Less than a month before graduating from high school, a West Virginia teen has won her first election. 17-year-old Saira Blair ran in the Republican primary for state delegate and beat the incumbent state lawmaker Larry Krump in what might be the best graduation present ever. Some have pointed to Blair’s high level of accomplishment at such an early age as a sign that maybe the next generation of Americans is not completely doomed to mediocrity, but such a sensational case raises questions about whether or not this is actually a good thing. The impressive west Virginia teen may have won the GOP primary, but what does that mean for her and what does it mean for the Republican party?
At this time, Miss Blair is not old enough to vote, so she was unable to take advantage of that time-honored tradition of voting for oneself in an election. But she will be old enough to hold office should she win the ultimate election against Democratic challenger Layne Diehl. Her 18th birthday is in July. As a Republican, the teenager ran on a pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun, and pro-business, an impressive list of bullet points that most high school seniors probably have never considered in their lives. Her political activism is admirable, especially since many people are worried that the youth of America are not involved enough.
According to one report, she can easily list the taxes she wants abolished or lowered in her state. She also believes that conservatives principles can benefit everyone and that she does not have to be any age about 40 in order to realize that fact. She even has a certain amount of political acumen that prompted her GOP rival to say that she out-campaigned him, despite the fact that he is old enough to be her grandfather and has years of experience as a politician in West Virginia.
It is a classic story of achievement against long odds and one that the Republican party would no doubt like to play for all it is worth. However, the question must be asked, what does it mean? The Republican party has been going through some growing pains. Some are even saying that the current formation of the party is unrecognizable from years past, including CNBC anchor Brian Sullivan. He went on a rant in which he said, “I don’t know if the Republican party knows who the Republican party [is].” That kind of confusion does not reflect well on one of the major national political parties and now a teenager has been thrown into that mix.
If the youth of America are the indicators of the future, the young Blair might be a good example of where the Republican party is headed in its future. In her own words, she is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-West Virginia. As a Republican platform, those stances are easy to unpack. She opposes abortion, She is against gun control. She is against gay marriage. She wants small government and few government regulations on business. She wants to cut taxes. These are all typical Republican positions on issues. There is very little that is new from her campaign which follows the same prescriptions that the GOP has been giving for years. It looks like she will simply carry on business as usual and there will be no Republican revolution from her.
The candidacy of Saira Blair is not a breath of fresh air for the Republican party. It is not a new voice in conservative politics. It is not a refreshing glass of political sweet tea. Instead, it is a recycled Republican party platform that has been given a younger, fresher face to represent it. Without a new, innovative platform, Blair’s campaign takes on the air of a political stunt designed to capitalize on her youth in order to get votes.
Without taking away from the obviously impressing and interesting story that she has created in West Virginia by winning the GOP primary, her qualifications for being a political leader should definitely be in question. She can be pro-family, but she has never experienced being the head of a family, or the sole provider for a dependant child, or faced the hard decisions that parents must deal with every day when it comes to their income and their children’s education. She can be pro-marriage, but she is not married herself and so there is a whole range of experience that she does not have and which she will not be able to draw on when it comes to her legislative duties. Her fiscal policy can be fiscally conservative in theory, but her practice of balancing a budget and facing up to fiscal matters that adults handle every day is seriously lacking. Miss Blair is undoubtedly impressive for what she has accomplished so far in her short life and for what she can no doubt achieve in the future, but at this time one question lingers about her: should she be allowed to participate in running a state when she has little to no experience in running her own adult life?
At this time, only the voters of West Virginia can decide that question. The Republicans who made her their candidate found her novelty more compelling than her opponent’s experience, but the wider voting population in the state might not do so. If the Democratic candidate is smart, the issue of Blair’s experience and qualification to lead will be seriously pressed and questioned. This West Virginia teen may have won the GOP primary but there is a lot of campaigning left to do and she should expect stiff opposition to her candidacy.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury