Aristotle once opined, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.”
Not surprisingly, millennials bought the Left’s redistributionist policies and class warfare rhetoric again in 2012.
What explains this disturbing trend? How can it be reversed? The answer: making the moral, convincing case for conservatism to our peers.
A new College Republican National Committee (CRNC) report on why Republicans lost the youth vote in 2012 was released last week. Although well-intentioned, the report -- 95 pages in length -- fails to offer tangible solutions to the problem.
The report covered the following topics: student loan debt crisis, entitlement reform, health care, taxes, “climate change”/environment, defense/foreign affairs, immigration, abortion, and gay marriage. It also proposed five suggestions for “successful” youth outreach.
The first suggestion says economic issues that directly impact young voters -- the student loan debt crisis, unemployment, and health care -- should be emphasized. The report says, “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer a hand to help you get there” (85).
There are two problems with this talking point.
One, it fails to articulate why economic freedom is morally superior to socialism.
Earlier this year, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addressed this in a Washington Post column by suggesting opportunity conservatism. He wrote, “Republicans should conceptualize and articulate every domestic policy with a single-minded focus on easing the ascent up the economic ladder.”
He added, “Free-market policies expand opportunity, produce prosperity and improve lives, especially for those working to climb the economic ladder.”
Senator Cruz is right. The moral case for free enterprise must be made to voters, especially young disillusioned voters.
Second, it ignores social conservatism. Those so-called “pesky social issues” do, in fact, matter to voters like fiscal issues. Many young people are pro-life and pro-family. Our generation is largely pro-life, and though traditional marriage is not popular today, millennials should not be deterred by the “inevitability” of “marriage equality.”
Rather than conceding to the Left, our side must affirm the right to life and the right to have a stable family free of government control.
The second solution is to promote an intelligent brand.
“We as a party must value intelligence and elevate smart leaders. And we must underscore the way our policies support those young people who are themselves intelligent, hardworking, and responsible” (86).
Progressive Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with strategist Karl Rove, for example, should not frame our message and speak on behalf of the movement. Instead, “wacko birds” Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and others must lead the charge.
The third suggestion is to be sensitive to young voters. The report adds, “‘Caring’ does not have to equal ‘giving out free stuff,’ and ‘open-minded’ does not have to equal ‘being liberal’”(86).
The report fails to communicate conservatism’s universal appeal or articulate why our policies uplift young people with a hand up, not a handout.
The fourth suggestion in the report is to eliminate “big government” from our political lexicon. The report says, “Rather than focusing on reducing big government as an end in and of itself, Republicans should instead focus on outcomes: reduced spending, greater economic growth, repaired entitlement and social welfare programs” (37).
How do we offer a solution without first identifying the problem? Big government is problematic. The recent IRS, NSA, and AP scandals are examples of tyrannical government. Millennials should distrust big government, not ignore or enable it.
The final suggestion offered in the report is to visit places frequented by young people. The report says, “…Republicans have consistently failed to even show up for young voters in the last few election cycles” (88).
To successfully court young voters, our side must inundate universities and popular hangout spots with conservatism.
Encouraging activism is the first step to changing the political landscape on campus. Expose egregious spending by administrators, point out how radical “diversity” initiatives are, and film professors who dedicate their lectures to badmouthing conservatives. College Republican clubs do not take advantage of these opportunities and often discourage their members from challenging the status quo. Leftist groups greatly outnumber conservative ones, so more of the latter must be encouraged.
Additionally, go to hotspots frequented by young people and engage them. Make conservatism personal and relatable. Do not appeal to them with One Direction or Justin Bieber -- that is an awful strategy. Send younger spokesmen, preferably older millennials, there to talk to newly-graduated college students who are pessimistic about the future.
What is the takeaway from the CRNC report? It only offered GOP talking points, not proven solutions. Youth outreach should not echo leftist platitudes; it must contrast them and offer a conservative alternative.