According to our recent interview with TheBlaze writer Brandon Morse, we should always declare our bias or influence, if any. In that spirit, I want to mention that I am the Political Director for the Davis College Republicans, a chapter that has endorsed Thrive. Two of our board members are running on that slate. I personally have not endorsed any slate, a situation I will outline in this article.
It’s hard being a conservative on any campus, but especially California college campuses. Our universities are famed for starting the free speech movement, and then subsequently crushing it when it protects the right-wing. Those few suppressed conservative professors find themselves inundated with leftist propaganda. In Prager University’s Conservative Student's Survival Guide, a campus professor advises students to join College Republicans (CRs), among others, for support. The CRs have long been fighting the liberal bias on college campuses, and California College Republicans (CCR) can be found at the forefront of the fight in California.
Currently, the one question on everyone’s mind is who should lead these freedom fighters. In the past, a single slate was selected with little controversy, and then unanimously voted in. This year, it seems like this standard procedure has been disrupted. There are now two slates, Rebuild and Thrive, both of which are running candidates for each position within the CCR board. This race is charged, potentially more than our recent presidential election, and more cutthroat on many counts. Within a party that produced Reagan, whose famous Eleventh Commandment said “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican,” it is saddening to see the hateful undertones of this conflict.
Additionally, the cause of this conflict is highly confusing. Many people understand that the Republican versus Democrat conflict is due to fundamentally different views, but it’s harder to understand Rebuild vs. Thrive. Both profess the same; to advance College Republicans in the state of California. My colleague, Eric Lendrum, has documented the conflict well, including the charter controversy as well as the general progression of events. Thrive and Rebuild are neck and neck in a race to which no one knows the end. I hope it will finish well, but history tells me otherwise. My goal is to avoid a repetition of Red State Rising, which saw CR attack CR, with no winners in the end. CRs must be on good terms if we are to fight for the Republican Party.
At the end of the day, both slates want the best for CCR, they just have different methods to achieving outcomes. In an email interview, the Thrive state chair candidate Leesa Danzek reflected the concerns of a divided state party, emphasizing her mission to run a positive campaign, with the clear end goal of growing the Republican Party in California. Despite the divide between slates, she was pleased to see Rebuild members involved in the party, and wanted to encourage all CRs to work hard and promote conservatism, just as she has through her years on the executive board and as a field representative for the Republican Party. When asked about Thrive supporters’ blatant attacks on Rebuild, she called those derogatory comments “disheartening,” mentioning that she had “spent hours speaking” to those who would rather focus on negative rhetoric, especially against fellow CRs. Overall, Leesa wants the best for all College Republicans, not just Thrive or Rebuild.
On the other hand, one of the missions of the California College Republicans is “to contribute to the growth and influence of the Republican Party on university and college campuses in California.” On such liberal campuses, this is now found in the form of activism, an area in which Ariana Rowlands, the Rebuild candidate for state chair, excels. As a Breitbart, RedAlert, and RefinedRight author, as well as the president of UC Irvine College Republicans, it’s no surprise that she was declared Most Influential 2016 by the Orange County Register. On Twitter, she has over 30,000 followers, and even obtained a selfie of her with the now President Trump. It’s no doubt that Ariana is “QueenAri” of conservative activism. However, like Leesa, she also has witnessed the negative impact of this race, going so far as to condemn the infighting on Rebuild’s page.
Unfortunately, the question still remains: who should we elect? In a recent conference call among our Millennial Review team, a featured contributor mentioned it’s “not necessarily who’s right, but what’s right.” There’s plenty of points on which I see Leesa and Ariana fall short of perfection, and plenty of instances where I see them meeting an essential need within the California College Republicans. At this point, we need both their strengths firmly established, working for the betterment of the CRs on campuses and in the Capitol. To quote Leesa, “Each position on the CCR board is a new challenge with late nights, long tabling shifts at chapters, 100-mile drives, and endless opportunities to harness.” Instead of seeing a great divide, with CR attacking fellow CR in a power struggle, I would love to see members of Rebuild and Thrive together fulfilling these difficult tasks. College Republicans must vote for values and the ability to accomplish those values above tradition or prominence.
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