Danville Express

Newsfront - March 16, 2007

Republicans in Berkeley? You bet

Club president says party must harvest the young

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The mid-term elections in November were a wakeup call and Republicans need to get back to their principles, said Josiah Prendergast, the president of the Berkeley College Republicans, speaking to the Blackhawk Republican Women on Monday.

Prendergast, 22, is serving his second term as head of the club at UC Berkeley, which spawned the free speech movement in 1964 and is known far and wide for its liberal politics.

Since Prendergast has been involved, the Republican group's membership has swelled to 650.

"I think it's such a strong club because it is in the 'Valley of the Beast,'" said Prendergast, who grew up in Fresno in a conservative family.

He chose UC Berkeley for his education because "I like to anger people, so why not?" He went to his first meeting of the club and thought, as an 18-year-old, it was pretty cool when they suggested going out for pizza and beer.

Prendergast regaled the 40-plus members and guests at Blackhawk Country Club with stories of his club's activities on campus, such as its 2003 Affirmative Action Bake Sale, at which they charged African Americans 10 cents for a cookie and white students $5. He also told about recruiting with a life-sized cutout of Ronald Reagan and how shocked he was at the rudeness of adults and their expletives.

"We've had people flip our table over," he said. "We've been spit on and pushed."

But Prendergast seems to enjoy the challenge and find new ways to make waves. He was featured in a Wall Street Journal story in October, which led to an interview on CNBC.

"We did a PETA barbecue for Bush," he recalled. "That got their attention."

Their barbecuing of hot dogs to give away ended up coinciding with a big event on campus sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

His group also held an Anti Antiwar Rally in San Francisco.

Prendergast, a political science major, turned serious when he talked about the future of the Republican Party and the importance of interesting young people in politics. Although the vote in 2000 was supposed to appeal to college students, there was just a small spike, he said.

"There is a huge disconnect between reality and college life," he said. "I'm interested in politics because we have the great potential to be productive, the opportunity to grow in leadership and political technology."

He wants to start with the students now so in a few years the party can yield a healthy return in its investments.

"Capitalize on the stupid energy of college students," he said. "We need to start creating a pool of candidates and managers who know how to run. There aren't enough kids learning these things right now."

"We need to find people who can run for office with integrity," he added.

He said he is conservative on all stands, fiscal and social.

"I supported George Bush and still do, but some of his policies don't make sense," he said.

He said he feels the Republicans dropped the ball during the six years they controlled the House, the Senate, the Courts and the White House, namely with Social Security, immigration and a poor plan in Iraq. He said they backed off important issues that are touchy.

"This is our opportunity to wake up and get back to principles," he said. "We need people who are passionate about making change. Now we have the opportunity."

"I don't want my kids to be in the same position I am," he added, "where we didn't get the job done."

Contact Dolores Fox Ciardelli at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com

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