Young Republicans Struggle to Find Room Under Party's Shrinking Tent

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photo: My FOX DFW

Young Conservatives have been venting their frustrations over tenets of their party's platform. Some of the changes made by the Texas GOP, especially its hard line on immigration and 'reparative therapy' for homosexuals, have dominated the state's political news since the convention last weekend.

The common remedy provided by the young Republicans can be summed up as “brevity.” The suggestion was that the platform should be a more broad statement of beliefs. Ironically though, even with “freedom” as a battlecry, the platform details just how much the Tea Party really wants to regulate liberty, and just how uninviting it is to the diversity that makes up the state of Texas.

See what the Young Republicans in Texas and Florida have said below the jump…The changes came as many of the remaining probusiness/moderate Republicans were pushed out of their primaries in favor of more socially conservative Tea Partiers. State party leaders have called for unity, but it has been met with infighting and sidelining. They have called for better outreach and recruitment of minority voters and candidates and that was answered with even harsher tones.  

The problem for the GOP is largely self-inflicted between their divisive rhetoric and restrictions on voting that contribute to Texas having the lowest civic participation of any state in the nation. Democrats have been anxiously waiting for the full release of the platform in order to keep the focus on the most extreme views of the GOP, and that is exactly what the Young Republicans fear.

Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Emmanuel Garcia released a statement today anticipating its publication:

“Republicans have plenty of reasons to be embarrassed by their platform. From media reports we've heard about backward ideas like 'reparative therapy' for LGBTQ Texans and eliminating the Texas Dream Act. Texans still deserve to know what Texas Republicans stand for. It's time for the GOP to release their 2014 platform.”

Some young GOP members think the answer lies in saying less specifics, others think real changes are necessary.

The Young Republicans of Texas' immediate past Chair Mark Brown who told Breitbart Texas,

“it really doesn't serve any purpose other than to be cannon fodder for the left to pick out parts and pieces that are phrased just a little bit wrong, that they [can]twist around to make Republicans look bad.” Brown added, “We need a platform [to]serve as a rallying flag for conservatives… a small, condensed set of broad-based general conservative principles that we can all agree with, rather than get into the weeds of this particular issue. We should condense the platform down to just maybe ten principles and leave it at that.”

I don't exactly consider calling for 'reparative therapy' wrong phrasing. I'll go with the American Psychological Association and just call it wrong. The same thing goes for their immigration policy. How can you say it is just phrased improperly when the winning primary runoff candidate for Lt. Governor had campaigned to “Stop the Illegal Invasion?”

Young Republicans in Florida equally frustrated believe that it is more than just the length of the platform — it's the content. Dan Daley a Millennial elected official in South Florida said, “There is very little doubt the party needs to change…The party needs to get away from focusing on the social issues and more on the fiscal issues.”

In an AP article Tampa Bay Young Republican Executive Director Lacey Wickline said, “We're doing something right. We've got the energy, we're trying to do what's right by our party, and where's the support?…If you're really trying to target the under 40 demographic, there's only one place to turn – that's us.”

But it doesn't seem like that is happening no matter how many warnings come from Republican Party leaders who are tasked with the Party's sustainability. A Republican pastor and committeeman in Florida said the Republican Party would be “completely through,” and “would never win another major election if they go down the road of supporting same-sex marriage.”

Another young Republican who Margi Helschien, who is president of the Independent Conservative Action Network told the SunSentinal she believes, “There will be some rising star who can bring us back together like Ronald Reagan.”

That's also what Texas State Representative Jason Villalba was hoping when he was attacked after pinning an open letter in Texas Monthly to former Reagan Republicans to take back their party. Villalba himself seemed to be a rising star in the Texas GOP, but has found himself on the same side as those “RINOs” for attempting reasonable solutions to major wedge issues like healthcare and immigration.

The GOP has yet to gain back the trust of minorities, and looks like it is on the cusp of altogether losing the next generation. The data shows that on many of the issues that young Republicans part with the Tea Party brethren, there is a connection with Democrats: from medical marijuana, to gay marriage and immigration. And it certainly doesn't help when a current GOP Governor compares homosexuality to alcoholism. But at least for now, young conservatives will try and push their way back under the shrinking tent.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard.

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