Republican Party members and candidates are way out of touch with young voters, and have no chance of winning this much-needed demographic if they do not loosen up. The current generation of young people, known as “millennials,” are not interested in party politics or traditional platforms. According to studies conducted by Pew Research Center, most young people today do not claim a political party, although the majority do lean to one side of the aisle or the other in their beliefs and principles. This says what a lot of commentators, pundits and candidates have been saying for years. People do not want to hear about policy positions only, they want to know why a politician believes that course of action is what is best for the country.
Millennials are a group that is jaded and cynical, despite holding on to hope for a better and brighter future. Young people in this generation are waking up to the reality of the debt they are about to inherit, and they have little love for establishment politicians. With both parties, especially the Republican Party, full of typical career politicians, is it really any wonder that millennials want little or nothing to do with organized politics?
Sen. Rand Paul, a member of the Republican Party, has been gaining steam with young voters, and he has been urging other conservatives to relax on some of their hardcore stances on social issues, or risk losing this demographic. Young voters are not attracted to the stuffiness of the Republican Party, the resistance to change and the refusal to loosen up and be inclusive of new ideas. This does not mean conservatives need to abandon the principles they truly believe in, but examine their ideology to see if a particular issue is one that should be forced through government or something that should be left up to cultural discussion and engagement.
Many who identify themselves as millennials are not in favor of interventionist foreign policy, and are disgusted by the adoration the military industrial complex receives from conservatives, who tend to support military action over diplomacy. This is one of the reasons Rand Paul has received so much positive feedback from young people, as he has condemned the U.S. taking any action in the Ukraine situation. He has consistently called for a strong military, but one that is focused on securing and protecting our own nation, not meddling in the affairs of others.
The legalization of marijuana is a big issue that is important to the millennial generation, which is turning more and more libertarian every day. Young people want to see these drugs decriminalized because of the belief that what people do with their bodies is their personal business. It seems that many in the Republican Party (those that attended CPAC anyway) are shifting their perspective and have come to agree that now is the time to legalize marijuana. It is a step in the right direction, but the GOP needs to continue walking down the path toward total legalization if they want to maintain the young vote.
Perhaps the biggest issue of current day America is gay marriage. The traditional Republican Party platform on marriage is that it should be limited to be between one man and one woman. There are numerous groups out hitting the pavement every day lobbying for legislation that will prevent homosexuals from getting legally married. This is the issue that has caused the greatest divide between young people and the GOP. What Republicans do not seem to understand is that there is a way to stand on the principle of traditional marriage, while not trampling the civil liberties of an entire group of people, and alienating a generation of voters.
Republicans should be lobbying to get the government completely out of the marriage business altogether. Individuals choose to enter into a voluntary contract with each other in a relationship, with the government only recognizing the validity of the contract. This protects churches and groups from having their religious liberties violated by being forced to officiate homosexual marriages, but does not stop homosexuals from entering into a marriage relationship.
A change on some of these social issues, not an abandoning of principle, will enable the Republican Party to appear appealing to the next generation of voters, demonstrating that the issues that matter to them are important. If the Republican Party desires to win young voters, they need to loosen up, and maybe, just maybe, become a bit more libertarian.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell