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Young Republicans Attend CPAC

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Maggie Walker Students at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.

Maggie Walker Students at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.

Maggie Walker Students at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.

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Maggie Walker’s Young Republicans club dove headfirst into a frenzy of conservative celebration, coordination, and controversy the weekend of February 25 during their visit to The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC. CPAC, hosted annually by the American Conservative Union, is an event which showcases some of the leading voices in the Republican party and hosts discussions on prominent issues within the conservative movement. Maggie Walker’s Young Republicans have made it a tradition to attend, but this year many noticed a shift in the conference’s tone and direction.

 

“It was a completely different experience than it has been in the past few years,” Sam Fortune (`17) said of his fourth CPAC, “At previous conventions, the mood has been tense and combative. But now that the huge election victory has given us a chance to implement conservative policies, the atmosphere was downright jubilant.”

 

Other attendees noted an evolution in the convention’s attitude towards President Donald Trump. “Everyone seemed to have come around to Trump really quickly,” said Zada Hall (`17), a co-president of the Young Republicans club, “I was there last year too, and there was very little support for him amongst the primary candidates.”

 

Students were also surprised at the concentration of media outlets covering the event. “They were all over the place, interviewing everyone, and many of them represented stations and websites I had never heard of,” said Fortune, “It seemed like this year’s convention was much more important than in years past.”

 

Another surprising element of the convention was the people, according to Kate Farmer (`20), “Republicans these days are given a bad reputation for being rude, racist, selfish, etc. especially in the media. I was really pleased by how friendly and kind the people were, especially towards me as a political student. The kindness and diversity of the people there makes me definitely want to return next year.” Joey Mistretta (`19) also expressed surprise at the amount of diversity he observed, “The speakers and visitors were all diverse not just in ethnicity, but in lifestyle, gender, origin, occupation and more. People have this false, preconceived notion that a conservative convention is full of nothing but a bunch of old white guys, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

 

This year, CPAC hosted practically every major player in the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Attendees who saw President Trump speak were often not in total agreement with his rhetoric, but pleasantly surprised by the energy he brought to the convention. “The atmosphere in the room was incredible, everyone was on their feet,” recalled Farmer, “I was also surprised by how well he spoke. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.” In fact, Farmer says that CPAC helped to cement her support of the new president, “Of course, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I love his attitude. I think he will deliver what he said he would without any hesitation, and that’s a quality a good president needs.”

Zada Hall
Students were interviewed by several news organizations at the conference.

Ashley Spruill (`20) noted that even though she wished Trump would have addressed “more important issues,” “he definitely captivated his audience, and getting to see the President of the United States, regardless of whether or not I agree with him, is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

 

Many students also enjoyed hearing from Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s UK Independence Party and a major political force behind last year’s “Brexit.” “After learning about him in Comparative Government, it was really fascinating to hear about his policies and his stance on Brexit first hand.” said Hall. Fortune also appreciated the way that Farage “drew parallels between Brexit and our election, framing them within the context of a worldwide nationalist movement.”

 

Overall, students left the convention feeling more optimistic about the future of their party, and more assured in their own beliefs. “After the conference, I am able to say with much more confidence that I believe our party will be able to band together, adapt, and thrive amidst the populist uptick sweeping the globe,” said Hall.

 

Mistretta appreciated finding a sense of belonging he hasn’t felt much at Maggie Walker, “It was definitely refreshing to be in a place where I could express my support for the president without fear of being called a racist, and openly communicate my beliefs about small government and fiscal conservatism to people who won’t dismiss me as some right-wing bigot,” he said.

Farmer concurred, “I feel much stronger in my core political beliefs, and I don’t feel as ashamed of my stance on things,” she said. “Being in an almost entirely liberal school, I have always felt somewhat suffocated in terms of my viewpoints. But being surrounded by the community there, I feel more comfortable expressing my opinions and don’t care as much anymore about what others think.”

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