Last month the CU Denver Political Science Department, with the help of the wonderful Ms. Elly Steinmetz, brought a small group of (mostly) conservative students to the Western Conservative Summit. The three of us, media passes in hand, got the opportunity attend community seminars, hear future presidential candidates give keynote speeches, and meet these influential leaders in exclusive backstage interviews. Most importantly we got to be a part of the youth movement at the Western Conservative Summit and experience the changing atmosphere of the Republican Party first hand.
When you ask people, especially young people, to describe the Republican Party they often rattle off labels such as: white, old, and male. As a young, female minority these same people are often shocked that I am so passionate about the republican platform. This year’s Summit gives me hope that this shock won’t last for long.
This year’s Summit gives me hope that this shock won’t last for long.
The Western Conservative Summit (WCS) is the conservative event of the year. It is known for drawing out the most influential republican leaders and an older voter base far from center-right. This year was different; not only was the message more moderate, but at least half of the over 3000 attendees were under the age of 30. Young people were celebrated and highlighted throughout the Summit with speakers focused on the priorities of young voters (hello, higher ed reform) and a strong reliance on social media. Large projector screens featured live-stream Twitter feeds and a leaderboard, which the CU Denver Political Science Department and I dominated on the second day of the Summit, and all three days of WCS were trending nationally. The young turnout and focus proved to be the first hint of a changing Republican Party.
The Western Conservative Summit managed to debunk another stereotype this year: not all republicans are white males. The speaker list included conservative minority leaders such as Governor Bobby Jindal (TN), Senator Elbert Guillory (LA), Senator Tim Scott (SC), Representative Allen West (FL), and potential presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. Nine of the twenty primary speakers at WCS were members of minority groups and almost half of the featured speakers were strong conservative women, such as Tammy Bruce (an openly gay, pro-choice, conservative radio host) and Katie Pavlich (a 26-year-old journalist and 2014 Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute Woman of the Year). Additionally, a vast number of minority and women’s groups were represented in the Summit’s exhibition room. The diverse representation at the WCS further demonstrated the changes occurring within the Republican Party.
This is no longer our parents’ Republican Party. While it is easy, as young Denverites, to accept the stereotypes of the Republican Party at face value, this realignment requires us to reevaluate political affiliations.
This is no longer our parents’ Republican Party.
As the political right continues to focus on the priorities of a younger America, more and more people are finding themselves supporters of the Republican Party. I am excited to see how the changing atmosphere of the Republican Party is reflected at the 2015 Western Conservative Summit and look forward to seeing more than three CU Denver student attendees.