GOP must attract youth vote

Published 11:59 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

There is no secret that the national Republican Party is not in the best of health right now.

Not only did the Republicans lose the White House to Barack Obama, but they also lost seats in both the House and Senate (and this after getting creamed in the 2006 Congressional election as well).

What happened to completely turn the tide in favor of the Democrats? While it would be easy to say, it’s the economy, stupid, I don’t think that tells the entire story.

This past election was a turning point of sorts, as young voters began to show themselves as a serious voting bloc. No longer can the GOP rely on its old standby base of the elderly, churchgoers and military. It must appeal itself to the younger crowd, especially as more reliable Republican voters grow old or die.

If I was in charge of the Republican Party, here’s what I would do to reach out to those younger voters.

Be willing to compromise on social issues. If the Republican Party is going to attract young people, it has to make concessions toward gay rights, women’s rights and minority rights. I believe that if the Republican Party simply dropped “no same sex marriages and/or civil unions” from its platform, it would attract many more young voters, who are typically more socially liberal than their parents.

Explain the party’s goals as they affect young people’s self-interest. I hate to say it, but people my age are, for the most part, selfish. They will very often vote in favor of the party that will offer the most personal benefit. For so long, that has been the Democratic Party, whose touting of the “government security blanket” sounds great to impressionable young minds that are struggling to pay their bills.

What the Republican Party needs to do is remind these same pliable youth that government welfare comes at a cost — namely, the taxes they will pay in the future. Make the case that they are better under a conservative government that will typically have lower taxes and freer markets to encourage entrepreneurship and hard work.

Tone down the Reagan love. I was only 5 years old when his second term was completed, so it is difficult for me — and voters like me — to relate to the Reagan aura. The GOP needs to concentrate less on its former gold standard and focus more on finding the “next Reagan” in today’s party.

Get connected. This generation lives on the Internet. If the GOP is going to make any headway into the youth vote, it has to become more friendly to the online universe. One of Obama’s key successes this year was using technology to his advantage.

If the Republican Party shows a willingness to adapt, it can compete with the Democratic Party for the minds of today’s youth. If it refuses, then it could see its relevance slip away even further.