National conference offers opportunities for NMU College Republicans

Justin Bis

Isn’t it really cool when young adults — students like us — get involved with national politics? A group of 13 NMU students did just that a couple weekends ago.

Members of the NMU College Republican party traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): the nation’s largest gathering of conservative leaders. (Breathe easy classmates, unlike social justice advocate Sandra Fluke’s presentation, no money from your tuition was used on this trip.)

It was a grueling 18-hour drive to Washington but well worth it to these young conservatives because of the great networking and job opportunities.

This trip also offered NMU students the ability to see history in the making — the reformation of the Republican party.

The old Reagan coalition that makes up the Republican party, the alliance of traditional, social, libertarian and neo-conservatives, has fragmented. As the 2012 elections showed Americans, the Reagan coalition is no longer capable of crossing the 50-percent mark during election season.

That means the Republican party has a lot of soul-searching to do. It means Republicans need to include more people in their tent.

This process of rethinking about what it means to be a conservative is one of the reasons why the NMU Republicans went to CPAC.

At CPAC, the NMU College Republicans interacted and exchanged ideas with national leaders of the Republican party. Some of these leaders you may have heard about. Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are just a few of the gentlemen that took part in various discussions.

While each had a separate vision and direction in which the new Republican party could go in the future, there were some voices that resonated more strongly with our Wildcats than did others.

Senator Rand Paul, the son of libertarian rockstar Ron Paul, was one of those leaders that NMU students felt strongly attached to. Rand spoke about what problems the Grand Old Party (GOP) faces, some of the contradictions that could alienate voters, and the new rising generation of Republican leaders.

In regards to the direction of the Republican party, Rand told the audience: “Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP, the GOP that will win again, will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and personal sphere. If we are going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”

I agree with Rand. By becoming the party of civil liberties, the GOP can rebrand itself without losing its core principles of limited government.

Rand also had something to say about young Americans being more likely to become libertarian-minded conservatives than the traditional statist progressive — mostly because of technological revolutions: “The Facebook generation can detect falseness and hypocrisy a mile away. They are the core of the ‘leave-me-alone’ coalition. They doubt that Social Security will be there for them. They worry about jobs and money, rent and student loans. They want leaders that won’t feed them a line of crap or sell them short. They aren’t afraid of individual liberty.”

Rand was very critical of the GOP old guard, and as the GOP continues to do its soul searching, it’s becoming increasingly likely that there will be a major overhaul of Republican leadership — and it’ll be youth leaders like those who went to CPAC who do the choosing.

Leaders like John McCain and John Boehner may be on the way out, while fresh hybrid conservatarians like Rand Paul are on the way in. Only time will tell.

NMU Republicans were very moved by Mitt Romney’s speech — his first public appearance since losing the election. Most of those NMU students who attended (and a lot of NMU students who didn’t) put their hearts and soul into Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign.

With Romney’s loss, there was immense disappointment amongst these groups of NMU students.

Northern’s College Republicans, sitting perhaps only 20 feet away from the former presidential candidate, had a chance to experience closure after a hard fought campaign.

CPAC also afforded a lot of job opportunities for those who attended.

At the convention, a massive job fair for jobs relating to campaigns, leadership training and Capitol Hill work was held. Currently, three Wildcats have found employment through our CPAC trips, and we just started this trip last year.

It will be cool to see whether Washington, D.C. will retain this small yet close knit Wildcat alumni association.

Regardless, it can only mean one thing for students interested in political work — more jobs.

I know many of you don’t like my politics; I probably don’t like yours, but you have to respect the Republicans on this campus who are involved in issues going to a national scale.

CPAC was an experience I recommend to all NMU students who are conservative and want to be in the thick of politics.

It’s a trip that the College Republicans take every year, in addition to other trips, bringing on-campus speakers (stay tuned for comedian Steven Crowder this April) and working on campaigns.

If you’re interested in starting a career in politics (or just get involved), look up NMU Republicans on Facebook.