It’s a quote that has been attributed to many great thinkers across history, most recently Winston Churchill.
“If you’re not a socialist when you’re 20 then you don’t have a heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 40 then you have no brain.”
Well David Cushman has a heart. It’s just one that provides blood to a brain that has allowed him to decide even before he became a rabble-rousing college student that conservatism always made more sense to him.
Maybe it started when he watched his parents, as small business owners, fighting an increasing more hostile regulatory environment just to keep their doors open and provide for his family.
But Cushman – who is now the President of the Manteca TEA Party Patriots – always had a conservative side at a young age. It was something that he carried with him to college at California State University at Stanislaus in Turlock, where he found that more students didn’t care about politics at all than disagreed with him.
“I’m secure in my beliefs – I knew I was going to get challenged by my fellow students and professors and I wasn’t going to let their viewpoints change who I was or what I believed in. And there were times when that was the case,” Cushman said. “But what I found was that most of them seemed to be apolitical rather than liberal – they were turned off to all politics for various reasons like it being corrupt and things like that.
“There was a lot of liberal thought, but there are quite a few conservatives – I actually joined a club when I was there – and I wanted to tell the people who didn’t care at all that they should get involved somehow, someway. We’re talking about the people who one day are going to be at the helm and in 20 or 30 or 40 years they’re going to need to be aware of what is going on and what has gone on so it’s an important thing.”
So he followed his own advice.
As soon as Cushman saw that a TEA Party group was being formed in Manteca, he joined up. It made him the youngest person at the meeting mingling with a mixture of political activists from across San Joaquin County who are plugged in with central committees and the like and newcomers that just wanted to come and hear what the message was going to be.
It was a fascinating world for a political science major and Cushman latched-on with both hands.
Not only did it satisfy his political hungers, but it dealt with issues that were affecting his community.
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Joined Manteca TEA Party from the start
“What initially got me interested in politics is I always wanted to help people and I thought that getting into politics would put me into the best position to be able to do just that. I didn’t quite know how, but I knew that was the way in,” Cushman said. “I always felt that looking out for your citizens and serving your community was the highest calling.
“The Patriots started in August of 2011 and I’ve been with them ever since. When TEA parties first came to prominence I discovered something that I found myself agreeing with – I thought that it would a good political force. And the fact that it was coming to Manteca meant that I had to be a part of it, and I’m still here now.”
And while you might think that having a two-term Democratic President in The White House would be discouraging for conservatives, Cushman said it has actually fueled interest amongst those who wouldn’t otherwise get active and helped mobilize a grassroots movement in a blue state like California to stand up and elect change at the local level with the hopes that it’ll flow uphill.
At the end of the day, he said, it all has to do with reality.
“The conservative platform, to me, makes sense in the real world,” he said. “I think that conservatism works best because it preaches having to be responsible with a budget over this ‘tax tax tax’ mentality and just expect the economy to keep growing. It works in theory, but not in reality and I think that conservatives live in reality and that’s what really drew me to them.”
Is Cushman the first in a transformation of a party that has traditionally been pegged as only appealing upper middle class Caucasians?
To say he’s the first would be unfair to the young conservatives that have come before him. But his fellow TEA Partiers took note of his age and his abilities and also for ability to rationalize, while still a student, some of the more complex political ideas that tend to either get overlooked or overblown in the day of the 24-hour news cycle.
Simplicity, Cushman says, is key. It’s all about what works for the individual person and if it works for the individual person then it should work for the country.
“Throughout my young life what has kept my interest in conservatism has been observing people my own age and the things that go on around me,” he said. “I saw what kinds of red tape my parents had to deal with when they were just trying to run their business, and in college I saw kids that would get behind causes without conferring about what was going on in the real world because they don’t have any real world responsibilities yet. When I was going to school I was balancing that with a full-time job and now a fiancé and I’m soon going to be in a position where I will have my own budget and will have to run a household.
“I have to stay within those lines or else I don’t have any more money. I see that the TEA Party is affecting people – for some it affects them the other way – and I stand behind those core values.”
The Manteca TEA Party Patriots meet tonight at Angelano’s Restaurant – located at 1020 N. Main Street – at 7:30 p.m. The speaker will be Manteca Unified Board of Education Trustee Ashley Drain. Guests wishing to eat are encouraged to arrive at 6:30 p.m.