Sprawled under a tree on the Cal State Northridge campus, 22-year-old Eric Eisenhammer is reeling from a successful day of activism. This afternoon, near the university’s poli-sci orientation, he and several members of his embryonic political group exceeded their own expectations by recruiting 15 members and registering three new voters — three new Republican voters. The name of his recently formed group: CSUN College Republicans.
“People tend to assume that California is such a liberal state, that we’re all on the far left here,” says the bleached-blond Agoura Hills resident with a smile. “But that’s not true of where I live. We’re really one of the most conservative areas of the state. An area where people believe in God, believe in families. I love it! I think it is a great place to live.”
Eisenhammer, who is also president of the 75-member Moorpark College Republicans (he takes classes at both schools), credits former governor hopeful Senator Tom McClintock, for whom he currently works as an intern, with sparking his interest in politics.
“I read about him in the newspaper,” explains Eisenhammer, whose dad works in the news department of the Los Angeles Times. “[McClintock] was the guy who always said no. All the Democrats, and Republicans even, would be voting yes, and he was the one guy saying, ‘No. You can’t raise the people’s taxes.’”
Eisenhammer, who waited four hours to view President Reagan’s casket, thinks Red Dawn is an “awesome” movie and watches Fox News, The O.C., North Shore and Days of Our Lives. He’s made it a priority to spread the Republican message wherever he goes and would one day like to enter politics professionally.
“I believe because of George W. Bush’s leadership, Americans, young Americans in particular, now have a role model we can look up to — a model of integrity, honesty and following your conscience instead of just doing what the opinion polls might think is popular,” Eisenhammer says.
“I went to high school during the Clinton years, and I remember during that whole [Monica Lewinsky] mess I basically felt like the kids in school just thought he was cool for what he did.”
You mean, ’cause he was getting some?
Eisenhammer, who’s a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ and takes a class at Chabad called Jewish Life — “I have some Jewish in me” — appreciates Bush’s traditional moral values. He also feels the president’s “stand on fighting terrorism is incredibly courageous, ’cause he has taken so much abuse from the left.”
Did you start liking Bush more since he started getting attacked by the left?
“Whenever people start to get attacked, I like them more. I mean, during the whole Florida mess, I totally believe we won it, but at the end of it, when Gore lost, I felt really bad for him.”
You like an underdog?
Eisenhammer’s group promotes smaller government, right to life and a strong response to terrorism.
“These terrorists have shown themselves to want nothing more than to kill Americans,” he says.
Like Britney Spears, Eisenhammer is not that innocent. He’s heard the argument that the military-industrial complex benefits from war and therefore might support it — “That’s capitalism,” he says. He knows the vice president worked for Halliburton, but doesn’t believe Cheney “pursued the war in Iraq in order to somehow enrich Halliburton.”
He maintains, “If we wanted to steal oil, we could’ve found a much easier country, like Venezuela.”
How do you spread the Republican philosophy on campus?
“Well, one of the most fun ways is to make signs that say different things. Like, a picture of a wheat field and in big bold letters ‘God Shed His Grace on Me.’ Another is ‘Refuse To Be a Victim: Support the Second Amendment.’ The idea is, if we stand by the Second Amendment, people will be safer against criminals, and that’s an incredible thing, I think. For people who are a bit more vulnerable to crime, say, like the elderly.”
You think it’s a good idea for the elderly to have guns?
“The possibility that a person might be armed is an incredible deterrent. A lot of neighborhoods aren’t safe. And if you’re an elderly person, you’re really no match to a person with knives and guns, you know, with your bare hands.”
I’m curious, do you have any statistics on how many elderly people have successfully protected themselves with a gun?
“No. But I have a feeling there is nothing to stop them from successfully protecting themselves with a gun.”
Right. But do you think there’s ever a time when an elderly person might be too elderly to have a gun? Like when a person is too elderly to drive?
“I think I know what you mean. And I think that person would be in a nursing home, and I’m sure that home would have security of its own.”
Half of the Moorpark crew is female, and a lot of them, Eisenhammer explains, own guns and “are quite enthusiastic about the Second Amendment.”
He himself doesn’t own a gun, but he does like country music: Clint Black, Tobey Keith . . .
How about the Dixie Chicks?
“I did like their music. But I wouldn’t buy one of their CDs. I wouldn’t support a band that is bashing our president and troops.”
Meanwhile, Eisenhammer and his colleagues have their hands full registering voters — they’ve also registered Democrats; “Democracy works better when everyone votes,” he says — and doing all they can to see that Bush gets re-elected.
“We voted for Bush’s father. We’re the state Reagan came from. We voted for Proposition 22, the law that kept marriage between a man and a woman. I think there’s a dynamic where we could go back to being Republican. I think we have a lot of Republicans who just don’t know it.”
So you’re an optimist.
“Yeah. We really believe if people just knew what our party stood for, and didn’t have this kinda inherent bias against us, they would realize that they are Republicans.”