Gay, Jewish, Millennial and Republican in Mile-High Colorado

The Denver skyline at twilight.

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Why you should care

Because this heightened era of politics is attracting unconventional activists and candidates across America. 

Who Cares: OZY's 2020 election coverage focuses on who votes and why. Who Cares: OZY's 2020 election coverage focuses on who votes and why.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Garrett Flicker
Denver, Colorado

Day started off really good. I woke up at home with my beautiful boyfriend. We’re both political scientists. He’s going into the law side of things, and I’m sticking with politics. Went to the gym. I go every day, since I’m recovering from a large surgery in November — a spinal fusion, eight discs outfitted with about 20 screws. 

I work as a chief of staff for Rep. Tim Geitner and as secretary for the Denver Republicans. In the 2016 election cycle, my senior year in college, I went from a turf director to a field coordinator to a regional director for the Trump campaign, organizing volunteers for the Western Slope. I was really stuck to my own devices, but I did a good job with what I was given. And in the 2018 cycle, I worked what felt like 120 hours, seven days a week.

I was exhausted: You’re eating crappy food, you’re pale, washed out, tired. Your undershirts are all campaign T-shirts because you haven’t done laundry in four weeks. It was kind of crushing to lose so many races where I was working in Arapahoe County, which is a southeastern suburb of Denver. This blue wave was almost funneled into Colorado, because of all of the migration from California. We didn’t just lose the governor’s race, but a lot of our legislative ones too. I took those defeats personally because I had bonded with these people. I recruited 382 volunteers, and we knocked on close to 100,000 doors and made about 254,000 phone calls.

When people talk about Republicans, they think all Republicans are Christian church-going folks and are all homophobic … 

The first time I got really interested in politics was in 2012. My family and I lost our home in the Waldo Canyon fire. They had planes sitting on the runway with water, but they wouldn’t release them because they needed approval for FEMA funding. It had to go through the bureaucracy. I was home alone. I watched this fire grow from essentially 50 acres to several thousand. I felt betrayed. Here in Colorado, we were so focused on getting stuff through the bureaucracy that, when people were suffering in an emergency, we weren’t able to combat that. 

 

My dad was military, and my mom ran a successful hairstyling business. I went to college at Fort Lewis College in Durango, and there I swung pretty far to the left. I had just come out of the closet. I was a totally different human being from six months before. After my freshman year, I came back home and talked to my family. They challenged some of my ideas. And when I brought those ideas to my friends back in college, I got a lot of backlash — and that pushed me back to the right. I didn’t really lose friends over that, but a lot of people asked me: How can you be gay and Jewish, and be a conservative? 

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Garrett Flicker

Source Garrett Flicker

We throw this “conservative” word around, this idea that it is regressive. American conservatism stems from classical liberalism, which is about a free society, where you have a free market, and where you elect your politicians through a republic-style democracy. When people talk about Republicans, they think all Republicans are Christian church-going folks and are all homophobic. The truth is, I know a lot of Christians within the Republican Party, and they are very supportive of me. We go on double dates.

My boyfriend is a libertarian. He’s from Brazil, so not a U.S. citizen. I’m a big supporter of legal immigration. I have lots of friends who have waited for a very long time to come to this country, and I don’t think they should be pushed further down a list because somebody comes illegally from a country bordering us. 

I’ve been pretty supportive of the president so far. They try to push that he is homophobic and anti-Semitic. I just don’t see it. You see his recognition of Israel, his close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem. And he has supported gay rights since the 1970s, well before he considered any sort of presidential run. So many people, they are registered as Democrats, but the more you talk to them, the more you realize they are conservative. Being a Republican in Denver is not as lonely as you might think. 

I would like to see more people active in politics. It’s inspired me to run for office one day. You work so hard as a foot soldier, pushing the ideas the candidates and campaign managers want you to push. At the end of the day, you don’t have the final say. I can only have that if I am the candidate.

When it comes to diversity, we are so obsessed with the cover-of-the-book idea. Judging a book by its cover, but not what’s inside — that ideological diversity — doesn’t seem to matter on both sides. Everything is skin-deep now. Politics has become shallow. But I am an openly gay Republican. I talk about being Jewish often. And unfortunately, if you want to get elected, you have to talk about those things. You can’t hide it.

Read more: What Colorado’s huge voter engagement can teach the nation.   

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