The new voter: From an early age, a GOP activist is born
Tanya Renicker of Ohio University bucks the ‘youth vote’ trend to back McCain-Palin, even going door to door on the ticket’s behalf.
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Tanya and her younger sister were raised on a family farm, the same one where their mother grew up, in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. The family grows Christmas trees on some of their 300 acres. Her father is a sheet metal worker, a union man. Her mother stayed home and raised the girls. Conversation at the dinner table occasionally touched on politics. Tanya would go to the polls with her mother when she voted, but most of her life revolved around dance, theater, cheerleading, and the everyday activities of school and church. “I definitely don’t fit the Republican stereotype – I was really artsy in high school,” she says.Skip to next paragraph
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The events of 9/11 in 2001 galvanized Tanya, transforming an interest in politics into a genuine, daily concern.
“I was in my fourth-period reading literature class when I found out,” she says. “At that moment I didn’t really realize what had happened. We had a football game that night and they canceled it, and I thought, ‘I don’t understand why they did that.’ ”
At home later that day, the full implication of the attack hit her. “That made me that much more interested in politics and national defense and all of the other countries in the world that aren’t like America,” she says.
About that same time, things were changing in her family. Her father had worked his way up the union ladder to become a foreman. Her mother was turning the family farm into a nursery and garden center. Hard work was at the foundation of their lives. From girlhood, Tanya helped out with the Christmas tree business. As it grew into a nursery, she spent spring breaks and summer vacations helping her mother. When Tanya turned 16, old enough to work in an office, she got a summer job at the company where her father works. At the same time, she was taking college courses while still in high school.
Politics also became a more regular topic over dinner. Tanya soon came to understand that her father was more liberal than her mother. She started watching TV news with her mom – an activity that she says probably helped shape her core, conservative political ideas.
“I took the initiative and came to college ... because I want to get a good job. We weren’t guaranteed to have a good life,” she says. “I don’t want my tax dollars to go to people who didn’t take the initiative to work hard and get a better job. I know that sounds cynical.”
Since high school, Tanya has been honing that notion that individuals are responsible for themselves. Her former boyfriend, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, is a union member like her father. “We would get into fights about unions all the time. I thought there was a time and place for them, but that time’s past,” she says.
Her mother is pleased that Tanya has retained her conservative convictions, despite heading off to the more liberal environment of college.
“I’m glad she’s stayed conservative. I know a lot of times they change when they leave home and get on their own,” says Holly Renicker, reached by phone at the family nursery.