The Republican National Convention is the last place I thought I would spend any part of my summer. But as a part of the Wake the Vote cohort, I should know that plans are fluid and can change. So, despite all personal ideologies and preferences, here I am, pulling out of John Carroll University and concluding a full Convention experience. Despite my preconceived notions of the Convention and the bigotry I thought would surround it, I actually came and was able to learn. Despite thinking I would have to listen to discussion of a platform that, if implemented, would strip some of my most fundamental rights, at the RNC I was able to exercise many rights, and view others do the same. Most important, the RNC allowed us to grow as a group and learn more about the Party and another facet of our political system – conventions.
The Republican National Convention was full of discord. This discord was visible to the nation as many news outlets panned the Convention floor, but it was also on the streets. The streets of Cleveland, particularly those close to the Convention center, were filled with protestors from all over the country, different groups making sure their voices and measures were heard at a time the whole country was paying attention. As a cohort, we saw protests from pro-choice groups, Westboro Baptist Church, Black Lives Matter groups, and a few others. I got to participate in a few of these protests. To exercise my First Amendment rights in an area where there was so much hate spewed out, was cathartic. I found this to be especially true because Cleveland was covered in cops, illusive of a police state or a polity where Marshall Law was in effect. Opportunities like this let a Democrat in the wrong city still flourish, loudly and proudly.
My main goal of the RNC was to challenge my views and engage in conversation across the aisle. Despite leaving thinking that this Party has the most discord I’ve ever seen; I was still able to do this effectively. We were able to circumvent some of the discord by attending panels and discussions outside of the convention halls, meaningful ones with Republican leaders who offered important contrasting views. Through these panels I learned there are efforts in both parties to lower prison populations. I learned the true goals of conservatism, and that, often times, both parties have the same goals though their approaches differ vastly. Even through these differences, compromises exist and its often times the more moderate leaders of the party that are successful in bringing about change.
Being able to protest, to engage in discussion, to challenge the views of people like Virginia Foxx, are why I appreciate this country and the democracy it values. People disagree, but there is usually an avenue to either voice that loudly or another one to compromise and move forward. We are privileged that both exist. To be at the Republican National Convention, as a Democrat, and still find spaces to flourish and grow is a privilege I was happy to have, and one I hope every other Democrat found as well. Next, the DNC!