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1996. Opinion Editor, Forbes; Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. 
- Kevin Ryan, Chairman of the Liberal Party, Fall 1982. Founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe.
- Governor William Scranton (Conservative). Former Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
- Lyman Spitzer (Conservative). American theoretical physicist.
- Potter Stewart (Liberal). Former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
- Matthias Storme, (POR) 1981. Professor of Law, Catholic University Leuven
- Governor Bob Taft (Conservative). Former Governor of Ohio.
- Senator Robert Taft, Jr. (Conservative). Former United States Senator from Ohio.
- William Howard Taft III (Conservative). Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
- Eve Tushnet, Chairman of the POR, Spring 2000. Author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith.
- H. Bradford Westerfield, President, Fall 1945 (Liberal). Yale Professor of International Studies and Political Science.
- John Wertheim, President, Spring 1988. Chairman of the Independent Party, Fall 1987. Former Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
- J. Harvie Wilkinson, President, Fall 1965 and Spring 1966; Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, Fall 1964. Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
- Lauren Willig, Chairman of the Tory Party, Spring 1998. New York Times bestselling author of historical romance fiction novels.
- Evan Wolfson, Speaker, 1976 (Liberal). President of Freedom to Marry.
- Neal Wolin, President, Fall 1981 (Liberal). Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Fareed Zakaria, President, Spring 1984 (POR). Editor-at-large of Time
- Jonathan Zittrain, Chairman of the Independent Party, Spring 1989. Professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School.
- R. David Edelman, Independent Party. White House policymaker and adviser to President Barack Obama.
- Michael J. Knowles, Tory Party. Actor, author, and political commentator.
- Yale University
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- "TWO YALE GROUPS TURN TO POLITICS; New Union's Plan to Train an Intelligent Minority for Leadership Is Approved", The New York Times, December 9, 1934.
- "Can the YPU bring back its glory days?" The Yale Herald, September 9, 2005 Vol. XL, No. 2.
- "Party of the Left seeks to leave no leftist behind" The Yale Herald, March 31, 2006 Vol. XLI, No. 10.
- "Politically correct: a new birth of Federalism". Yale Daily News. Oct 22, 2010.
- "YPU begins inquiry into storied past." Yale Daily News, November 29, 2007.
- "The Yale Political Scene--left, right and center." The Yale Herald, Freshman Issue, Summer 1998.
- Yes, Health Care is a Right - An Individual Right. Forbes (2013-03-28). Retrieved on 2013-07-15.