Politico recently posted a story that started with the words, "Coming soon to a battleground state near you: White House campaigns combining census reports with Instagram and Twitter posts to target teenagers who aren't yet 18 but will be by Election Day 2016."
With more than 8 million young people becoming eligible to vote in 2016, prospective presidential campaigns are already seeking ways to win over 16- and 17-year-olds across our county.
Obama won his two presidential elections because of his campaign's slick strategies in targeting the millennial generation. In 2012, Obama carried two-thirds of the youth vote. In fact, so powerful was their vote that a Tufts University study revealed that if Mitt Romney had merely split that youth vote with Obama, he would be president today.
Chief among Obama's campaign tactics to sway young voters was to exacerbate the country's disillusionment with Republicans, especially former President George W. Bush. But the tides have turned since then -- big-time -- and the millennials are now increasingly disillusioned with Obama and Democrats.
I understand that millennials generally are independent but vote Democratic, are less conservative and more liberal, believe in marriage equality and climate change, are anti-death penalty and anti-guns, are pro-marijuana legalization, favor big-government solutions, and are neither particularly patriotic nor very religious.
Yet I know that millennials love their country, believe in governmental activism, know the power of local community involvement, are open to truth, are willing to be challenged and have never been more disillusioned with President Obama and his fellow Democrats than they are today.
In October, Harvard's Institute of Politics published a poll of America's 18- to 29-year-olds. Obama's approval rating among young voters had dropped from a soaring 70 percent in the honeymoon months of 2009 to 40 percent, including record dips among young Hispanics.
Of course, disillusionment and dissatisfaction with predecessors is key to winning any election. It is virtually equivalent to the value of having the right candidate. In light of the 2016 presidential election, that means a winning campaign must have a candidate with a strong appeal to younger generations, not one who can merely address their needs.
I agree with Vincent Harris, digital director for Rand Paul's political operation, who said, "It's got to be the right candidate with the right message to excite and motivate that age demographic, with so many distractions in their life, to register and then turn out."
No doubt we all want to see our values represented in a candidate of our liking, but the desire is even larger for America's youngest voting generations. The right candidate's influence among them cannot be underestimated.
At the same time, there is still a high level of social and political mistrust among millennials. Therefore, I believe, for the next two years, we the people have a unique ability to help change our country by reaching out to young people in our own lives and our circles of influence. We shouldn't wait for our political party or presidential candidate to lead the way in reaching young voters. At the very least, as parents and grandparents, we need to be the primary models, mentors and motivators in the lives of youths and not leave those roles to other educators or influencers.
As trusted loved ones and friends, we need to educate, inspire and challenge millennials to fight for what's right in America, not merely what may be generationally favored, socially expedient or of personal interest. We must remind them of the importance of our republic's history and legacy and that it's all of our duty to set aside self and uphold the founding tenets of our country -- to fight to preserve what has been handed to us. If we lay the groundwork in young people's lives, they will be more apt to align themselves with a candidate who does the same, even if he or she runs on a platform that's a bit contrary to their generational preferences or agenda.
As I wrote in my New York Times best-seller "Black Belt Patriotism," in the chapter "Calling All Millennials!":
"Millennials are the future of America, but are not connected to its past. Due to our distortions and revisions of history, and oversights in education, the Founders are simply folklore but not a legacy to follow. Young Americans are willing to move America forward, but don't see any other way ahead beyond the creation of a more socially-conscious, domestically-strong, globally-peaceful nation. But we must help them to hear the voices of the distant past, and that they share commonalities with early Americans.
"But herein lies their potential soft spot: Millennials can too easily be swayed by slick-sellers of tolerance and compassion, because jumping off the bandwagon of bigotry is their allegiance and generational calling card. From popsicles to politics, truth can be too easily obscured, obliterated, and even abandoned, in their pursuit of domestic welfare, unity, and acceptance.
"That is why I don't (and we must not) shy away from encouraging and challenging millennials' quest to broaden their thinking even to consider the potential benefits of and truths in those things their peers might generally refuse or oppose (like conservative beliefs, dogmatism, national security, government, etc.). It's good to have a healthy skepticism before you are sold on a decision, but we also want to caution throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As it says in Proverbs, 'The wise in heart will be called discerning.'
"If we're going to win the culture war, we need the millennials to do it. There is no way around it. We need to reengage with our young people and plug them into America's glorious past so they can build a brighter future."
Of course, calling up the reserves of younger generations to save America is about far more than winning a presidential election. It's about truly valuing the work of our Founding Fathers, saving the memory and fabric of our republic, and leaving a legacy and perpetuating the very heart and soul of the country that we love.
I'm back to that profound truth articulated by President Ronald Reagan: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they, in their lifetime, must do the same. And if you and I don't do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free."