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A young Republican meets Occupy at CPAC

A young Republican meets Occupy at CPAC

It’s been a few days since I returned to Ithaca from my now-annual trip to CPAC with the Cornell College Republicans and, while I can’t help but think I wasn’t at the same conference as Erick Erickson, it was a great opportunity to meet other young conservatives and take in the wisdom of some older ones.

But there was one group at CPAC that I was surprised to have learned so much from . . . the Occupy-ers.

There were two pretty distinct sects within the Occupy CPAC clan.

The first was Big Labor, which initially organized the rallies and was even going so far as paying protesters to show up. There wasn’t much to these guys. They’d show up, stand around for an hour, and watch the usually well produced sideshow the union had planned out (one particularly elaborate skit involved actors dressed as baseball players on a team called “Mitt and the Tax Dodgers”). But if the three hours I spent Friday afternoon eating crawfish alongside a few dozen members of the Sheet Metal Workers union at a bar a few blocks from the protest were any indication, the union wasn’t exactly getting its money’s worth.

The other sect, however, was much more interesting.

Instead of union t-shirts and seemingly choreographed protesting, these folks had cardboard signs and an angry message that seemed more misguided than disingenuous. One particular exchange with a group of protesters from the “darker” side of Occupy stands out to me.

As I was walking with a group of College Republicans from the pharmacy (and no, Mr. Erickson, we weren’t buying condoms, just soda) back to the hotel, we met a group of particularly hostile Occupy-ers led by a twenty something who himself appeared to be either an undergraduate or graduate student alongside some other high school and college aged kids.

Spotting his sign in protest of Scott Walker, who was to speak that night, one of the more forward Cornell Republicans in our group asked the “leader” why he was such a big fan of public sector unions. Nothing. After a few minutes of generally respectful dialogue with them in which we both undoubtedly had our awkward and defensive moments, it was pretty clear that, while none of these kids were going to turn around and vote Republican that minute, we made plenty of headway with them. Unlike the union members being paid to protest, these Occupy-ers didn’t really have any reason to hate Scott Walker . . . they just did.

But once they had the opportunity to hear from conservative young people that were their age and understood where they were coming from, you could tell that minds were starting to change. (The revelation that the District’s $8.25 minimum wage might be part of the reason they had a tough time finding a summer job certainty sent a few heads spinning.)

This brings me, however, to my only gripe with what was otherwise stellar CPAC programming (seriously, go watch Daniel Hannan’s speech right now, or when you’re done reading this).

One of the panels towards the end of the day on Saturday, entitled “The Tea Party Versus Occupy Wall Street,” had some pretty big names, including Tea Party Express founder Amy Kremer and Big Journalism editor Dana Loesch. Going into it, I was expecting a harsh rebuke of the policies pursued by the Occupy movement, but I certainty didn’t expect a group of Tea Partiers to go into the gutter in much the same way the left did when they went after the Tea Party.

First, let me say that I agree with the panelists on the crux of their point, that the media judged each of the movements using entirely different standards. While the entirety of the Tea Party was labeled as racist because of a one-in-a-thousand off color sign at a rally, Occupy-ers miraculously stayed out of the evening news when it came to anything unsavory related to their movement, including reports of violent crime within the Zuccotti Park encampment.

But instead of going after that double standard and recognizing that neither the Tea Party nor Occupy could be judged by the actions of those on their fringes, these panelists engaged in the kind of hyperbole and vitriol that would remind one of a CNN reporter covering a Tea Party rally back in 2009. They poked fun at the way the protesters looked or how intelligent they were, and tried to pin the worst actions of a few on the movement as a whole. Really, they did everything but address why the Occupy-ers were wrong on the substance.

Trust me, I’m not one to defend the Occupy movement and, outside of their critique of the bailouts (I don’t think anyone outside of the boardrooms of Wall Street and Detroit was too thrilled about those), I don’t see eye to eye with them on any policy issues. That said, I don’t see it as naive to think that politics isn’t about destroying your opponent, but rather about winning them over.

We’re never going to get the union bosses and their lemmings to see things our way – it’s in their self interest to maintain the unsustainable status quo.

But when, instead of simply articulating why conservatism works, we talk about Occupy in the same unnecessarily incendiary tone the left used to trash the Tea Party, we lose our chance to win over the cardboard sign crowd.

And if the young Occupy-ers I met at CPAC taught me anything, it’s that there’s plenty of winning over to be done.


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This post, in a nut shell, is what’s wrong with conservatives. Oh, I give the hell up.

    ntamulis in reply to Jaynie59. | February 20, 2012 at 9:29 am


      RefudiateObama2012 in reply to ntamulis. | February 20, 2012 at 9:43 am

      If you need an explanation, you don’t understand what’s wrong with being a squish.

        Unless you are ready to start the revolution with guns and bombs, appealing to the “squishy middle” is still the way to go.

        Yes, they are misguided and muddleheaded. And the alternative is? Adopting the lefts TACTICS is one thing, adopting their attitudes and strategies is another.

        Look at Breitbart, he still never stops at the essential: Make them question their core beliefs, expose to the whole world their hypocrisy. The best way to do that is still one person at a time….

Excellent post. These words of yours are so true:

… I don’t see it as naive to think that politics isn’t about destroying your opponent, but rather about winning them over.”

RefudiateObama2012 | February 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

I think Michael Alan shows his naivete. Sure, there are plenty of occupiers who are clueless in regard to why they are against something. The biggest part of any movement like Occupy is made up of lemmings. If a few of them see the folly of their own protestations, they drop out and are quickly replaced by another round of ignorant troublemakers. There is no short supply of young ideologues who can be persuaded to do just about anything.

These young people described in this article are insignificant. The movement is being driven by Obama, Van Jones, and other marxists. They are being financed by people like George Soros and Peter Lewis (Progressive Insurance), and they are being protected by the media.

The idea that the occupiers can be won over by engaging the young people is beyond silly. Jaynie59 is right. The author’s words epitomize the problem of conservatism. Going squishy won’t cut it. We’re in a war, and the Michael Alans better damn well open their eyes to it.

    You are parttially wrong; there are three kinds of people, the right, the left and the squishy middle. Many of those kids would fall into the squishy middle group. Kids go to rallies like this because their friends are, and because they have been given 10 second talking points. How many times have the Occupiers been interviewed and when asked why they were there, they really didn’t know?

    With the hard left, those who truely believe in the policies of socialism/Marxism, there is no changing their minds. But with the squishy middle, the trick is to give them information they didn’t get in their pre-programmed 10 second talking point and give them something to think about. Once they question their own beliefs, they are less prone to be influenced by the left.

    College kids especially, are searching to find their niche. No one knew this better than William F. Buckley. And when presented with Buckley, Alinsky will lose every time.

Slanted news–liberal or conservative–is a cancer that will eat away our freedoms.

One analysis of 2012 campaign – Romney having trouble holding onto 2008 supporters:

Good post. It gets to the same issue I have with the Republican primaries. I have no problem with the candidates lambasting each other all day long. But I want it to be basically truthful, even if exaggerated. In too many instances it has not been truthful at all. Gingrich was treated especially unfairly in this regard, but the others have too.

If these tactics are attempted in the general election (untruthful attacks), the mainstream media, being favorably disposed to Obama, will come back hard against the offender. The tactic would thus be counterproductive. Against Obama, however, untruthful attacks will be completely unnecessary because truthful attacks are so readily available.

William, I fully agree with Daniel Hannan’s speech. What I long for is an American that can draw the stark contrast between the conservative ideals & the welfare, dependence, controling state that we are hurtling towards. One can palpate the passion towards conservative ideals in this speech.

Good post. I agree that reaching out to high school and college-age students will work better than antagonizing them. These are not people with hardened positions, or any long-term emotional investment in their particular positions. They tend to be more open to new information, (not infrequently forming opinions in the absence of full information, as well as being susceptible to peer influence.

If you want to get teens and college students to listen to you, treat them with respect and listen to them. Talk *to* them, not *at* them. The Left professors I’ve seen all *tell* their students what to think. That’s subtly demeaning.

There are two things that young adults and teens are looking for: a sense of community, and respect for them as individuals. The Left can only offer the first one (the second is contradictory to their ‘mass movement’ mentality), Conservativism also offers the first, and is defined by the second.

While there may well be another thousand kids just like the one you talked to and got to think, you have to start somewhere, and you don’t know who that kid’s going to talk to. And that kid might just vote Conservative at some point, offsetting the next kid voting Leftist.

    AmandaFitz in reply to radiofreeca. | February 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I am no expert, but an older friend once suggested to me that, instead of pontificating when dealing with my own “adult children,” I should ask them questions and listen to their answers. She suggested that young people frequently have but a cursory understanding of political philosophy and often just parrot what they are being taught by liberal professors. Asking questions forces them to actually think about the “WHY” of what they say they believe. I have found this technique to be useful with my own progeny.

“I don’t see it as naive to think that politics isn’t about destroying your opponent”

After a lifetime in politics, I can tell you it is not really about destroying your opponent, that would be naive and pointless, it’s really about destroying your opponent for power and money:)

So you think you influenced a few OWS kiddies with talk and feel good about yourself, gotta tell ya the next lib who comes their way and offers them a free rock concert with food, drugs, cigarettes, money or booz will turn them right around again with their modern day version of the Roman’s Bread & Circus.

    creeper in reply to Say_What. | February 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

    “So you think you influenced a few OWS kiddies with talk and feel good about yourself, gotta tell ya the next lib who comes their way and offers them a free rock concert with food, drugs, cigarettes, money or booz will turn them right around again with their modern day version of the Roman’s Bread & Circus.”

    Precisely. They have no core values and will gravitate to anyone handing out goodies. The vast majority of them have no idea why they’re protesting, beyond some nebulous concept of “unfairness” and they’re so self-centered they don’t even care, so long as they get to attend the party. For them, Occupy isn’t a political movement. It’s a happening.

    We’ve been “talking with them” for years. They are not listening. There comes a time with almost all children, when “No” has to be backed up with a swat on the rear.

    Professor, I do not understand your current stress on not offending people who are nothing but offensive themselves. While we are “talking about it” this administration is busy dismantling our government. Not only are we justified in being nasty, we ought to be even nastier. They wrote the rules. We may as well play by them.

NC Mountain Girl | February 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I am with the professor on this one. I know a whole lot of people who now vote Republican who live in abject fear that someone will find that picture of them at a McGovern rally.

ghandi would be proud of you, professor.

To those who want to want to claim talking to Occupods and trying to reason with them is naive… What is the alternative? These are our country men and women, and they need to see that the characterization of the “far-right” (i.e. anything REMOTELY conservative or against big government) that they are fed in school is a completely fabricated narrative. Ask them their opinions. Get them to clarafy their facts. Ask follow up questions and get them to question their own beliefs. It’s about examination and critical thinking, two things not give to our populace unless WE as conservatives take the time to give them out. It’s called the Socratic method, and it works. It is how we learn. When the free concert is over, and the free cigarettes smoked, they will be worse off. Thats when they remember you being interested and asking them, “Yeah, but what about…”

Have faith. We will win, because we are right. Because conservatism works, and liberalism doesn’t. It might have to get a whole lot worse (i.e. collapse), but when we rebuild, we can be responsible for getting it right the next time.

[…] or Occupiers? Posted on February 20, 2012 11:30 am by Bill Quick » A young Republican meets Occupy at CPAC – Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion But when, instead of simply articulating why conservatism works, we talk about Occupy in the […]

Michael Alan is right. I was once a foolish leftist utopian. So were David Horowitz and many other conservatives.

The left is always in a big hurry to get where they’re going “by any means necessary”. It always leads to disaster.

My favorite quotation: “Impatience with the messiness of ordinary existence [is] the mark of the true totalitarian” (Victor Ferkis).

Get your kids out of public schools. Help others do the same. Talk with anyone who will listen. Do the hard work.

Finally, don’t get the idea that saving the world depends on us. Read Malcolm Muggeridge’s “The Great Liberal Death Wish” (

Super post, Michael. You capture exactly the frustration that I and many other grassroots Republicans feel with the cluelessness of much of the national leadership and the unfortunate tendency of many of our fellow conservatives to embrace the worst aspects of identity politics rather than argue on substance.
Janis C. Kelly
Chair, City of Ithaca Republican Committee