The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Mock Convention failed to uphold Honor System values

We must consider the impact of the 2024 Mock Convention speakers during a time when democracy is at risk
Luke Fountain
Donald Trump Jr. slams the Biden administration and calls for support for his father’s presidential campaign.

What makes our school different? The Honor System, clearly. It is what allows us to email professors when we are sick and not get an absence on attendance and what allows us to take final exams in our beds. It represents the fundamental ethos of our school. So, it would stand to reason that the events the university supports are guided by and consistent with this ethos and the university’s standards.

I think that this year’s Mock Convention failed to live up to the school’s standards. The headliner Donald Trump, Jr., someone who has routinely supported and defended deeply amoral movements and incendiary opinions, goes against the standard of truthfulness and honor that the school stands for. One example of this, from the past, is when Trump Jr defended his father’s “very fine people on both sides” quote in reference to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Another instance is when he called for “total war” regarding the 2020 election results.

As a private institution, W&L has the capacity, and should have the desire, to avoid creating an environment where people who have preached and continue to preach hate are welcome. The Mock Con team should have shaken up tradition given that this election cycle is unlike anything seen before. Living in unprecedented times should warrant unprecedented action.

My opinion is entirely unrelated to fair concerns regarding the hearing of all voices in the political arena and to the opportunity to have open discussions of difficult or different perspectives—the exploration of all manner of rational political opinions is the right and appropriate way to conduct a healthy democracy. However, an opinion ceases to be fair and reasonable when it refuses to acknowledge the fundamental democratic structures of the nation and seeks to violently upend the peaceful transfer of power between fairly elected presidential administrations.

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Another word for this belief is treason. Voices like Trump and his family have routinely spout- ed this sort of rhetoric, and I don’t believe we at W&L need to give them a platform to promote their conspiracies.

George Washington set the precedent for the peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations when he vacated office without trying to hold on to any sort of governmental power after his term. This precedent separates American presidents from kings or other despotic rulers. The peaceful transfer of power is a pillar in American democracy and was not respected in 2020. Additionally, given that there has not been any meaningful opposition to Trump being crowned the all-but-assured Republican nominee, this Mock Con was a lost opportunity to explore in more depth the challenges the 2020 election presents to American democracy.

This election cycle is extraordinary as one candidate is running as an incumbent, and the other is claiming to run as an incumbent, despite not being the president. Therefore, no opposition party primary or convention would give any sort of useful information for this election.

Therefore, since this election is unprecedented, this cycle’s MockCon should have also been un- precedented. The weekend could have been used more productively and positively to explore the nature and challenges facing modern American democracy and examine what steps can be taken to safeguard the nation’s most important legacy.

The developments in American democracy surrounding 2020 should have been the key focus of this Mock Con as it is an incredibly important and topical issue for the American electorate and lawmakers. This lost opportunity for important political engagement is a travesty and I lament that it happened while I was attending the university.

This Mock Con failed to adapt to the new and scary age that we live in as an American electorate. That is a shame, as many of the speakers spoke powerfully about relevant topics. But sadly, Mock Con was not primarily focused on these pressing issues.

We must consider the impact of the 2024 Mock Convention speakers during a time when democracy is at risk.

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  • M

    Michael McLaughlin '23Mar 14, 2024 at 6:07 pm

    Actually, this is not an unprecedented election. Both candidates are traveling the country seeking votes, just as how any other candidate has done. No one is mustering up a militia or an opposition army or waging a military coup. There have been firebrand political candidates before: Donald Trump is not the first. Grover Cleveland was president, then lost the next election, then won the next one. This is what Donald Trump is seeking, and it has been done before. Nothing about this election is unprecedented.

  • J

    Jeffrey Lawson Class of 68Mar 13, 2024 at 2:20 pm

    I agree with Mr. Maghie comments and wrote a letter to Jenny Hellwig last week about this issue. I did point out that the Moc convention was a prediction and not an endowrsement of Trump as the Rupublican Party candidate but there was a lot of applause during Donald Trump Jr’s rambling speech. I wonder if a campus wide discussion in College Chapel of the subject of, “Does Donald Trump violate the W&L honor code” be something that the Ring-Tum Phi could sponsor?.