Tuesday, April 12, 2016

California's Young Conservatives Shining Bright

One of my favorite songs is “We Are Young” by the hit group Fun.

The music video doesn’t quite match the band’s name.

With a seedy bar as background, the band hits their chorus, all hell breaks loose. Patrons smash peers with beer bottles and chairs. The fear and booze spills all over in a swirling chaos. Even though the lead singer promises to take his girlfriend home, a brawler dashes out and crashes a stool on an unwitting passerby. The chorus hammers: “We are young! So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun!”

A bitter frustration underscores the melody. In a similar way, a sorrow seems to grips the younger generation. Robots are taking over entry level jobs. The world is a lot less safe, as Islamic terrorists annihilate their global “opponents”, unchecked by the feckless Barack Obama. At home, the adults have neglected their progeny, opting for champagne socialism and borrowing from the future. They declined their role as authority figures, nurturers—basically, parents. It seems like the college generation will be defined by safe speech zones and “microaggressions”.

In spite of these dire outcomes, young conservatives are rising up in our midst, even here in California, and their future can be bright. Fire can destroy, but heat produces light, energy, and power—like the sun.

George Yang, candidate for US Senate

All of this segues to my fun weekend in San Diego, where the California College Republicans (CACR) hosted their annual convention.  A good friend of mine, George Yang of Menlo Park (who had run for Lieutenant Governor in 2014 and won a number of surprisingly liberal districts in the Bay Area), invited me down. Even though I am not exactly college age, I was not the only post graduate, but found I had a lot to learn. Besides, I wanted to coordinate with college groups, turn up youth outreach and turn out the vote for Election 2016.

Jere Ford, Chairman of CACR 

The current CACR chairman, Jere Ford, opened up the convention Friday night. Another US Senate candidate, Duf Sundheim, and California’s RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel helped kick off the weekend. The next day, when I showed up, Ford delivered good news: “This is the best attendance we have had yet for this convention!”

UCI GOP! Go Anteaters!

Indeed, it was packed.  Young college Republicans from Humboldt to San Diego, including UC Irvine, my alma mater (ZOT!) showed up to brandish their conservative stripes and encourage one another for the wins to come. Most were political science majors. They related the lamentable struggles they face from peers and professors to be respected, even to be heard in their classes. Professors tilt left (like a broken, arcane arcade machine) and take down thousands of young minds, which no longer learn how to think. Why were they still Republicans, then, in spite of the dire hostilities they daily face? Some come from Republican families. Others went into college with fixed progressive views, only to see them fail. Writers and volunteers, many of them show interest in managing campaigns (or running for office themselves).

Pete Peterson, Dean of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy

Pete Peterson was the first guest speaker for Saturday morning. As the 2014 Republican candidate for California’s Secretary of State, he had gathered endorsements from major newspapers up and down the state. Despite his disappointing loss, he reminded the audience that in the two districts where his losses were by the widest margins, Los Angeles and Alameda Counties, two Republicans were elected to the state assembly including my own David Hadley. From those two beacons of light, Peterson (himself the dean for the only center-right public policy institute in the state) exhorted his young listeners: “California is a red state dominated by those two liberal areas. We need to fix that.”

Two other speakers focused on new messaging. The GOP needs to revamp its brand. The argument “Big vs. Limited Government” isn’t working. Why? The Information Revolution grants huge resources and expansive influence. Saying “No” to liberal lunacy isn’t enough, either. Focus on liberty, which is always a new concept. Democrats push an old, industrial age ideology. What worked one hundred years ago, a top-down assembly line structure giving everyone a car, just won’t work in today’s open, organic, and lively society.

When I heard the word “open”, my mind opened. That’s the new way today that we can sell conservative ideals. Focus on life, openness, and opportunity. What do Democrats have? Old, failed, and stale. The Democrats are the party of taxis. Republicans are the party of Uber: cheaper, faster, with more opportunity for everyone, not just a fading Middle Class that needs a boost.

In a later event, the young charges heard from conservative academics. They encouraged their audience to speak out and advocate for their principles. More people would appreciate and follow their example. “Don’t read what the instructor assigns on the syllabus,” one of them advised. “Read conservative thinkers!”

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer

The Keynote Speaker for the evening? San Diego’s Kevin Faulconer, the only Republican mayor in the Top Ten cities. He emphasized reform and results, and connections with communities long avoided by conservatives. If you haven’t heard, the “Enron of the Pacific” has transformed into a glowing success story, in large part because of the growing Republican resurge, from mayor the city council.

Members of the Santa Barbara College Republicans

At the end of the evening came the awards ceremonies. The UC Santa Barbara Republicans won for most active group.  Jacob Ellenhorn, USC’s College Republican President, walked into a firestorm because he invited wildfire conservative journalist Milo Yiannapoulos. The student council wanted to force Ellenhorn out over his conservative views! After outside pressure, they relented (but took away his stipend!). He later won the CACRA award for activist of the year. Well-deserved, to say the least.

Jacob Ellenhorn 

These young people are setting the world on fire, and making sure that conservative ideals—and the Republican Party—shine brighter in the days to come. We can rest assured that with their dedication to constitutional rule and the rule of law, they will be able to take this country home.

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