A Glimpse into the Minds of Millennial Conservatives

Posted: Feb 27, 2017 5:30 PM

Millennial conservatives are of much debate these days, namely on college campuses, as their liberal classmates view them with disdain. 

However, these young and determined conservatives won't stand down. Many believe millennials to only be focused on social issues, but upon interviewing several millennials from different areas of the country at CPAC this past weekend, that doesn't appear to be the case. 

First it is important to note that not all millennials are synonymous. The term "millennial" has come to find a liberal connotation attached to it, but the many young conservatives at CPAC prove that to be far from true. As a subset of that, not all young conservatives are synonymous either. Apart from harrowed declarations that young conservatives simply follow their parents' thoughts or their friends' beliefs, millennial conservatives actually present quite a deviation when it comes to their passionate issues.

For example, Jorge Villareal, 19, from Texas Tech University, has two specific issues he feels strongly about. 

"My two most passionate issues are agriculture, because it's the lifeblood of my state, Texas, and also regulations and licensing, because I think there is too much red tape for something as simple as braiding hair, for example."

In contrast, Coleman Theodore, also 19, from the College of Charleston, has adopted a libertarian standpoint on the issues he cares about most. 

"Being libertarian, Taxation and states’ rights are my two biggest issues. In my opinion, taxation becomes theft when the people who are voting in your state legislature In the national government do not consult you and let you know that your taxes are being raised and don’t give you a voice to defend against it. States’ rights because if you are going to represent somebody from a district standpoint, you really need to focus more on what your constituents say and get feedback from them, which is why I love my former Congressman so much, Mick Mulvaney, because he actually engaged the public interest.”

The pro-life movement, one of the most important pillars of conservatism, continues to stand among millennial women, as Breann Bates, age 18, who will be attending Baylor University this fall, attests. 

She explained that, “I’m most passionate about being pro-life, because it’s not only a moral issue but a societal issue and I think it’s something that we definitely need to change within the next four years.” 

Three representatives of the Heritage Foundation pose for a picture while handing out "Cups of Freedom."

Then there are the millennial conservatives who care most about securing their country, such as 21-year-old Adam Steinhilber from the University of Kansas. 

Steinhilber explained that he is, "passionate about national security, border security." He further noted he supports the Trump promise on strong borders. 

Other issues important to young conservatives at CPAC include, but definitely are not limited to, blue collar jobs, manufacturing, trade deals, Second Amendment rights, reducing the size of the government, health care, and foreign policy.

Expanding on the young conservatives aren't all synonymous doctrine, even within  issues these millennials hold different standpoints. For example, on foreign policy. 

Theodore, a self-proclaimed libertarian, decided to back the "Trump train" when Trump established his foreign policy standpoint. 

He explained, "With foreign policy, he seemed more non-interventionist, and especially for me as a libertarian, I believe in peaceful transitions, so that’s why I voted for Trump over Gary Johnson.”

However there are other young Republicans who believe the opposite, such as Antoine Laval, a senior from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. 

He described his view on foreign policy stating, "I’m a fairly hawkish person; I think it’s America’s duty to free the world of tyranny.”

Tim Weppner poses with his fellow University of Buffalo College Republicans.

There is also a variability among these young conservatives in reference to the figures they look up to. Many cite the legend Ronald Reagan, but other favorites exist and for different reasons. 

For Theodore, Dr. Ben Carson is his champion. 

"I think he’s a great pick for HUD, especially with how he’s going to approach it. The reason he is my role model is because of the standpoint he comes from, even though he’s more religious, and I try to keep church and state out of it, he comes at things with objectivism. The reason I worked for him is because of how he handled health care; I’m a very big fan of HSAs, so that’s why I liked him so much.”

Another big name among young conservatives is Rand Paul, who University of Buffalo senior Tim Weppner pinpoints as his role model. 

"I really liked during the debates whenever anybody brought up the constitution they always referred to Rand Paul, because he’s an expert on it." Weppner stated. "I believe that our country’s kind of gone down the wrong path because we’ve started ignoring our founding document."

21 year-old Lauren Nickel, a CPAC representative of Future Female Leader (FFL), which she described as, "America’s leading social movement for young conservative women," explained a favorite conservative icon apart from those who campaigned for president. 

"One of our favorites, especially at FFL, is Kimberly Corban. She’s been through so much; she was sexually assaulted when she was in college and she turned that around and used it to empower other women. She’s been a great advocate for the second amendment and for girls helping each other out and inspiring each other.”

For Virginia Tech senior Helen Gray, her conservative role models are closer to home. 

"My conservative role models are my parents," Gray explained. "They are hard-working, intelligent, kind people. They always make sure to collect as much information as possible before forming an opinion on an issue and fight for what they believe is right."

Ashley Hill, a George Mason University College Republican, poses with a patriotic man in the CPAC Exhibition Hall. 

As per approval of Donald Trump, most of those interviewed stated that although they did not originally support Trump, they believe he is doing well so far. This follows the trend of the overall CPAC straw poll, which found that the majority of CPAC attendees approve of the job the President is doing so far. Among some of the noted accomplishments by those interviewed were: Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch, appointment of Mad-Dog Mattis, the re-visiting of the Dakota Pipeline, uniting Republican party factions, and holding true to the prominent values of the Republican party. 

One interesting viewpoint was that of Villareal. 

"I believe he is starting his own movement. President Trump is sort of what happened in the 1980’s, the realignment. We’re shifting; instead of Republicans always being very free trade, we’re shifting to being more protectionist, and there is infighting in the party because of that."

One of the most prominent features of young conservatives at CPAC is their involvement with the multiple millennial activism groups, such as Future Female Leaders (FFL) and Turning Point USA (TPUSA). 

Nickel explained Future Female Leaders' role in attending CPAC. Future Female Leaders sponsors a group of women each year to attend CPAC, and many may recognize them by the red elephant skirts that they proudly sport around the Gaylord. 

"We’re here to spread the message and get more girls involved and help educate them on politics and empower them to be the best version of themselves that they can be."

Lauren Nickle of Virginia Tech (left) poses with a fellow Future Female Leaders representative. 

Turning Point USA, a grassroots group that is present on over 1,000 college campuses, sponsors dozens of students each year to spread their messages, commonly known as, #BigGovSucks and #SocialismSucks (two of the popular twitter hashtags used by TPUSA and its supporters). Their mission is as follows: "to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government," according to their website. 

Three Turning Point USA representatives work the TPUSA booth in the CPAC Exhibition Hall. 

CPAC continues to attract massive amounts of college students, where they can network, be surrounded by like-minded individuals, and have the opportunity to see the conservative icons that they look up to in person. Many even refer to it as the "Conservative Spring Break."

Weppner summed up the major reason many millennials attend CPAC year after year. 

"I’ve come here the past three years and it’s refreshing going from a college setting where i'ts super liberal, to a place where it’s a bastion for conservatism. Everybody agrees with you, you can talk and joke around and nobody’s really going to get offended--cause that happens a lot on college campuses.