This is a fun story about young people getting involved in politics, and the problems that the established order has in dealing with them. That shift becomes more marked and more rapid as we see the old political batons being passed from one generation to the next.
Sarah Anderson is peculiar. For one thing, she's a Republican. At 22, that makes her a statistical anomaly, even in El Paso County.
She spent her formative years reading a series of books that explain the free-market theory to teens. She will gleefully argue the superiority of the market-based Austrian School economic model of F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises over the Keynesian mixed-economy version. On her Facebook page, she describes her political views as "a beautiful blend of Anarcho-Capitalism and Minarchism."
Another thing: Anderson is a born campaigner. Home-schooled, with college on hold, she says she's worked on more than 60 campaigns over the past seven years. She started at age 9, after pleading with her mother, by volunteering at county headquarters while Bill Owens was running for governor. Six years later, she went door-to-door for Douglas Bruce, then a party hero who wanted a seat on the county commission. From 2004 to 2007, she worked at the state Capitol for legislators including Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs.
This past February, at the meeting of the county GOP's central committee, she was elected party secretary in a decisive victory over party stalwart Holly Williams, wife of County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams. Anderson says her speech — referencing work done for Lambert, former state Sen. Dave Schultheis, U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck and plenty more — clinched it.
"Let's not just say we want youth in the party," she told the crowd. "Let's put experienced youth in leadership."
Feisty, ambitious, intelligent and pretty, Anderson's exactly the kind of person that the aging GOP is eager to draw into the fold. Except that, as she happily offers, "My beliefs aren't popular with the majority of the powerholders of the Republican Party."
The GOP is home to a number of wildly varying beliefs on what it means to be the party of limited government. Social conservatives pound away at their pulpits. Fiscal conservatives often ignore social issues, preferring to die on the hill of governmental deregulation. Libertarians pursue a limited-government approach to everything.
Anderson, who leans hard toward libertarianism, describes the party divide more starkly: There is the old-boy network, the traditional Republican bloc that works simply for power, to elect clubhouse Republicans at all cost. Then there are the principled conservatives like her, who see influence and power as the natural result of staying true to core beliefs.
Anderson has taken a very public stand against one of the most powerful women within the state Republican Party, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens of Monument. For months, Anderson has argued that Stephens blew it when she sponsored and forced through Senate Bill 200, the Health Benefit Exchange Act that established a government-run, health care exchange in Colorado.
Her comments have drawn ire from within the party. Republicans even approved a resolution ostensibly designed to keep her quiet. And yet she scoffs at it all, daring the same people who elected her secretary to vote her out.
Nothing's happened yet.
It's amazing to watch the Republican Party struggle with a 22-year-old, and it's also telling. Open rebellion against the establishment GOP is the order of the day, whether in the grassroots or party headquarters, and it is being fueled by some of the party's most conservative politicians, such as Schultheis and Lambert.
The two sides are at war in the run-up to the 2012 elections. The grassroots are eagerly and actively seeking a candidate to oppose Stephens in the GOP primary. This incredible step threatens to derail a concerted Republican effort in El Paso County, heart of the state's GOP. It could cost them their one-seat House majority.
But the local party secretary takes the long view.
"There is a power shift coming," Anderson says. "They can either join the wave or they will be swept away."