I was a young Republican!

Confessions of an undercover agent at the state GOP convention

Illustration By Terry Allen

Harmon Leon is the author of The Harmon Chronicles

What could be more nauseating than to be young, pumped-up and Republican? How does the other half live? Wanting to mingle with the enemy, I decide to adopt a cunning conservative disguise and join up with the Young Republicans for the GOP spring convention held at the Hyatt in Burlingame.

Inside the hotel’s concourse, it looks like Orange County has been transplanted to the Bay Area, with a massive array of Bush/Cheney signs and numerous pictures of the beloved leader scattered among others trumpeting, “Join Arnold.” The crowd is white and very white, larded with big-haired women and fat cats who resemble Gilligan’s Island’s Thurston Howell III.

I follow at the heel of the Young Republicans’ president, a former Marine, who takes me under his wing and introduces me to a multitude of Republican candidates. I hope he doesn’t smell the hidden liberal on me.

“Hi Darrell,” my new club president says as Darrell Issa passes us in the hall. “He’s the congressman from San Diego who [put up] $1 million for the recall election!” enthuses my escort.

“This floor’s for all the governor’s workers,” I’m told as we slide past security, noting three large men with earpieces standing guard by one door in particular: Arnold’s door. He’s here to speak at this evening’s dinner ($150 extra for a photo op).

“I joined the Young Republicans back when Gore was trying to steal the election,” explains one of my new clean-cut peers.

“Are you coming to the big protest tomorrow?” asks another Young Republican whose shirt is adorned with various “funny” political buttons (such as the one that says, “Village Idiot,” and shows a picture of Hillary Clinton).

“You bet I am,” I respond. Then, a few seconds later, “What are we protesting, again?”

“We’re protesting illegal aliens getting driver’s licenses,” he explains. “I’ve already got my sign ready.”

“Stupid illegal aliens!” I then add. The event is being put on by U.S. Senate candidate Howard Kaloogian, yet another godfather of the recall.

“Why don’t we just say, ‘Hey, if you want your licenses, here they are. You just have to go across the border to get them!’” quips a rotund man with a red tie.

“Stupid illegal aliens,” I once again share. “What’s your sign going to say?” I ask.

“I got a large driver’s license with the word ILLEGAL written over it,” he explains with a smile.

I share, “I’m going to have a sign that says, ‘If you want to drive, then go back to Mexico!’” The rotund guy lets out a hearty laugh.

“Stupid illegal aliens,” I restate with agreement from the others.

Surprisingly, a contingent in front of the hotel is protesting our beloved governor. Now I’ll get to see a protest from the other side.

“ARNOLD SAYS CLOSE THE SCHOOLS. WE SAY SHAME ON YOU!” blares a protester’s bullhorn.

The news cameras arrive. I quickly grab a Bush/Cheney sign. A group of eight adults in suits is taunting the protesters. Two Orange County ladies in sparkly dresses do snide dance moves, rubbing the protesters’ noses in the women’s decadence. I stand close to my new conservative peers, waving the Bush/Cheney sign and making a stern face as the TV cameras roll. From the hotel, a group of pumped-up high-school kids with protruding foreheads and blue suit jackets suddenly comes rushing out. They’re smirking.

“We’re the high-school conservative club,” the leader of the Nazi youth explains. These teenagers get confrontational, waving “Join Arnold” T-shirts in the protesters’ faces. An adult in a blue suit rounds up the testosterone-filled group. With an air of authority, he presents the leader with his business card.

“I’m an attorney. I’m an election-law specialist. If anyone gives you shit, call me!”

Two of the conservative high-school kids high-five as one of them pulls out a bullhorn to further taunt the members of the lower class who have come here to protest in favor of basic human rights.

“SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON YOU!” chant the protesters, including several who have brought small children.

“You don’t deserve education,” sneers a man who looks like a corporate leader. He immediately turns to his conservative compatriots next to him and discusses where they should go for a good crab dinner later in the evening.


I realize now, with my cunning disguise, they are pointed at me. ME! For I now look like a stereotypical Republican. I have no other choice but to chant back.


“We appreciate your efforts, but come inside,” requests a large, suited man to the high-school Nazi youth. Before they go in, he takes their picture. “Say GOP!” he requests as they smile confidently.


A protester wearing a tutu tries to get inside the hotel to use the bathroom. The security guard stops her.

“She tried to get in here to use the bathroom, then started snooping around. You know, they’re very sneaky,” confides the security guard, sharing her take on liberals.

“Yes, they are very, very sneaky,” I add. “Very sneaky!”

The evening is devoted to Republican party time! Yes, unlike the downtrodden Democratic Party, the Republicans have deep pockets (thanks to all their tax benefits). There’s an abundance of free booze in all the hospitality suites, and man, do these Republicans love to drink (you have to remember their beloved leader is the biggest party boy of them all). Yes, there’s no concern about getting a DWI; I’m sure someone’s father could easily bail them out.

I’m already climbing the Young Republicans club ladder. The president passes off a potential recruit to tag along with me so I can share all the glorious benefits of being a Young Republican. With the new clean-cut recruit under my wing, we venture to a hospitality suite for “Bill Jones for Senator.” Republicans are taking turns singing patriotic karaoke songs while downing massive amounts of gin and tonic. A politician onstage sings “California Girls” to cries of “Woo! Woo!” Rigid dancing is attempted by the very white crowd with no rhythm whatsoever. Even though the drinks are free, I make sure not to tip the bartenders, just so they’ll think Republicans are even bigger assholes. I take time to make small talk with the prospective Young Republican I’m looking after.

“You’ve got to join the Young Republicans,” I say. “It’s really a lot of fun.”

“Yeah, it sounds great,” he replies.

I move in closer.

“I’m also the president of another club if you’re interested in joining,” I say. The new recruit expresses interest. He asks the nature of the club. I explain further: “Our club’s purpose is to promote the advancement of white people.” The new recruit’s face turns whiter than a Klansman’s sheet. “So, what do you say?”

He declines. He walks away. Oh well, as our beloved President Bush would say, “Mission accomplished!”