"The grand ideas of Ronald Reagan live…in young Americans like Jason Shepherd…"

What’s Goin’ On? WLYU 100.9FM: The Young Republicans: Follow the Leader?

Wilson R. Smith

Published on October 12, 2007

Jason Shepherd and I checked each other out on the internet before this interview, and fearlessly went ahead with it. My worst fears were realized: The YRs don’t sound so bad! Damn, reality is a difficult pill sometime!

Since Jason is the State Chairman of the Young Republicans, I mainly wanted to find out if the future leaders of the Georgia Republican Party (ages 18 to 40) are going to be as arrogant as their current ones. I think not, I hope not and my conversation with Jason gives me great expectations that a new breed of Republican leader is coming of age, either in spite of or as a result of the gridlock and polarization of politics. Now, if I just live long enough to see it happen!

I have been reading “Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America” by Cal Thomas (conservative) and Bob Beckel (liberal) and am very conscious of the polarization of the electorate. (There are times when I wonder if this radio show is perceived as polarizing.) With our Congress wasting time debating and resolving about the quality of newspaper ads, talk show hosts, and little boys, there is enough shame to go around. (They all need a good spanking, even if some of them think they would enjoy it.) I was encouraged by the fact that Jason and I could have a decent discussion and I am convinced that if the people in the middle of both parties would ignore the extremes, we could either solve some real problems or have a viable new party.

I have never been active in a political organization and have very little understanding of how they work. I was surprised to hear Jason differentiate the Young Republicans from the College Republicans. As best I can tell, the difference is one of maturity, although I am sure that will offend someone. My impression is that the Young Republicans are not as focused on specific issues as the college guys. Now, that may also account for why Jason and I got along.

It appears that the YRs don’t see themselves as a monolithic creature that spits out the party line on command, but that may be because they avoid taking public positions on issues. They are a “get out the vote” organization. However, there are times when they do pass a resolution taking a position on some proposal. For example, when a Republican introduced a bill in the 2007 legislature to require girls to be vaccinated by the sixth grade for the virus that causes cervical cancer, the YRs passed a resolution opposing the bill.

According to Jason, while the YRs support the party, there are YRs that are gay, that favor abortion, that have no problem with gay rights (of some kind), and that probably hold positions similar to Democrats like me on various issues. As I always say (and believe), everyone is really a Democrat at heart.

We did mix it up a little bit when Jason told me the YRs were going to be involved in supporting and campaigning for the passage of a constitutional amendment that will “define life.” Now, I have a problem with that. Frankly, if people don’t know what life is, I don’t think defining it in the costitutiion is going to help any of us. But of course, the purpose for this kind of amendment in 2008 is to get out the base, the right-wingers, the polarizers, the preachers, the pulpits, all the people for whom the immoral game of politics is a moral war of good versus evil. Someone needs to read the verse that says don’t associate with evil doers! Back in the day, most of those “evil doers” were the politicians.

If Jason and the YRs really think that polarization is a bad thing, it seems contradictory to support and work to pass a constitutional amendment which is nothing but polarizing. So why the conflict? In this respect the YRs are just like everyone else with a sense of ambition. If any YR wants to be a future leader, he/she better obey the current crop, no matter how bad they are, or the YR won’t be around to be a future leader.

This dilemma certainly infects more than the YRs. Can you change the organization of which you are apart by opposing it? I don’t think so, unless you are part of the power structure and you win a battle between factions. I don’t think the up-and-coming can do it, although I wish they could. So, we will just have to wait until Jason and his peers get their shot at power and judge them by their actions. I just hope it won’t be too late!

With important issues like water, tax reform, education, etc. that need to be dealt with in 2008, I hope the Old Rs, waste a lot of time on a constitutional amendment to define life. I hope the people of this state wake up and realize cheap manipulation and make the politicians of polarization pay dearly when they seek re-election in 2008. Here, have some more rope! Go hang yourselves! Excuse me, if that is a little polarizing.

Listen to the podcast at: http://www.whatisgoinon.com/podcast/2007/10/12/the-young-republicans-follow-the-leader/