- Young Americans for Freedom
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is a conservative youth organization that was founded in 1960. While the 1960s were its most successful years in terms of numbers and influence, YAF continues to be active as a national organization with chapters throughout the
YAF's founding statement of principles, the
Sharon Statement, was written on September 11, 1960, by M. Stanton Evans with the assistance of Annette Kirk, wife of the late Russell Kirk. [ [http://www.kirkcenter.org/documents/ayk-speech-2004-05.html The Kirk Center - Talk by Annette Kirk ] ]
Sharon Statementis as follows:
"Adopted in Conference, at Sharon, Connecticut, on September 11, 1960.""
IN THIS TIME of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.
WE, as young conservatives believe:
THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;
THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;
THAT the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;
THAT when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;
THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;
THAT the genius of the Constitution - the division of powers - is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;
THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;
THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;
THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…
THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;
THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace; and
THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States? [Young Americans for Freesom National Website a>]
Since its founding, YAF continuously identified itself as "conservative." The founders were among those who helped to define the modern meaning of this term in American politics.
However, the term "conservative" has changed in meaning over several generations. Before
World War II, most American conservatives were isolationist. But as the Cold Warbegan to dominate American foreign policy, the old conservatism disintegrated. After Robert Taftwas defeated for the Republican nomination in 1952, isolationist conservatism mostly vanished. In the 1950s, a new kind of conservatism arose. This new ideology was formulated in large part by the newspaper Human Events, the magazine National Review, and National Review's editor William F. Buckley, Jr.This new conservatism combined free-market economics, respect for traditional values, orderly society and anti-communism.
In the late 1960s, the term
libertarianismbegan to be used for a political philosophy. Many of those who popularized this term were initially part of the conservative movement, but came to separate themselves from the conservatives on certain issues. Libertarians within YAF believed, for example, the military draft was a violation of the individual freedom the organization claimed to embrace. The conservatives (or traditionalists as they were sometimes called) supported the draft as being necessary to defeat communism.
After 1969, the relationship between conservatives and libertarians in YAF was often rocky. [ [http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/BruceBartlett/2006/12/12/libertarian_gop_defection Bruce Bartlett :: Townhall.com :: Libertarian GOP defection? ] ] A majority of members identified themselves simply as conservative, but some identified as both conservative and libertarian, and still others identified themselves simply as libertarian. From time to time, power struggles broke out; when this happened, the libertarians almost always ended up losing.
In later years, new viewpoints would be amalgamated by the conservative movement, including
neoconservatismin the early 1970s, the New Rightin the late 1970s and the Religious Right in the 1980s. Some YAF members identified with some of these philosophies, others opposed them and still others were content to simply identify themselves as conservative without further specificity.
Since its founding, YAF members on college campuses focused primarily on national and international politics, rather than on-campus politics. Thus members were much more likely to pass out
handbillsfor a candidate for congress than for student bodypresident.
YAF's history can be broken into six periods.
National conservative activism, 1960 - 1965
In September 1960, YAF was founded at a meeting held at Buckley's estate in Sharon,
In the first four years of its existence, YAF grew rapidly on college campuses. On March 7, 1962, a YAF-sponsored conservative rally filled
Madison Square Gardenin New York City.
In the 1960s, the Republican Party was divided between its conservative wing, led by
Barry Goldwater, and its more liberal wing, led by Nelson Rockefeller. YAF members fell squarely on Goldwater's side. However, some members had sympathy with the conservative Southern Democrats known as Dixiecrats, and thus from its inception YAF was deliberately non-partisan. By 1964, YAF was a major force in the campaign to nominate Goldwater, and then after his nomination, to elect him president. Goldwater's massive defeat in the presidential election of 1964 demoralized many members.
One of the organization's major achievements during this period was their defeat of Firestone's plans to open a rubber plant in communist
Romania. A large YAF public relationscampaign, capped with a threat to spread "Boycott Firestone" handbills at the Indianapolis 500, resulted in Firestone canceling their Romanian plans in April 1965.
YAF faced opposition from groups like the
American Nazi Partybecause of the presence of Jews in the organization and its close relationship with Marvin Liebman. Most members also kept their distance from segregationists such as George Wallaceand conspiracy theorists such as the John Birch Society. However, YAF did honor staunch segregationist and Senator from South Carolina Strom Thurmondwith its Freedom Award in 1962. [ Eric Foner, "Give Me Liberty! An American History Volume 2", Norton Seagull Edition 2006, 890.]
YAF also had a national publication called New Guard.
Reaction to radical activism, 1965 - 1971
Liberalismand radicalism dominated campuses from the mid-1960s until the early 1970s, primarily as a result of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. During this era, members felt outnumbered by the left on campuses, and spent their energy challenging and rebutting left-wing groups such as Students for a Democratic Society.
YAF members tended to hold similar opinions to their older compatriots within the conservative movement. Members vocally supported an aggressive policy of seeking victory in the Vietnam War, but opposed how the war was being conducted, such as the use of conscription and allowing the enemy sanctuary in the
Laos, Cambodia, and the North Vietnam.
A smaller fraction philosophically extended the traditional support of limited government in economic issues to social, and defense-related issues. This group came to be known as libertarians. Members of this faction were among the founding members of the Libertarian Party in 1971.
The majority of members during this era supported
Ronald Reagan's successful bid for governor of Californiain 1966, as well as his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968.
Advocacy politics, 1971 - 1985
In the 1970s, YAF became much older, demographically speaking. Rather than merely staging campus demonstrations, they focused on influencing national politics by lobbying and occasionally staging and publicizing small demonstrations. When the Nixon administration enacted wage controls and price controls, abandoned the gold standard and improved relations with mainland China, YAF felt he was abandoning conservative principles. They publicly denounced the administration for these moves, becoming the first conservative organization to do so. They supported Reagan's almost-successful bid to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 and his victorious race for the presidency in 1980.
On college campuses, YAF was a large political group, more conservative and less partisan than the
College Republicans. Members were willing to oppose liberal Republicans and support conservative Democrats and third-party candidates. During many local and national races throughout this era, YAF members were divided about whether to support a moderately conservative electable candidate or to support a staunchly conservative long-shot candidate.
Young Conservatives of Texaswas formed by a group of YAF members in Texasthat broke off to found their own organization. Since that time, YAF itself has never had a major presence in the state.
By the mid-1980s, many of YAF's leaders were in their thirties and long out of college. Some of them held positions in government while continuing to run the organization as a lobbying and fund-raising group for conservative causes.
Campus activism, 1985 - 1990
As YAF grew older, most of the original members went on to other things, while younger members dominated YAF. During this era, a new generation of liberal and radical activism was growing on college campuses, and members began focusing on opposing these movements. This growth was strongest in California, where members staged protests in favor of aid to the Nicaraguan
Contras, in favor of Reagan's anti-communist policies and in opposition to the United Nations.
At the same time, internal problems paralyzed the YAF hierarchy. The national board was still controlled by lawyers and lobbyists who remembered the glory days of YAF fund-raising in the early 1980s. The new activist element resented and distrusted the
old guard, and began to gradually whittle away at their power. In 1989, an alliance of Californian and New York activists ousted most of the old guard from national leadership positions.
By 1991, the national board of YAF contained a majority of Californians -- the first time a single state had had a majority in the governing council. However, this new régime found itself unable to effectively run YAF as a financial and organizational entity.
The strength of its activism was shattered by the
Gulf Warthat begin in January 1991. Most members considered President George H. W. Bushto be insufficiently conservative, and his rhetoric justifying the war -- "a new world order" -- to be dangerously utopian.
Later in the 1990s, YAF returned to national advocacy politics. The national office organized petition drives and staged a variety of events to promote the conservative viewpoint on a variety of public issues. Some of these events would have an attention-grabbing theme such as "Pardon Oliver North" and "Impeach Janet Reno."
In the spirit of the once prominent organization, a number of college students have revived college chapters across the country.
On college campuses, the YAF chapters have been involved in activities including rallies supporting the armed forces, advocacy for strict control of
illegal immigration, demonstrations against affirmative actionand protesting liberal campus speakers. [http://www.ourmidland.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=17349959&BRD=2289&PAG=461&dept_id=578054&rfi=8] [ [http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/07/cnnu.affirmative.action/ CNNU: Students debate affirmative action - CNN.com ] ] YAF has also organized protests against legislationenacting anti-discriminationprotection for transsexuals. [http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061121/NEWS01/611210331/1382] [http://www.statenews.com/article.phtml?pk=38845 The State News: Lansing ordinance prompts protest ] ]
Notable YAF chapters exist at
Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State Universityand the University of Michigan.
Michigan State University
The YAF chapter at Michigan State University was a frequent source of controversy under the year and a half-long chairmanship of Kyle Bristow, who resigned in February 2008. Although officially founded in 2005, MSU-YAF was closely related to an older student organization called The Spartan Spectator. Now the official MSU-YAF blog, The Spartan Spectator was the name of a right wing print newsletter operated at Michigan State University by Jason Van Dyke, now a lawyer in Texas, who remains active in the MSU chapter as the organization's legal adviser. The chapter was founded in 2001, according to its website. [https://www.msu.edu/~yaf/NewFrame.htm]
Southern Poverty Law Centertook objection to the MSU chapter's actions and has included the organization on its hate group list for 2006 under the "general hate" category. [ [http://www.splcenter.org/intel/map/hate.jsp?S=MI&m=5 SPLCenter.org: Hate Groups Map ] ] In an interview with the Lansing State Journal, a former officer of the group, Joanna Varnavas, said the YAF chapter went overboard for advocating "a lot of anti-gay beliefs" on the MSU campus. [http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070315/NEWS01/703150387/1001/news] The leaders of the Central Michigan University and University of Michigan chapters of YAF criticized SPLC's decision, with the latter saying, "While MSU YAF's actions may seem extreme, they are necessary to get the conservative message across on predominantly liberal campuses." [http://www.michigandaily.com/content/msu-yaf-labeled-hate-group] [http://media.www.cm-life.com/media/storage/paper906/news/2007/03/23/News/Msu-Yaf.Labeled.Hate.Group-2788314.shtml] Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzissaid that Bristow was "exactly the type of young kid we want out there" and that he had "known Kyle for years and I can tell you I have never heard him say a racist or bigoted or sexist thing ever," prompting criticism from the Michigan Democratic Party. [http://web.archive.org/web/20070808231823/http://www.michigandems.com/050307prs.html] According to an editorial in The State News, the YAF national organization also took out an ad in the paper in support of MSU-YAF and criticizing the SPLC in 2008. [http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2007/04/Poison_at_the_root]
Bristow has appeared on Hannity and Colmes and the O'Reilly Factor and has held positions in the local Republican Party. He was a representative on ASMSU, MSU's student council (he ran unopposed), but was recalled after posting a memo on the group's website suggesting advocating "de-funding of all minority organizations, the creation of a men's council, a seat for a Christian organization on ASMSU, a Caucasian caucus, as well as forcing the Planned Parenthood in East Lansing to leave, and hunting down illegal immigrants in Lansing and having them deported."http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1498] One former member of MSU-YAF has said that it had a "mainstream Republican" agenda "before Kyle took it over and YAF went off the deep end." He continues to post on MSU-YAF's blog. [http://www.michiganmessenger.com/1540/is-baldwins-grand-rapids-operation-meant-to-undercut-gop-domination] After resigning, Bristow claimed that the national YAF had threated to revoke the chapter's charter if a planned talk by white nationalist
Jared Taylorwas held.http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2008/02/why_jared_taylo.php]
On November 20, 2006, around one dozen YAF members from MSU and
Olivet Collegewere involved in a protest outside the Lansing City Council. They were protesting a proposed ordinance prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals. Some of the protesters held signs reading "Straight Power" and "End Faggotry." [http://www.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=21542 PrideSource: MSU student group likely hate group ] ] According to the SPLC, the group has also "cosponsored a 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day' contest, held a 'Koran Desecration' competition, jokingly threatened to distribute smallpox-infested blankets to Native American students, and posted 'Gays Spread AIDS' fliers across campus."http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1497] The "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game was suggested by a field representative of the College Republican National Committee, who was fired after it provoked criticism. [http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/10/23/CNNU.msu.immigrant/index.html]
In 2006 MSU-YAF and the College Republicans hosted a speech by anti-immigration Republican representative
Tom Tancredo, which was disrupted by protesters. [http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2007/03/law_center_lists_yaf] http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2008/02/msu_yaf_chairman_steps_down] [http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2006/dec/11/tancredo-plans-trip-to-miami/?printer=1/] On April 19, 2007, approximately 30 YAF members and College Republicans hosted Chris Simcox of The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. to speak at the campus on illegal immigration. [ [http://www.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=24610 PrideSource: Student hate group at MSU brings in extremist speaker ] ] The event was attended by over 100 mostly Hispanic protesters. In October 2007 MSU-YAF hosted Mark Krikorian. [http://www.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=27280]
On October 26, 2007, around 50-75 people were involved in protesting a YAF event hosting
Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party(BNP). Griffin who has been charged with Antisemitismand Racism, was forced to do a Q&A after being continuously interrupted. [ [http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2007/10/students_protest_yaf_speaker The State News: Students protest YAF speaker ] ] [http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007310260006] . The event was denounced by MSU's Hillel, Jewish Student Union, and Muslim Student Association, and by conservative activist David Horowitz[ [http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/29/islam Furor Over Anti-Islam Speaker :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs ] ] .
YAF's indirect influence is felt through the number of conservative political figures who began their careers as members in college.
These alumni include former national chairman and former U.S. Representative
Robert Bauman; former California chairman and former California legislator Pat Nolan; U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher; former Vice President Dan Quayle; Securities and Exchange CommissionChairman Chris Cox; U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo, a 2008 presidential candidate; American Conservative UnionChairman David Keeneand a great number of other national and state politicians.
* [http://www.yaf.com/ National YAF]
* [http://www.bvu.edu/~yaf/ Buena Vista University Chapter]
* [http://www.calyaf.org/ California Young Americans for Freedom]
* [http://www.fiu.edu/~yaf/ Florida International University Chapter]
* [http://www.msu.edu/~yaf/ Michigan State University Chapter]
* [http://yaf.com/mnyaf/ Minnesota Young Americans for Freedom]
* [http://www.clubs.psu.edu/up/psyaf/ Pennsylvania State University Chapter]
* [http://www.umich.edu/~yaf/ University of Michigan Chapter]
* [http://www.sais.wmich.edu/SALP_SOAP/OrganizationView.aspx?OrgID=886 Western Michigan University Chapter]
*Andrew, John A., III. "The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics." New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press (1997), 286 pages, ISBN 0-8135-2400-8 (paper). Covers the history of YAF from 1960 to 1964.
*Crawford, Alan. "Thunder on the Right: The "New Right" and the Politics of Resentment." New York: Pantheon Books (1980), 381 pages, ISBN 0-394-74862-X (paper). A negative portrayal of 1970s and 1980s conservatism, including much material on YAF.
*Nash, George H. "The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945." Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (1996), 467 pages, ISBN 1-882926-12-9 (hardcover). A history of the different strains of conservative ideology from 1945 until 1976, updated to 1996 in the second edition.
*Rusher, William A. "The Rise of the Right." New York: National Review Books (1993), 261 pages, ISBN 0-9627841-2-5 (paper). A history of American political conservatism from 1953 until 1981, updated to 1993 in the second edition. Includes much material on YAF.
*Schneider, Gregory L. "Cadres for Conservatism: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of the Contemporary Right." New York: New York University Press (1999), 263 pages, ISBN 0-8147-8108-X (hardcover). Covers the history of YAF from 1960 to 1985.
*Klatch, Rebecca E "A Generation Divided" Berkeley, University of California Press (1999), 334 pages, ISBN 0-520-21713-6 (paper). A scholarly and academic work with many references to Young Americans for Freedom, SDS, and campus activism of the 1960s and early 1970s.
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