SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch told conservative high school students Thursday to resist the urge to “own the libs” on social media and focus on winning “converts” with knowledge and persuasion.
“Provocation for provocation’s sake will never win you any converts,” the Utah Republican said. “To say it another way, if you are owning the libs just to own the libs, your victory will be short-lived and your audience will remain small.”
Hatch spoke at Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Kyle Kashuv, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor. The Parkland, Florida, teen lobbied Congress, including meeting with polar opposites House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Ted Cruz, for Hatch’s bipartisan school violence prevention bill.
Turning Point USA aims to identify, educate, train and organize students to promote freedom, free markets and limited government, according to its website. It has a presence on 1,300 high school and college campuses across the country.
Hatch advised high schoolers to “study like hell” so they can debate and fight for conservative principles with confidence.
“If you don’t have that confidence, put your sign down, save your tweets in drafts, and crack open a book,” he said. “Be on guard for bad information or fake news. And recognize that it can come from our side, too.”
Hatch referenced U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley who earlier in the week asked student at the conference to raise their hands if they had ever posted anything online to “own the libs.”
“I know that it’s fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this — are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading?” Haley asked. “We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn’t leadership — it’s the exact opposite.”
Hatch said while stunts bring attention, they won’t necessarily inspire others to join the conservative cause. He told students to make their case with ideas, and in doing so would find opportunities to own the liberals.
“But you’ll do so with substance, not just pats on the back from those who already agree with you,” he said.
The senator also told students to follow smart people who don’t just engage in “lib ownership” but lead with knowledge, focused on substance.
“We need you speaking out on college campuses, not just to defend conservative values, but to convert more conservatives,” he said.
Hatch urged the teens to get behind the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and took another jab at Democrats who are trying to block the federal’s judges confirmation. The fight, he said, is about more than just Kavanaugh.
“It’s about our ideas and everything we stand for,” he said. “Losing a fight like this means the party of substance-free theatrics wins.”