Members of the GW College Republicans participated in the annual College Republican National Convention at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel last weekend, alongside 300 other students from other chapters around the country.
Attendees at the three-day conference heard from major Republican politicians, including Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
“On college campuses, there are so many Democrats,” said Lynn Stinson, a student in the GW Graduate School of Political Management and a member of the College Republicans. “Being here tells you there are young conservative people like you out there.”
Aside from building unity amongst College Republicans, some speakers also emphasized bipartisan tolerance.
“Senator McCain said it was important for us to reach out to groups that felt alienated, like young people and minorities,” said Jon Blodgett, a student intern from Brigham Young University working for the College Republican National Committee. “We need to reach out to Democrats on our campuses and build upon a foundation of shared principles and goals, rather than focusing on our differences and creating more friction.”
David All, founder of the David All Group, LLC, an online conservative agency, emphasized the youth and minority votes as well. During his lecture titled “Why We Lost in 2008,” he discussed the important role that online social networks like Facebook and Twitter played in helping President Barack Obama win the election.
“I hate when Republicans say, ‘Look, it’s a dead squirrel,’ after the fact, after the squirrel is already dead and has already been run over 50 times,” All said. “McCain is now on Twitter and using an iPhone, after the fact. Up until now, Republicans have looked at the Internet as nothing more than an ATM machine.”
Though All’s lecture pinned McCain’s loss mostly as a result of poor technological resources, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum delivered a harsher criticism of the Republican Party’s performance during the past year.
“I know it’s hard to be the only Republican on campus,” said Santorum, who founded the College Republicans at Penn State University when studying there as an undergraduate. He added, “But as dark as it is now, it will get better.”
Santorum referenced the fall of the Republican Party following the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, trying to create a parallel between Jimmy Carter and President Obama.
Though Santorum was quick to criticize the Obama administration, he cited examples of failures in the Bush administration that should be learned from for the next generation.
“We were incompetent. Katrina? A devastating moment for the President. The Iraq War? We blew it. We never communicated with the American people why we were fighting. Bush lost his way. We lost, we deserved to lose,” Santorum said.
Kyle McLellan, a GW graduate student and one of the only Democrats at the convention, attended the event to promote a nonpartisan debate team at the University. Though he said his political ideals differ from those of Santorum and other speakers, McLellan’s thoughts reflected the convention’s theme of unity and networking.
McLellan said of the speakers, “I think it’s important that College Democrats and College Republicans are always open to different viewpoints and good, healthy debate.”