The Republican Party desperately needs to attract young people if it wants to survive. Yet, the recently released Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project report signals that the party doesn’t understand how to reach young voters. One has to wonder if the RNC even consulted young people before putting the stamp of approval on its election “autopsy” report.
The RNC deserves props for acknowledging that the Republican Party has trouble connecting with young people, and for dedicating a section of the report to fixing this problem. The RNC hasn’t always been concerned with winning the youth vote, as evidenced by the mistreatment of Ron Paul delegates at the convention in Tampa last year.
The RNC refused to seat Maine delegates that pledged to support Ron Paul, did not announce Ron Paul delegate votes from the podium, and revised the candidate nomination rules mid-way through the convention.
Most of these delegates were under the age of 30, enthusiastic, and new to being active within the Republican Party. The way these delegates were treated was a shameful welcome to Party politics.
For grassroots activists, it’s hard to forget how Republican leadership used dirty tactics to shift power from the state parties and the grassroots to the RNC and the GOP presidential nominee. House Speaker John Boehner was caught red handed as he announced the controversial rules changes at the convention podium, with a pre-written teleprompter message reading, “The ayes have it.”
The “ayes” still didn’t have it on that pre-determined voice vote, John Boehner.
Instead of embracing these high-energy young people that care deeply about liberty, the RNC basically told them to “go away!” Is it any surprise that Mitt Romney only received 36 percent of the youth vote?
Millions of young people watching the convention felt snubbed by the Republican Party. They can’t give citizens a seat at the table, but not allow us to speak. Perhaps the RNC learned its lesson and now realizes that it needs young, liberty-minded people to win elections. It shouldn’t have taken a brutally embarrassing election loss for that to happen, but it did.
Now the Republican Party seems more welcoming towards young people. To be fair, some of the youth outreach strategies in the RNC report make sense, like more social media activity and supporting more positive policy proposals.
The Republican Party should be for something, not against everything. But some of the suggestions are downright cringe-worthy.
One of the recommendations is for Republican leaders to go on political comedy shows, like the Daily Show and Colbert Report. Producers of these shows that are popular with the youth demographic would love to book high-profile Republicans—because they will be the punch line of the joke.
Going on the late night talk shows will backfire if Republicans reek of hypocrisy. Liberal hosts would point out their inconsistent views for the amusement of their audiences. Intellectually inconsistent Republicans will get eaten alive, which young people will call an “epic fail.”
Young people can sniff out hypocrisy. Republicans talk a big game about reducing government spending. But too often they are not willing to cut a dime from Pentagon spending, which represents 20 percent of the federal budget. Just look at how some Republicans freaked out over the sequester because it didn’t increase Pentagon spending fast enough for their liking.
The under 25 crowd has only experienced one full-term Republican president in their lifetime: George W. Bush. Far from living up to his fiscal conservative rhetoric, President Bush increased the national debt by $4.9 trillion and ushered in big government policies like No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP bank bailouts.
Many young people find it hard to take the GOP seriously when they claim to be the party of small government, but champion bills that allow the government to pry through our emails without a warrant. Or indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without due process.
Despite all their talk about reducing government regulations, many Republicans backed Internet regulation such as SOPA and PIPA, which would have crippled free speech and stifled innovation online. Young people can, and will, take it personally when politicians attack the beloved Internet!
Judging from the “autopsy” report, the RNC seems to think the party has a marketing problem that can be fixed with some hip celebrities and cool advertisements. This strategy ignores the root of the problem: bad products don’t sell. No matter how awesome the marketing campaign may be, young people will catch on that the product isn’t the real deal.
The GOP needs to go through a product evaluation process. Having a consistent and principled product will get more young people attracted to the party. Be real and walk your talk. It’s that simple.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.