“But there is good evidence that the generation coming of age at the present time is supportive of moving in the direction of more liberty and self-reliance” – Rep. Ron Paul, farewell address to Congress
If you paid attention to the Republican Presidential primary of 2012, you may have noticed an interesting phenomenon – legions of twenty and thirty-somethings swarmed rallies around the nation, exhibiting a level of political engagement largely unseen from their age group in the past. Gone were the homogenous crowds that had made up Republican rallies in prior elections – the “white haired old ladies”, if you will. Rather, 2012 ushered in a new breed of political activist, many of whom turned out in droves for one candidate in particular – Texas congressman Dr. Ron Paul. As crowds in states like Iowa and New Hampshire indicated, Congressman Paul swept the youth vote, garnering 48% of the votes from those aged 18-29 in Iowa, and 47% of the same demographic in New Hampshire. The same statistics held true around the nation, while Paul and his youthful supporters left the media scrambling to explain exactly why myriad college students would lend their votes and enthusiastic support to a political candidate who was almost three times their age.
Major news networks would have you believe that Paul’s popularity with young voters was due to his appearance as a “great-grandfatherly figure” with a “crotchety streak”, one who possesses a “youthful magic” to ensnare the youth vote – actual quotes from news reports, by the way. But the truth is, young people supported Paul in the primaries not because of any “crotchety streak” the man had, nor was it because of any charisma or charm – it was simply due to the fact that Ron Paul’s message to America, one of liberty and freedom, resonated with young Americans in a profound way. This message ignited a movement among young people, a movement that transcended Paul and continued into other political arenas. American youth overwhelmingly lent their support to liberty minded candidates like Governor Gary Johnson in his presidential bid, as well as Rand Paul and Justin Amash in their elections to Congress. The numbers don’t lie – liberty is quickly catching on with young voters for a variety of reasons.
Many youth opt for liberty because they recognize the need for fiscal responsibility, yet retain a tolerance for social practices that have traditionally been condemned by the some members of the religious right. Our nation’s young voters typically align themselves to the left on social matters like the decriminalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and immigration. But given the recent state of the economy, young Americans have steadily fused their social liberalism with fiscal conservatism, understanding the need to eliminate the national debt and curb unnecessary spending. This is only compounded by the rampant unemployment rates, causing college graduates to understand that freer markets are needed in order for them to secure the jobs they went to school for. In addition, the millennial generation has grown up in an era of endless war – the effects of which have established a non-interventionist foreign policy in the minds of many. Jacob Hayes, a senior at Randleman High School in North Carolina, echoes this feeling, saying, “I believe that we as a nation have lost sight of the ideas of personal liberty, free markets, and a constitutional foreign policy”. Many around the nation share Hayes’ opinion; however, this is problematic, for neither of the two major political parties in our country advocate such a mindset.
To put it bluntly, the Republican Party has a major youth problem. Republicans have lost the youth vote miserably to Democrats in recent presidential elections, barely managing to muster 30% of the electorate in all three, while Democrats acquired double that figure. The solution for the GOP is simple – embrace the liberty movement. Create policies that advocate individual liberty. Push for legislation that ensures greater personal freedoms. Begin discussing the decriminalization of marijuana. Push for freer markets and begin cutting out unnecessary spending, from entitlements and the military. In doing so, Republicans can tap into an entire generation of potential voters. But as of late, they have doing the opposite. The GOP has passed unconstitutional laws like the NDAA and the PATRIOT Act, continued their endless wars, and pulled stunts like the power grab in Tampa this past convention. If party leadership continues these practices, they risk alienating young Americans and jeopardizing the future of the GOP.
So here’s my final charge to the Republican Party. Change your ways, embrace liberty, and listen to the youth of America. The future of our nation, an entire generation of potential voters, have spoken in favor of liberty – but the question is, will you listen? I suggest you do, or it will be a very long, hard road ahead for the GOP.