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Young Republican From Georgia Struggles To Find His Place In The Party


So what's it mean to be a Republican right now? A lot of traditional Republicans are trying to answer that question, and for some young people, the answers are not easy. William Carter grew up in Georgia and has been trying to find his way as a young Republican.

WILLIAM CARTER: Ever since I was a child, I was always into politics. I wasn't like normal kids who are interested in Pokemon. Seriously, when I was 5, I had a G-8 birthday party. In high school, I ran for school elections. I worked on campaigns. And in 2016, I was a delegate for Georgia at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.


CARTER: Here it is. I'm walking on the convention floor for the first time as an 18-year-old and a delegate. Holy mother of God, this is amazing.

Being there was so surreal. Looking back at my Snapchat videos, I was at the top of my game. It seemed like the start of the greatest journey of my life. I will never forget casting my vote during roll call and the big reveal.


CARTER: Oh, my God. It's Donald.


CARTER: Here I am now in 2020. I'm not sure of my place in the party anymore. I'm 23 now, and party politics feels complicated. Don't get me wrong. I'm not part of the 76% of college students who look unfavorably on the GOP, according to a recent Knight poll. I support Trump and the GOP is my home, even though I don't support the Republican Party platform word for word. My main frustration is with the party establishment. They make it hard for young people to break through.

Where I grew up in Savannah, Ga., history is perfectly preserved. It was one of the few cities that didn't burn down in the Civil War. Stuff is old here. Politicians going as far back as the Revolution are remembered and buried.

So here I am at Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. I'm standing in the grave site of where individuals who, you know, helped form this nation are buried.

When you grow up surrounded by long-term political legacies that go back hundreds of years, is it really any surprise that I had an interest in politics at such a young age? I recently went to visit some of my old teachers who knew me from high school. I had big plans for myself back then.

SHELLY ROBERTS: I am still a little shocked that you are not a card-carrying Republican anymore. I'm still, like, processing that.

CARTER: That's Shelly Roberts, my high school teacher who has watched me through this journey. She didn't expect me to say I'm weighing my place in the party.

ROBERTS: But, you know, I think in a way, it's good because, yes, when you were a freshman, you were very rigid and like, I'm a conservative, and this is what I think and this is my box, right? And I think definitely by the time you were a senior, you had relaxed those parameters - that you, you know, you weren't trying to box yourself in anymore. And I think with all that has occurred in our country politically wise, like with just how the Republican Party in general - how Trump really has completely reshaped how it works, you know, we don't really know what's going to happen.

CARTER: She might be right. Trump has changed politics as we know it. And our parties need work. Right now, too much happens behind closed doors, and too many politicians don't want to relinquish their power and let the next generation of leaders in. Instead, they have secret meetings cloaked with cigar smoke.

As someone who wants to contribute in some way, I'm realizing there isn't necessarily a clear-cut path for me. There are too many twists and turns and potholes. I want to see the party embrace the younger generation and realize that it is time for change. I'm going to do my best to stick with the GOP until that happens.

For NPR News, I'm William Carter.


INSKEEP: William Carter's story is part of 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up. It's a collaboration between YR Media and WNYC's Radio Rookies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.