Dan Crenshaw is building a militant young army, one summit at a time
The crowd – hundreds of 20-year-old teens and conservatives largely from Texas – has gone absolutely mad.
“As a good politician, I have to say Congressman Crenshaw is what you’ll see next,” Crenshaw said. “I don’t know, you know, but to answer honestly, I’ll always keep the options open.”
It was a brief moment in a two-day affair that saw more than 2,000 young people rally to hear from conservative media luminaries like Ben Shapiro, Benny Johnson and Megyn Kelly. And while the weekend smelled like a bar mitzvah for MAGA devotees – with purple, blue, and green lasers shot at the crowds and techno and pop music blaring from loudspeakers – the Political veterans have also called it an innovative approach to Crenshaw’s campaign. and its Congressional Campaign Committee, which funded the event.
Rather than spending money to reach voters through rallies, TV commercials, town halls, or even the digital space, Crenshaw let himself down in one place, got free media coverage and took brings in his followers to pay to see him. In the process, he managed to mark the emails, phone numbers and addresses of very committed supporters among the campaign world’s most valuable currencies.
“It’s new and I think we’re going to see more of it, especially on the right,” said Alex Skatell, a former GOP digital consultant who founded a conservative news site. “Instead of using his brand to uplift other youth groups across the country, he can kind of capture that enthusiasm.”
The Crenshaw Youth Summit is the logical extension of the celebration of politics. It also highlights how the campaign motto has shifted from traditional ideas and forms of communication to communities and shared moments. What Crenshaw was building in a ballroom in Houston was the type of infrastructure that might serve him well later: a roster of committed activists, young and conservative, the guy who was actually willing to spend their weekends and their money to go see political celebrities. speak.
“You identify that you may have a list of people who are interested in what he does, support him, and might be interested in supporting him in future campaigns, whether it’s re-election to Congress or to a senior position, ”said Patrick Ruffini, another Republican Strategist and founding partner of Echelon Insights. “The side benefit is that you have a list of thousands of, you know, strong supporters that I think they can call on in future campaigns.”
Not everyone can get by. But Crenshaw seems to have touched it. He is one of the most prominent members of the House and is well regarded among Conservatives for aggressively challenging Liberal lawmakers and members of the press. He has not shied away from taking divisive positions on some burning issues and, for a time, questioned the validity of the 2020 election. The former Navy SEAL, along with other members of Congress, have signed an amicus brief in the aftermath of the election in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results. More recently, however, it has gone viral for challenging a voter pushing electoral fraud plots.
In Houston last week, he was the star of the show. At the urging of signs scattered throughout the conference, young attendees flooded social media with posts praising the congressman and the event. “What an unforgettable night. I have to take pictures with pretty much all of my idols today, ”one participant said in an Instagram post. “Who ever said don’t meet your heroes (sic)?” Said another, whose post included a photo of a signed box for a Dan Crenshaw collectible figure.
Many attendees waited patiently in a line that zigzagged around the convention hall to take a photo with Crenshaw or have him sign a copy of his book, Strength of soul: American resilience in the age of outrage. Megan Erwin, a 23-year-old student at Western Governors University, compared him to “Texas royalty” or “Queen of England but for Texas”.
“I would do whatever I could, go door to door,” Chris Arnold, 18, from Spring, Texas, said of Crenshaw’s potential run for president. This was his second year at the Crenshaw Youth Summit. “I would do whatever he needed me to do.”
Interviews with dozens of attendees illustrated the potential benefits that this kind of flashy and boisterous school dance-Ted Talk campaign rally could offer Crenshaw as he seeks to become a leading voice of the Party’s next generation. republican.
In an age when Facebook ads and hard-hitting tweets are among the most important campaign tools, Crenshaw has added another approach. His campaign, which charged $ 15 a ticket, said the event was not designed to generate a profit, although young people were lining up to buy Crenshaw merchandise with the money they had: t- $ 30 shirts, $ 25 mugs, Christmas sweatshirt. for $ 50, and so on. Instead, in a statement, Justin Discigil, campaign spokesperson and communications director for Crenshaw, said the youth summit aimed to strengthen Crenshaw’s “position as the national leader of the conservative movement.”
“The point of any political movement is to grow it,” Crenshaw told the crowd Sunday morning, after showing an introductory video in which he played a James Bond-like character, narrowly escaping the grip of Antifa and skydiving to get to safety.
“I organized the Youth Summit so that the younger generation can better understand what it means to be a conservative,” Crenshaw said in a statement after the event, adding that the conference gave young people “a reason to stay. enthusiastic and engaged “in the movement:” To make it grow, we must be persuasive. To be persuasive, we must know what we stand for. “
Speakers spoke about guns, abortion, revival, the masculinity crisis and other burning issues among conservatives. Johnson showed a video of his baby girl pulling a mask from her face.
“My daughter is nine months old and she is still smarter than Dr Fauci,” he said, greeted by cheers from the audience.
The first night of the conference featured a performance by a cover band of Blink-182 – whose music is probably older than most of the young attendees – known as Blink-281. The kids took photos with oversized glasses and funky hats in a Crenshaw Youth Summit photo booth. Some selfies taken with panelists.
Make America Great Again hats dotted the room. But the clear intention of the organizers was to turn a cult of Trump into a cult of Crenshaw. The chairs were fitted with drawstring bags with the American flag branded with Crenshaw’s face and name. Among the gifts: a Dan Crenshaw notebook with a Dan Crenshaw pen. This reporter could not spot anyone other than herself on Sunday except for another participant who wore so many masks her face was invisible, wearing any type of face covering.
Campaign veterans said they can’t remember a Congressional candidate who used his campaign funds to pay for such a youth summit like this before. But there have been conservative groups that have organized similar cases. The most obvious of these is CPAC, the largest self-proclaimed gathering of curators in the world, which has hosted its own conference for decades and has recently started hosting several of these events per year, sometimes in different states and continents. Turning Point USA, a conservative student movement, also hosts six national conferences and eight regional conferences each year.
These events, organizers say, have become part of the DNA of the Republican Party: they serve both as platforms for conservative luminaries and as money generators for hosts. What Crenshaw did was create a CPAC all by himself; the one his fellow Republicans in Texas want a part of. Other groups looking to take advantage of the influx of new voters, donors and potential volunteers at the summit included the campaign of Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, Young Conservatives in Texas and Republicans in Harris County.
“I hope they understand the importance here that they can be the next volunteers, the next possible candidates as well,” said Sharon Leal, Republican Party chairperson for Fort Bend County who registered voters in the Mountain peak. “If we don’t cultivate this, someone else is already trying to do it.”
“Crenshaw is a very young member of Congress who could have political involvement for decades to come, and he appeals to this next generation,” said Tim Cameron, Republican strategist and founder of FlexPoint Media. “There are people who will be attending this event who are probably very successful on social media, and I’m not even referring to the speakers.”
Indeed, among the crowd were members of @theRepublicanHypeHouse, a TikTok page with 1.2 million followers that posts conservative content on the app (who, in an interview, complained about being banned from several times by TikTok). Politicians, they argued, need to capture the attention of Gen Z better and while Crenshaw’s lecture was good, it was only supposed to be the beginning.
“They’re here trying to all be like professionals, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh I’m that perfect person,'” said Lance Johnston, a 19-year-old influencer who helps manage the account, . “Be more fun, hang out and enjoy making memes. Roast [each] other – Yeah, literally I want a politician instead of enjoying having a debate, I want them to tweet memes roasting each other. This is what will keep people involved in politics.