2019: The Year of the People

2019: The Year of the People

The end of a year is the perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months and learn some important lessons. Looking back on 2019, I want to highlight a particularly strong trend: The power of people using their voices to affect change.

Just last week, voters in the United Kingdom went to the polls and chose Boris Johnson in the largest victory that the conservative Tory Party has seen in decades. Johnson campaigned and won on getting Brexit done because that’s exactly what the people voted for three and a half years ago in a 2016 referendum.

Boris Johnson’s victory is the resounding endorsement of the will of the British people. This is how democracies are supposed to function: Voters express their will through the ballot box, and elected officials respect the outcome of those elections and referendums.

It’s not just the United Kingdom. Across the globe, from Iran, to Hong Kong, to Bolivia, to Venezuela, people are using the power of their voices to hold governments accountable. In many of these cases, they are speaking out at great risk to their lives.

In Iran, as many as 1,000 people have been killed and thousands more were beaten and arrested in last month’s protests. As Iran’s economy flounders, Iranians braved the threat of a brutal crackdown to protest a sharp increase in fuel prices. For too long, the fanatical Iranian regime has focused on funding terrorism and sowing unrest in the Middle East instead of caring for its citizens. It is encouraging to see the Iranian people push back against their oppressive leaders to demand a better life.

In Hong Kong, over a million people have taken to the streets to oppose the oppressive Communist government of China. What started in June as a response to legislation that would have sent Hong Kong citizens to face unfair trials in China grew into a months long campaign to defend their basic freedoms. After Congress nearly unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – a bill that punishes human rights violations against Hong Kong’s citizens – the protestors celebrated by waving the American flag.

Just a few weeks ago, the people of Bolivia chased President Evo Morales out of office after he manipulated election results to avoid a run-off. Thousands of people took to the streets to reject his corruption and won, dumping another socialist dictatorship in Latin America.

In Venezuela, 2019 saw continued protests against Nicolás Maduro, the socialist dictator who plunged his once wealthy country into poverty and starvation and refuses to give up power. Venezuelans are rising up and demanding democratic elections even as Maduro and his thugs use violence and intimidation to silence them. The world should not turn away from the people of Venezuela in their fight for freedom.

Many of our politicians in America could learn something from these global events. The will of the people is a powerful thing. It should not be disrespected or ignored.

For three years now, our elected officials have ignored the will of the people who want to see Congress focus on solving real problems in our country, from our broken immigration system, to out-of-control medical costs, to our bloated federal budget. Instead, Congress has spent more time bickering and squabbling than working on solutions.

But like our British friends on the other side of the Atlantic have shown us, you can’t deny the will of the people forever. Eventually, they demand to be heard.

Lessons from Georgetown: We can do better

Lessons from Georgetown: We can do better

There are moments when we need to step back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that there is more at stake in this country than scoring political points. One such moment occurred this week.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of liberal protestors harassing Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan who was slated to deliver the keynote address at an immigration conference at Georgetown University. The protests were so disruptive that McAleenan was unable to speak, even as conference organizers pleaded with the protestors to stop – to no avail. 

Some on the left will hail this disruption as an act of resistance. But let’s be honest: This kind of resistance doesn’t move the ball forward, doesn’t bring us closer to solutions, doesn’t save lives, and doesn’t change minds. In fact, these protests accomplish the opposite. They exacerbate division in this country, when we need to find ways to bridge the gap. They inflame extremists who are more interested in screaming than talking.

I hope the protesters who attended the Georgetown event will take a moment to reflect on their actions. Two days later, what have they accomplished? They certainly made news, and enjoyed their 15 minutes of notoriety, but at what cost? Not only did they deny Acting Secretary McAleenan the opportunity to express his views, they denied the audience the right to ask McAleenan tough questions and offer an alternative viewpoint.

This latest incident goes to the heart of how we engage with each other in civil society. It begs the crucial question: how will we fix our broken immigration system if we can’t have a civil debate about the issue?

Our immigration system certainly needs fixing. From an overwhelmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to a porous border, we need action. But politicians in Washington have dropped the ball, and extremists have turned the issue into a political weapon. If we have any hope of fixing the border crisis it will be by talking to each other and finding common ground.

And how can college campuses foster big ideas to change the world if only one viewpoint can ever be heard? To make change in the world it takes more than an opinion and yelling. You have to have an open conversation and understand each side. Our future depends on America continuing to be the marketplace for ideas.

2,000 reasons to be hopeful about the next generation

2,000 reasons to be hopeful about the next generation

If you listen to or read the mainstream news, you would think there are a lot of reasons to be discouraged about the next generation of Americans.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that belief in patriotism, God and family is in a free fall among Millennials and Gen Zers. And a Gallup poll shows support for socialism on the rise with younger voters.

But this past weekend, I found a reason to be hopeful.

Actually, I found almost 2,000 reasons. Last Sunday, I joined Congressman Dan Crenshaw in participating in the inaugural Youth Summit in Houston, Texas, where almost 2,000 high school and college students joined us to find how they can become more involved in politics, government, and public service.

The response from students was amazing. From The Texan:

Fourteen-year-old Hailey told The Texan that she came to the summit because she is concerned about policies that might infringe on 1st and 2nd Amendment rights.

Hailey already knew a lot about the Bill of Rights, but said, “I learned more about the background of some of the [socialist] policies, and about the Democratic Socialism that they’re trying to force on us.”  

It was truly inspiring.

I have great faith in the next generation of conservatives and all of us have a responsibility to ensure their success. These young people are ready to use the power of their voices. When they are educated with good facts, they will make the right decisions. Unfortunately, many of them face intimidating environments on their campuses. That’s why showing them our support, through events like the Houston Youth Summit, is one of the most important things we can do.

We face big challenges at home and around the world. It is easy to focus on the scandals and the partisan rancor; it is easy to lose sight of the good and the right with the constant barrage of politicians and pundits telling us what is wrong.

That’s why I try to remind myself every single day: Even on our worst day, we are blessed to be Americans. We are blessed to live in a country where close to 2,000 high school and college students drove hours to participate in an event that celebrated freedom, capitalism, and patriotism. We are blessed to live in a country where hope and perseverance prevail.

These young Americans are a large part of the reason why I started Stand For America and why we are getting ready to launch a student program.

The next generation of conservatives is counting on us. I hope you will all join us in empowering them.

The Left’s Cowardice on Venezuela

The Left’s Cowardice on Venezuela

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is the kind of issue that should supersede politics. It shouldn’t matter what political party you belong to; it shouldn’t matter whom you voted for. Every political leader in America should condemn Maduro’s iron grip. Every political leader should root for the Venezuelan people.