Speaker Paul Ryan’s Intern Selfie Controversy
Two weeks ago, liberals expressed amazement/astonishment/shock over a picture of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and a group of summer interns. The racial bean counters expressed outrage over the lack of diversity in the picture.
As a former DC intern at a conservative organization, my first reaction was to laugh at the social media overreaction. I was regularly one of the only minorities in most rooms. I can name on two hands the Black conservatives on the Hill. Personally, I found there were many advantages to standing out in the crowd-recognition, visibility for my organization, and random media interviews/cameos. I never felt unwelcome in any of the closed door meetings I attended on behalf of my group. The fact that there aren’t many conservative minorities doesn’t mean that they aren’t welcome in the party as some pundits suggested in their comments on the viral picture.
The GOP admittedly needs to do a better job of messaging to minorities. It is interesting that celebrities and the media incessantly mock conservatism and the Republican Party in general and then are shocked that Millennials aren’t flocking to join the party.
My humble suggestion is that Republicans focus on school choice because the majority of the minority conservatives I know attended a Christian or parochial school at some point. In most cases, public school indoctrination is not going to expose children to conservative ideals. Internships are a great introduction to the Beltway and the plethora of jobs at the federal level but young people must first be exposed to the tenets of conservatism. Conservative groups also need to raise awareness of these opportunities on social media. The average family is unable to support a child even if they did garner a two month, unpaid internship in D.C. so that may be an area that Congressional offices may want to address if they are serious about increasing diversity.
It’s ironic that the contributors at liberal websites-Huffington Post, Salon, and Slate-look astonishingly similar to the interns in the Ryan selfie. Pot meet kettle. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) took to facebook to post a picture of the Dem summer interns. While decidedly more diverse, the demographics were almost a complete reversal of the Ryan photo.
For me, the optics aren’t as important as the policy agendas of these aspiring young people. The media focuses on externals but conservatives should focus on ideas. Ideas still matter.