Hanover, N.H.—According to Sterling Beard, The Dartmouth Review’s editor in chief, the best candidate to lead the Republican Party is obvious: Paul Ryan.
“I’d like to see someone a bit more policy-wonkish,” said the 22-year-old editor of the conservative college newspaper when I met with him on the Dartmouth campus Sunday afternoon. “Someone along the lines of Paul Ryan.”
The previous evening, as we watched the ABC Republican debate with other Dartmouth Review staffers and Dartmouth College Republicans, Beard made his viewpoint clear: “The GOP’s strongest candidates aren’t running in this round.”
The following morning, he added: “My fantasy was that we were going to have somebody who was … closer to Barack Obama—again, this is why it’s a fantasy, not a reasonable expectation. But the fantasy was that you would have somebody who was as good as Obama, as eloquent … with the ability to inspire … but could best him in the debates with conservative ideals. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.”
It was easy to tell he thought that debates, at this stage, were immaterial. But on Saturday night, in room 218 of Dartmouth’s Collis Building, Beard watched attentively all the same.
While obviously being a serious person—and not just for a 22-year-old—Beard clearly has a sense of humor.
He delighted in Michelle Malkin’s tweet about Huntsman’s Sino-gaffe midway through the evening: “Oh dear. I didn’t get to the mute button in time before Huntsman showed off his command of Chinese.”
Without missing a beat, he sent off a tweet of his own: “Did Huntsman just order takeout?”
It felt as though they were watching TV on the same sofa.
Toward the end of the debate, Beard proudly read aloud the tweet of Laura Ingraham, editor in chief of The Dartmouth Review during her senior year at the college: “Romney came out unscathed. Guess Santorum wants AG spot.”
Romney did emerge from Saturday night’s debate relatively unscathed but Beard didn’t need to watch it to know. “Romney, at this point, will have a hard time not winning unless he does something stupid, and I don’t see him doing anything stupid because thus far he hasn’t.”
“Now I know that with stocks, past success is no indication of future performance,” he added, in a Romney kind of way.
When we began to talk about the mood on campus and what the future looks like for Dartmouth’s 2012 graduates, Beard’s tone became more ruminative.
“You have all of these people in my class who came to this campus when “hope and change” was the big thing. But the problem was that “hope and change” are empty. They sound nice, but there’s nothing behind them.”
“We just had the financial markets, people were looking for a national leader, and four years later we’re now about to enter a job market that has horrendous unemployment, has for a long time.”
“So the thing that Barack Obama has managed to inspire is … a pretty snarky generation … a bunch of college-age people, fresh graduates … who feel like they were let down ... And so anytime anyone starts talking about the greatness of the country or the greatness of America’s working man … everyone goes, ‘Yeah right, I’ve heard that before.’”
While it might be hard to confirm the level of snarkiness among Dartmouth students, a recent survey conducted by The Dartmouth—a nonpartisan daily distributed on campus—revealed that although only 38 percent of Dartmouth students intend to vote in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, 94 percent intend to do so in the general election.
The results made me think that perhaps the kids at Dartmouth weren’t as cynical about American politics as Beard had implied.
Next I asked him if he considered himself cynical. I could tell he didn’t but wanted to hear why. (He definitely didn’t sound snarky, in case you were wondering.)
His reply was heartfelt. “Because I’m a history major and I’m focusing on the United States … I don’t get cynical about the country itself. Because I realize how unique it is. Call it what you want—American exceptionalism, I suppose.”
Beard looked at me sincerely, and then nervously at his watch. A capella practice had started three minutes ago, and his teacher didn’t tolerate tardiness. He rushed to his dorm to retrieve the two latest issues of The Dartmouth Review for me to take home and then disappeared across campus.