A little less than a month ago, thousands of conservatives flooded the streets of Washingotn D.C., all attending the American Conservative Union’s largest gather to date of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and I was one of them.
With a star-studded list of speakers including President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sean Hanity, Senator Ted Cruz, Ben Shapiro and many more, it was slated to be a memorable weekend for all those attending.
As a first time attendee, I knew CPAC had been the host to an array of drama in the past few years and wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.
Early into the conference, when former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka shoved a young journalist, who happens to be a good friend of mine, I figured I would be biting my tongue a lot throughout this week. Even more so, as a moderate to center-leaning conservative myself, I was a bit concerned at first about what I had gotten myself into.
As the week progressed and I had more and more encounters with warm, kind and passionate people, all my worries began to slip away.
So many opponents to the conservative agenda were painting CPAC as a gathering of alt-right, downright hateful people, but that is so far from the truth and what I experienced.
In every person I spoke with, I was overwhelmed by how welcoming everyone was and how excited they were to talk about anything and everything that came up in conversation. Civil, honest and open political disourse – not something you would expect from what some were calling a meeting of ‘white supremacists’ and ‘Trump-nazis.”
I encountered a group of people who weren’t blinded by political games and didn’t simply follow whatever their leader said.
I witnessed conversations between independents, libertarians, neoconservatives and die-hard republicans over serious, philosophical issues within our society.
I saw a group of people who acknowledged their individual party’s short-comings and wanted to work to fix them.
I saw people who realized the most important thing so many of us tend to forget when it comes to politics nowadays – we are all people first.
These are the ideas that will continue to allow us to have a democratic and progressive society in which we can engage with those that we disagree with. One in which we realize that we all have a common goal and common humanity that binds us together as Americans.