The babies of the Republican party
As I waited in line to get into the convention, I realized one crucial point. Republicans aren't just crusty old white men. There is a youthful future to the Republican party, and much to our suprise, all generations are representing in St. Paul.
From 20-somethings to tweens to toddlers, each one of these baby Reagans has the same message: Go red. Texting away on her phone with one hand and clutching a white Gucci bag with the other, Jenniffer Rodriguez, the blond president of California Young Republicans hardly looks up as she starts to talk about her party's platform.
Rodriguez, 26, has spent almost all her time in the Twin Cities working with GOP youth to support the future of her party. "I think if you just look at the issues you'd understand that Republicans support individual responsibility and small government and with the economy like it is today, the Republican party is the best to address that."
Inside the convention hall, Maria Mercuri, 20, can't stop fidgeting. She giggles as she sits next to her college friend, star-struck by the Republican shenanigans. As far as the Mercuri knows, she is the youngest alternate delegate in the Xcel center. This morning at a delegation breakfast she watched McCain's mother and a POW who served with the Republican presidential nominee speak to the crowd.
While ,eeting senators and congressmen and women has been exciting, Mercuri is upset she won't have the chance to see her favorite Republican of all: President George Bush.
"I'm really disappointed that Bush isn't here. That was going to be the highlight of the week for me." As far as the possibility that John McCain still might come, Mercuri didn't seem to care. "I just hope he follows Bush's agenda," she says with a sigh.
Young up-and-coming politicians weren't the only nervous ones at the convention hall. Seven-year-old Ansley Drenner, from Austin, Texas clutched her mother's hand as they navigated the crowd in the Xcel center. She was plastered from head to toe with stickers and Republican swag. When asked who she wanted to be president of the United States, she thought about it and then proudly boasted, "John McCain." She didn't have a response as to why.
Her mom, Julie Drenner, an alternate delegate, said getting to the convention in St. Paul was a family affair. Her 13-year-old son wrote the speech to get her elected, and the entire family campaigned hard at the state convention. "It's not so much that I want them to be Republicans, I'm more interested in them being involved and being good Americans. That just happens to be in line with Republican principles."
Outside, a group of teenage boys sarcastically responded to a lone protester. Michael Fincher, 18, from Merced, California, says that young people don't get it. Most are Democrats because they only "engage in one-way conversations with their teachers." But the Republican Party protects freedom of speech, the right to respectfully protest, and to bear arms, he says. "The party brings family values, low taxes, small government, and the idea of a free Republican society, Fincher boasts. "I don't believe in socialism and that is what the Democratic Party promotes."
His friend, Luke Orlando, 14, adds "Young people want these idealistic jobs, but they don't understand the tax system. All they hear are the sweet-sounding words of Obama; they don't hear about the issues."
When Orlando was five years old, he says he stayed up till 3 a.m. to make sure all the states went red for George Bush. He says he's more Republican than his parents. "They've never been to a convention," he brags.
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