Ever since I was a child, I was always into politics. I wasn’t like normal kids who were interested in Pokemon. Seriously, when I was five, I had a G-8 birthday party.
(Video courtesy of William Carter)
In high school, I ran for school elections. I worked on campaigns. And in 2016, I was a delegate for Georgia at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. As an 18-year-old walking on the convention floor for the first time, it was amazing...
Being there was so surreal. Looking back at my Snapchat videos, I was at the top of my game. It seemed like the start of the greatest journey of my life. I will never forget casting my vote during roll call, and the big reveal when Donald Trump walked on stage, and I’m screaming, “Donald!!! Oh my God, it’s Donald!!!”
Here I am now in 2020. I’m not sure of my place in the party anymore. I’m 23 now and party politics feels complicated.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not part of the 76% of college students who look unfavorably on the GOP, according to a recent Knight poll. I support Trump. And the GOP is my home, even though I don’t support the Republican Party platform word-for-word. My main frustration is with the party establishment — they make it hard for young people to break through.
Where I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, history is perfectly preserved. It was one the few cities that didn’t burn down in the Civil War. Stuff is old here. Politicians going as far back as the American Revolution are remembered, and buried.
When I walk through Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, I’m literally standing in the gravesite where individuals who helped form this nation are buried. When you grow up surrounded by long-term political legacies that go back hundreds of years, is it really any surprise that I had an interest in politics at such a young age?
I recently went to visit some of my old teachers who knew me from high school. I had big plans for myself back then.
“I’m still a little shocked you aren’t a card-carrying Republican anymore. I’m still processing that,” said Shelly Roberts, my high school teacher who has watched me through this journey.
She didn’t expect me to say that I’m weighing my place in the party. “But you know, I think in a way it's good,” she added. “Yes, when you were a freshman, you were very rigid, like: ‘I’m a conservative and this is what I think and this is my box.’ And I think definitely by the time you were a senior, you had relaxed those parameters. You weren’t trying to box yourself in anymore. And I think with all that has occurred in our country politically-wise, with the Republican Party in general — how Trump really has completely reshaped how it works — we don’t really know what's going to happen.”
She might be right. Trump has changed politics as we know it. And our parties need work.
Right now, too much happens behind closed doors, and too many politicians don’t want to relinquish their power, and let the next generation of leaders in. Instead they have secret meetings cloaked with cigar smoke.
As someone who wants to contribute in some way, I’m realizing there isn’t necessarily a clearcut path for me — there are so many twists and turns and potholes. I want to see the party embrace the younger generation and realize that it is time for a change. I’m going to do my best to stick with the GOP until that happens.
Also featured on NPR’s Morning Edition.