When I woke up on the first morning of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 9, I didn’t know what to expect.
I got ready, remembered to pack my student ID, put on my blue sweater, and ran out the door. When walking into the site of the convention, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, I quickly realized I had grabbed the wrong colored clothing item.
Everyone was wearing red.
It was like this throughout the entire weekend. I spotted red skirts, dresses, ties, fingernails, and shoes. Each day, supporters sported buttons of their favorite conservative leaders. They held signs for who they believe should win the 2012 election. They passed out pamphlets and brochures, asked people to sign petitions and promised to give away free sunglasses and chapsticks if anyone stopped to talk to them for just a brief moment about their far-right political views.
Bloggers, reporters and conservatives flooded the hotel lobby. Booths upon booths displayed water bottles, stickers and pens in support of the right to bear arms, pro-life campaigns and the end of Obamacare.
I walked in to the hotel each day ready to be approached by ideas and views which I wasn’t sure if I was for or against. Do I agree with how Republicans want to help our economy? Do I like the way they want to deal with Social Security and Medicare in the future?
I walked into the hotel feeling bombarded by the strong conservative beliefs of others. There were men in fat-suit costumes that represented big government, there were men dressed in Colonial garb, ranting about our Founding Fathers. There were also the political leaders themselves demanding that the right side was the best side.
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called liberals stupid people in his speech.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Conservatives are more fun because we’re always right.”
Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said, “Obama’s miscalculations are changing history.”
Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, called birth control pills a direct violation of our first amendment.
Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate, predicted that Obama’s health care plan “will crush economic freedom.”
At times, these ideas and thoughts from our leaders were so harsh, negative and opinionated that I never once stopped tweeting, constantly hashtagging CPAC. I never once stopped snapping photos, capturing smiles, glares, standing ovations and OccupyDC protesters outside. I never once stopped recording the speeches of guest speakers. I never once stopped thinking about what the Democrats would say in response to these Republicans.
I never once stopped trying to figure out where I stood.
Each day that I walked out of the conference and out of the hotel feeling more and more educated about our country’s political divide, I questioned which side of the line I belonged — and if it would ever be okay just to stand right in the middle.