Columnist reflects on CPAC

By DAVE KLEPPICK
Featured Columnist

Politics can be very exciting but also very boring.
Most of our generation hates politics because of the boring side without giving the exciting side a chance.
Information on policy is like listening to a lecture about spending money wisely; we all think we know how to do it, but the end results show we often don’t.
I love the exciting side of politics, but I hate the boring stuff. Even more than being bored, I hate when politicians try to smooth us over like we’re all idiots.
Before even introducing themselves, politicians will tell you why they’re so great. Who cares?
Politicians continue to give our generation that patented line that goes something like, “I’m not running for office for me, it’s for you. You’re our future.”
I’ve always wanted to respond with something like, “Oh yeah? All this time, I thought you were the future and not me, considering you are the one running for office and I’m the one probably not going to vote for you because you make me yawn.”
Considering these feelings, traveling to Washington D.C. for the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference last week was a refreshing experience.
Its focus was so anti-establishment that this rhetorical pandering didn’t happen once. Even though the convention was oriented towards future Republican electoral victories, it didn’t feel like people were begging me to vote for them.
The people at CPAC were interested in sharing ideas and having intelligent policy debates.
One of the reasons I love politics is because everyone involved is ambitious. Whether that ambition is based on a desire for power or on doing the right thing, it’s still ambition.
Everyone is trying to get noticed at all times, especially at an event like CPAC. It’s a dog eat dog world, and sometimes, if you’re in the right place, you may experience something memorable.
For instance, I met a campaign manager for an unnamed Republican candidate for Congress in Massachusetts. He told me that as soon as he took the job, he was putting in applications for other work.
I asked, “why?” in an interested tone.  He looked at me after a couple drags of his Marlboro Menthol 100 and said bluntly, “please tell me you’re not studying politics in college and don’t know that a candidate that breathes a Republican breath would ever win in Massachusetts.”
After that condescending remark, I had to prove my knowledge, so I asked, “What about Scott Brown?”
He laughed really loud, making a scene and making me blush, and looked me right in the eyes and said, “and you would’ve voted for Scott Brown if he ran for Senate wherever you’re from?”
He was right, I wouldn’t have voted for him. Touché’ my friend, and thanks for the brutal honesty.
The crowd was more diverse, charming and passionate than I expected. It made me more excited and more passionate about politics.
A true exchange of conservative ideas, like I witnessed at CPAC, was something I only read about in books. That’s not a low-blow towards Allegheny College but rather an admission that our Political Science department is a little left-of-center, to put it kindly.
Last year, I made the mistake of considering Ron Paul’s victory in the presidential straw-poll as the result of Republican’s political confusion.
The presidential straw-poll winner at CPAC 2011 was, again, Ron Paul.
I’m not convinced his appeal is a result of his politics, but rather his mindset towards Washington politics and the establishment.
I wouldn’t vote for him in 2012, but I believe he is an important Republican figure in the national spotlight.
He is exciting, brash and unapologetic for his conservative ideals.  That was the dominant mindset in the CPAC crowd in 2011, and it was refreshing and hopeful.
I didn’t gain much more political understanding from the convention. Like any convention, people were there to meet, share ideas and maybe have some drinks together.
People from all over the country that share similar interests and ideas in politics got together and had a great time.
That’s what we College Republicans did: met a ton of great people, some important, some not as important, but ultimately had an incredible time.