- - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It’s a news story that’s too easy to resist.

Starting tomorrow, media coverage of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists, likely will contrast the images of older white Republican men with the young, racially and socially diverse “hipster” protesters who plan to “Occupy CPAC.”

It’s the perfect comparison: Millionaire Mitt, card-carrying member of the 1 percent, versus D.C.-area college students who just last week were evicted from their McPherson Square Occupy D.C. encampment.

It’s unlikely that the mainstream media will direct its focus on the CPAC audience because doing so would spoil the visual by revealing the truth: CPAC itself is crawling with college kids.

Of the thousands of preregistered attendees of CPAC 2012, organizers say, at least half are students from colleges and universities across the country. And the number of students attending the conference increases every year, which seems to fly in the face of the stereotype that all college students are liberals and Democrats.

In truth, there are plenty of young conservatives, and just like their liberal counterparts planning to protest outside the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where CPAC takes place, they aren’t afraid to speak out.

For the most part, however, that’s where the similarity ends.

“As a conservative, I believe in small government, low taxes and personal responsibility,” said Madeline Keb, 21, a business major at Wake Forest University and first-time CPAC attendee.

Contrast that with Occupy Wall Street protesters, she said, “who believe in a vast government making all outcomes equal, high taxes - only on the wealthy, of course - and others taking responsibility for their failures.”

Andrew Staroska agrees. “OWS feels that the government should provide everything to them. I feel this is absurd. I’m always reminded of the line, ‘A government big enough to give you everything is strong enough to take everything away.’ The less the government is in my life, the better off I’ll be.”

Mr. Staroska’s conservative activism has prompted him to blog about politics at truthaboutbills.com while earning a degree in political science from Wright State University.

Another young blogger, Brandon Kiser, also is engaged in advocacy while studying politics at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. Founder and editor of therightsphere.com, 19-year-old Mr. Kiser also contributes to the Daily Caller.

“In one aspect, OWS and conservatives aren’t all that different,” Mr. Kiser said. “We don’t like the fact that big banks got a lifeline from the government, either. But it is the solution OWS seems inclined to pursue of ‘Bail me out, too!’ that is where we part ways. I don’t want the government bailing anyone out.

“I will never ask for a bailout from the government or ask for them to punish those who are more successful through higher taxes. That’s where I see myself as different from OWS, and I think most of the nation agrees with me.”

Like all college students, the young conservatives attending CPAC are worried about the future, but they’re not looking for the government to fix what’s wrong in America. On the contrary.

“I am most worried about this tax-and-spend attitude had by Congress and the president that has bankrupted this country,” Ms. Keb said. “Last time I checked, the debt was a little over 15 trillion dollars. The people making these reckless decisions will be out of office in a term or two - hopefully sooner - and my generation and younger will be left to deal with it. The solution is to stop spending money we don’t have.

“Hint to Obama: Stop raising the debt ceiling.”

Mr. Kiser summed up what young conservatives are looking for: “I want to see a free society in the future guided by the free market and free people. People usually presume that conservatives want things to stay just as they are, but I think that’s false.

“We’ve strayed from a path of promise to one of American decay and decline. I want to see us get back on that forward-thinking conservative path.”

* Marybeth Hicks is the author of “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom.” Find her on the web at https://marybethhicks.com.

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