Smart Girls Summit: 5 Good Things/5 Things That Need Improvement


There have been a plethora of posts already about the 2013 Smart Girls Politics Summit, so I will keep this short and sweet. If you’re not familiar with Smart Girls Politics, it is an organization specifically for right-wing women with all stripes represented. I spoke with hard-lined social conservatives, Ron Paul fans, and tons of hard-working women who truly want to make a difference. And I had a great time meeting them.

Does the GOP have a women problem? Well, that is up for debate, but there is no question that there should be more women front and center in right-wing politics. Smart Girl Politics encourages just that.

So, without further ado, I’m going to do something a little different. Five things that were great about SGS 2013 and five things that could be improved upon.

  1. It was in Indianapolis. I was pleasantly surprised by Indianapolis. I had pretty low expectations for the city as an East Coast Elitist. However, the hotel was right in the heart of downtown with easy access to many activities. The streets are nice and clean, and someone even ran into a couple of fellows dressed as the Ghostbusters.
  2. It’s a small conference. The Smart Girls Politics Summit is not an event completely mobbed by a ton of people like CPAC or Right Online. In my opinion, this is one of its best qualities. One has the opportunity to meet nearly everyone, including the speakers. As one quick example, nearly every person on line at James O’Keefe’s book signing got to talk to him for a little while. What are the odds of doing that at CPAC?
  3. Indiana’s Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann. Ellspermann gave a thought-provoking opening speech about her campaign in Indiana. She spoke about not stooping down to attack ads and still being able to win. Her comment that “women shouldn’t feel like they have to run campaigns like men” is something I’m still pondering two weeks after the event.
  4. Katie Pavlich read passages from The Communist Manifesto. Perhaps an odd choice to some, but it has always amazed me how many people have never read Marx’s historic contribution to contemporary politics. The passages she focused on were on the dissolution of the nuclear family as it is a threat to the State. This is a little known concept in Marx’s works – and she brought it to the attention of those who have never read the Manifesto.
  5. James O’Keefe. I will admit that I was not a fan of O’Keefe for a long time. I didn’t like him, I didn’t like his schtick, and I didn’t really understand what he was doing. However, after seeing his presentation, I did a complete 180 on my impression of him. I had never seen him speak and after watching him explain exactly what he does – frankly, I was impressed. I was wrong about James O’Keefe. Heck, after the speech I even bought his book. I imagine there were other women in the audience who had the same change of heart.

As for things that could be improved upon:

  1. It was in Indianapolis. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by Indianapolis, but Indiana isn’t exactly a top pick for a summer vacation. Perhaps there were people who skipped the conference based on location alone. I know I do this. For example, I’m not going to Right Online because it’s in Orlando in August. I’m fairly confident that location was a factor for some people who chose not to attend.
  2. Lack of national politicians. In fairness, this is not SGP’s fault as nationally-known politicians turned down their invitations to attend. However, the lack of star power was an obvious void in the agenda and may have been a contributing factor to this year’s low attendance.
  3. Reiterating the same advice over and over. This is not a knock on the panelists’ presentations at the summit. I really liked the panels that I attended and the speakers provided great insights into various topics, such as the youth vote, minority outreach, and how to change hearts & minds. However, nearly every single panel emphasized telling personal stories to make one’s points more salient and effective. This is excellent advice, but I kind of got the idea already after hearing it three times.
  4. Everyone discussed messaging – no one discussed Romney. Certainly messaging, branding, and story-telling are extremely important when reaching out to people. However, I got the impression that people thought this was the overriding factor for why Romney lost the election. There are a ton of reasons Romney lost the election – one of them being that he was a terrible candidate with absolutely zero skills in relating to people on a personal basis. Sure, we can get out the youth vote with better messaging, but Romney’s campaign didn’t exactly do a very good job in targeting young voters. How many people under thirty are small business owners? When small business is the message constantly hammered by a campaign, it’s not going to be easy to get my demographic on board.
  5. Too much talk about unity. This is a point where many people disagree with me. In my opinion, right now is the perfect time for infighting before things rev up for 2016. It is blatantly obvious that there is a civil war within the GOP, whether one designates the opponents as Establishment vs Conservatives or Social Conservatives vs Libertarians. After the panel on “Fight Back Women on the Left,” an audience member asked why we don’t rally around every single female right-wing politician – specifically citing Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, and Michelle Bachmann. This comment received much fanfare from those in the audience. However, blindly supporting any female GOP politician is just that: blind. Politicians should be evaluated based on their positions, votes, and service – not their sex. Supporting a politician simply because she happens to be female encourages a separate set of standards for men and women. And I’m sorry, I’m not going to be “rah rah Bachmann” for the sake of unity.

Overall, the positive aspects of the 2013 Smart Girls Politics Summit overshadowed the pitfalls. It was an intimate conference where conservative women had a real chance to connect with one another and learn about what it takes to get one’s voice out there. I learned a lot about activism, heard new perspectives on much-discussed topics, and gained plenty of food for thought to sustain me for quite awhile.

I want to thank the organizers for putting together a great event. I definitely plan to attend next year.