Interview With Morgan Murtaugh: The Youngest Candidate Running For Congress
Imagine the stereotypical candidate for public office: they’re typically older, often baby boomers of a similar demographic, who are either at the end of their careers or have spent years in office. Indeed, politicians who are labeled “young” often include Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – both of whom are in their forties. But every once in a while America gets a young candidate that storms the national stage and is saturated with media attention. For example, congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is this cycle’s favorite young person. But there is also a millennial candidate that you may not have heard of – the youngest candidate running for national office this year.
Meet 26-year-old Morgan Murtaugh of San Diego. Morgan is running to represent California’s 53rd district as Republican. In many ways, she highlights the divided between an older generation of Republicans, and a younger group wanting to change the direction of the GOP. In the following interview, Modern Treatise spoke with Ms. Murtaugh about the issues facing the GOP and the country at large.
You are a young Hispanic woman living in California. Yet, despite what one would assume, you are a Republican. What made you decide to be a Republican in a blue state?
Morgan Murtaugh: I’ve been Republican all my life, I’ve started getting involved in Republican politics when I was 15 years old. [I] didn’t really understand politics until I saw firsthand the vitriol that friends and family were starting to show in 2008 when my mom supported McCain, and then I started to pay more attention and I realized that I aligned more the Republican Party ideals than with Democrat ideals.
Many young voters tend to not participate in the electoral process, but you say you have been participating in politics for a decade. What spurred your interest in politics?
MM: So in the 2008 election my mom and I made a giant McCain-Palin sign, and I just did it to help my mom, I didn’t know much about the election, because again I was 15 years old, but the hate and the vitriol that...we were standing outside my old church and people that I’ve known all my life and have practically taken part in raising me, teachers that I have known since I was in preschool called the cops on us. And so when I saw the intense hate towards something so, to me, benign; we were just holding a sign outside of my church on a public street corner, it wasn’t like we were doing anything insane; when I saw the reaction to that, then I started to get really interested and that’s kind of what sparked my interest.
You’re the youngest candidate running for the House. Have you always planned a congressional run, or is this a recent decision?
MM: I decided that I wanted this particular seat when I was 19 years old because I met Susan Davis, my opponent in the incumbent, and I told her that I was interested in running for office one day and I told her that I respected her, even though I didn’t agree with where she stood on the issues, and she basically laughed in my face and kind of, in a way, told me “in your dreams,” so I decided that I would go after her seat when I was old enough.
Readers might recognize you from your work in media, specifically with One America News Network. How has your work in media shaped your political views? What have you learned about politics now that you are participating in political life as opposed to reporting it?
MM: I think that before media I was further right, and I think media brought me more to the center, and I appreciate that very much because it kind of opened my eyes to the other side. Before being in media I don’t think I would have been as open-minded and as friendly to Democrats. Now I really understand where they’re coming from and so that’s really what shaped my views.
There is a sharp contrast between millennial GOP voters and older Republicans. What direction do you want millennials to take the GOP in the future? Are there any changes to the GOP that you would like millennials to make?
MM: I think that millennials need to start paying attention to the economy because that’s really the core – the economy and national security – are the core elements of what the Republican Party platform is, and I think that when we start paying attention to those two things and realizing that it’s really the government’s sole purpose in life is to take care of those two things, and not to pay for special interests and fluff bureaucratic things that we have that the Democrats want to spend money on that end up controlling our lives. And when we start paying attention to that, then we’ll start realizing that it’s important to be a Republican, and I think the Republican Party is going to take a shift here soon to the center; I think the Republican Party, in general, is going to, over time especially when millennials become empowered, they’re going to be more Libertarian, and I think a lot more people are going to hop on board with us.
As millennials ease into leadership roles, they are also inheriting the nation’s problems. What do you believe is the greatest challenge millennials will have to contend with?
MM: I think right now the greatest challenge facing millennials is the economy in the future. When you think about it, look at how many people graduating college are unemployed or underemployed, and they don’t really grasp the concept of the way that our parents lived before us. Our parents are very well aware of the direction that we’re going in, but we’re not because we didn’t live that. So I think that Trump has done a great job in restoring our economy, I think that until we move in that direction, then we figure we get out, especially with student loans, how to jump-start the economy in favor of millennials, then we’re going to struggle in the future.
Women only hold 20 percent of the seats in Congress, and of those women more than double – 78 to 29 – are Republicans. How do you think the GOP can improve on recruiting women to run for office?
MM: I think that we should encourage women to run for office; I know there were a few strategists who said Republican women shouldn’t run in this cycle and look that now the media narrative is that “Democrats have more women than Republicans,” and that’s because strategists were telling us not to run in the Trump era. So I think that instead of putting that message out there, they should constantly be encouraging women and people of color; everyone to run.
Democrats have a distinct advantage with young voters, even if they underachieve electorally. Why do you think that is and what could the GOP do in regards to attracting younger voters.
MM: I think it’s because younger voters are very emotional, and we, young people in general, we’re kind of pulled by our emotions until later in life that we tend to use logic first. And I think that Democrats have done a great job of triggering millennials emotionally, and I think that Republicans, we’re all about logic and reason and it’s hard to reason with leftists. So we have to try and figure out a way to get millennials to understand and if we have to do it in a way that sensationalizes and get the emotion out of it, then so be it, but it’s going to be a difficult task for Republicans to get on track with leftists.
The GOP is a diverse and often factions party that many Republicans don’t see heading in the direction of their liking. In what areas do you believe the GOP can improve?
MM: I think that the very most important that the GOP can improve is take a couple notes from the Libertarian Party because Republicans originally were the party of individual liberty and the party of equal opportunity, that’s our core values, our core platform, but over time on social issues we’ve kind of lost that sense and lost that way and that, I think, are what Democrats are kicking our butts [because] we tend to hold on to these super traditional social values like gay marriage, but the fact of the matter is when the government got involved in marriage between a man and a woman it then became an equal rights issue. If the government was never involved in marriage, then yes it would be a separation of church and state hands-down. But the government got involved in marriage, making it an issue of equal rights and so Republicans need to start seeing it from that perspective, we’re looking at this from a perspective of equal opportunity unto the law, not under anything else.
You have taken a particular interest in the well-being of the Border Patrol. What changes, if any, would you like to make to the Border Patrol or DHS at large?
MM: First off, right now we have several organizations doing the same thing. So streamlining Border Patrol, ICE, and all that so we can have just one chain of command in that aspect I think would be a much more effective way of running our Border Patrol agency. Second, there’s a lot going on at the border right now. Border Patrol has Vietnam War-era technology down there and the environment is…the level of toxicity in the dirt out there, it’s so disgusting and people get hospitalized with flesh-eaten bacteria because of it. So there’s a lot going on down there, and we really need to make sure that we get the proper infrastructure, better technology, , and we need more manpower down there to help thwart our threats because right now if we look at the facts, [the] cartel is controlling what crosses our border. And people aren’t crossing our border unless they paid-off the cartel or the cartel said so. So it’s not a safe area right now and we need to have the proper security to thwart those threats.
The United States has an alliance and special relationships with nations on every corner of the globe, by none might be as vital and as consequential as the relationship with Mexico. How would you asses current relations with our southern neighbor, and what changes would you like to see to America’s relationship with Mexico?
MM: That’s a difficult question because the relationship between the United States and Mexico has been on the rocks for years, and it’s mostly because of the growing power of the cartel. The cartel, as we saw in the last election in Mexico, killed off several candidates for election because they have so much power down there because they just don’t care, they’ll kill you – it’s like the mafia back in the day. So right now we need to figure out how we can reduce the cartel’s power to help Mexico and to help our international relations with them.
The U.S. is involved in numerous national security and foreign policy challenges. What foreign policy/national security challenge do you find to be the most pressing and why?
MM: Right now the most pressing national security threat to me and my district is our border. Because it is so weak right now and people can just walk right over, and you never know who's walking right over. We don’t have any way of knowing who they are, what their intentions are, and anything else. So right now my biggest national security focus is the border.
For years Republicans have preached the gospel of free trade. However, with the election of Donald Trump, who advocates protectionism, Republicans are caught in an awkward position between adherence to their coveted economic beliefs and the wishes of the president. What is your position on free trade? Do you believe the GOP should continue to promote it?
MM: I’m for free trade. I think that it should be an equal level playing field to trade across the world. Right now, what we’re seeing in China is the U.S. government is subsidizing a lot of their shipping costs, so it’s costing China a lost less money to ship to the United States that is for the United Shapes to ship to China; and that to me is unacceptable. So if we level the playing field, then I think we’re a lot better off.
As you are running to represent San Diego, what issue do you believe needs to be addressed the most in the 53rd district?
MM: So going door-to-door, the number one issue on people’s minds is a local one actually; it’s homelessness. And so how I want to tackle that federally (because there are half a million homeless people all over the county) is to set up a system where different organizations working to combat homelessness in these hotspots of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and maybe Chicago has a high homeless rate and all these metropolitan areas that have increasing homeless rates. I want to set up a system where all these non-profit organizations who are doing God’s work in their communities have a way of communicating, and they can streamline their efforts to help end homelessness. Because right now there are so many great organizations that are scattered all over the place, and if we set up a way to communicate with each other, I’m sure that they can accomplish a heck of a lot more. And not only that, in places where homelessness is exceedingly bad, I want to set-up a way for these non-profit to apply for federal grant money so that they can get the resources that they need to help the homeless in their communities, because the federal government doesn’t know what’s best for the communities, the community does – and if we can get them the resources that they need, I’m sure we’ll see a lot great impact in our community.
Your campaign website acknowledges environmental challenges, which is not a common issue for many Republicans. What environmental policies would you like to see the GOP adopt?
MM: I would like to see the GOP move towards clean energy and move towards keeping our environment clean. My number one environmental issue right now is our border. The fact that we’ve just ignored it for decades and it’s gotten so bad [that] people are starting to get sick when there are storms all the way up in Coronado, which you might not realize since you don’t live here, how far that is, but that is a significant chunk of, I would say, more than ten miles of beach that people can’s use without getting sick. It’s so bad down here in San Diego with the pollution from the sewage coming over from Mexico, and we’ve just been ignoring the problem and pointing the figure at Mexico, but meanwhile, Americans are actually getting sick. Border Patrol agents are actually getting sick, and we’re doing nothing about it. And it’s funny to me because Democrats claim to be the champions for the environment, yet Democrats have been in control down here for so long and they haven’t done anything about it. So it really upsets me that we’re just letting people get sick and letting these beaches and land go untouched because we can’t use them without getting sick.
In previous interviews, you have spoken of the difference between sensible immigration policy and effective border security. What immigration policy to you believe is best suited for America?
MM: So right now we have about, maybe over now at this point, over 30 million people here illegally. And there’s no way in any type of sane world that we can just round-up 30 million people and say “get out.” So what I want to do is something Ronald Regan did is give people the opportunity to come forward and tell us who they are and where they are and if they are really doing good stuff and improving their lives, and having a positive impact in our community, then I think that they should stay. And if they stay then give them a pathway to permanent residency, but not a pathway to citizenship. Because that’s where I think that we get the biggest fight; people who come here illegally already violated our sovereignty coming here, and yes I want to help them have a better life, but I don’t think they deserve the right to vote. If you’re going to wait and line and do it the right way [and] follow our laws, then yes, you deserve the right to vote. But if you’re just going to cut the line, you do not deserve that right, and I will stand by that. So giving people a pathway to permanent residency, when they feel like they can live here and not be looking over their shoulders constantly and being worried about getting deported is something I’d be willing to look into.
The interesting aspect of politics, especially in America, is that it is a continuation of the philosophical debate rooted in the enlightenment and further. In this respect, politics transcends partisan personalities and becomes a conflict of ideas. What thinkers, philosophers, statesmen, or writers have shaped your political philosophy?
MM: I would say that my political philosophy isn’t even shaped by political thinkers. It’s more shaped by my experiences and my interpretation of the constitution. I wish that I paid more attention to political thinkers and philosophers, but I don’t and I think that the way I approached politics over time has been adopted by my own personal experiences and my interpretation of the constitution and my education at GW [George Washington University].
Social media is inarguably one of the defining features of the 21st century and millennial lifestyles. Do you believe the proliferation of social media is a positive or negative for politics in America?
MM: Both – it’s positive and it’s negative. Positive because it gives people instantly, I mean, you go on Twitter and you know what’s going on right away. And that to me is amazing because of people’s opportunity to say what they’re thinking. I mean the president, if he didn’t have social media, he probably wouldn’t have won because people wouldn’t know where he was coming from. And the media, as we know, hated him so they spun everything that he did and said. So giving people that platform to really deliver their message is important, but at the same time, social media has become more and more populist. We’ve seen this hyper-partisan divide in our nation, and it’s my side versus your side and it’s me versus you, it’s no longer “we,” it’s no longer our issues, were no longer Americans, we’re either Republicans or we’re Democrats and [we] hate the other side, so that hyper-partisan mentality and the fact that we can’t have a conversation anymore is very concerning to me and for our future.
Jonah Goldberg of the American Enterprise Institute and National Review often asks guests on his Remnant podcast what policy they would like to see implemented, no matter how wonky it is. Is there is a policy you would like to advocate for that flies under the radar of most voters?
MM: I think that right now my three main focuses have been on the economy, and the border, and again the homelessness issue. So the policy that I would like to see implemented that is pretty wonky is my plan to help combat homelessness.