Conservatism’s leaders are increasingly preaching fortitude to the fold. Young adherents are already out there practicing it.
Indeed, while a 16-year-old supporter in Michigan recently had her “Women for Trump” button ripped off her shirt by her teacher — which, not to be overly quibbling, is still a crime — conservatives at the University of Kansas brave such indignities on a fairly regular basis.
In fact, in something of an odd but apt opening to her remarks at a recent University of Kansas College Republicans meeting, GOP 3rd Congressional District candidate Amanda Adkins first thanked the group for its courage.
I found out why afterward.
“People steal our stuff,” Izabella Borowiak-Miller, president of KU’s young Turning Point USA chapter, uncomplainingly told me of what happens when they put out tables to tout the nonprofit free-market/limited government organization. “They break our stuff. They’ve ripped stuff off my backpack. They’ve taken videos of me. Put tweets out. All kinds of stuff.
“I get called a (c-word) a lot. I get called a bitch. They’ll just walk by, and they’ll yell it, or they’ll flip us off, or they’ll say we’re sluts for money and big businesses.”
All this and more, simply for promoting the free enterprise system and the kind of limited government our Founders intended.
And, of course, there’s the all-purpose, at-the-ready “fascist” label — which I get affixed with if I even remotely suggest a Democratic officeholder should be forthright with her constituents. Then there’s the familiar “Nazi” refrain, which has particular resonance to the nonetheless unflappable Borowiak-Miller.
“I had family killed during the Holocaust,” explains the Slavic senior. Oh, and she also gets branded a “race traitor” by the nearsighted identity politics police who perceive her as Hispanic and therefore off the liberal preserve. As if one should be ticketed for being Hispanic and conservative.
Ashley Sherrow, who runs the pro-life organization at KU and is every bit as unruffled as Borowiak-Miller, also endures more than her share of ridicule while out “tabling” for the group.
“I get called a misogynist,” Sherrow says. “We’ve been called a terrorist organization. People come up, and they write curse words all over our free speech wall.”
One adult, presumably a member of the faculty or administration, takes care to spew a slur at the pro-life group whenever she passes by.
“She calls us ‘fetus fetishers,” Sherrow says. “We’re just trying to save lives. We’re just trying to have a conversation with people — bring it from debate to dialogue.”
Good luck with that. Borowiak-Miller recalls suggesting a civil or even closed-door debate with a couple of left-leaning groups. “They did not want to legitimize our group and legitimize our policies or ideas or beliefs.”
A post on the KU Turning Point USA Facebook page notes, “If you’re insulting me clearly you aren’t capable of confronting my ideas.”
The shame of it, Borowiak-Miller says, is that they might agree on 80% of topics. “There are so many things we could agree on, but we’re only focused on the 20% that gets everyone’s blood boiling.”
Talking with Sherrow and Borowiak-Miller, it strikes me that much of what appears to be composure on their part just might involve a good bit of courage. Since plying their principles, for instance, they’ve been heartened to find out how many people silently agree with them. And therein lies the rub: They’re silent, as the outspoken among them step forward to absorb the slings and arrows.
“When you’re facing opposition,” Adkins tells me, “you really have to know who you are and you have to have the conviction to share that with people in a meaningful way.”
A sturdy spine helps, too.
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