This week, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus announced the release of a report on how the GOP could shine in a better light with voters. Only about a page and a half of the 100-page report focused on young voters, and what little of what’s there actually explains why young voters don’t vote Republican in the first place.
From the beginning, the “Growth and Opportunity Project” report frames young voters as eye rollers (see page 4) who see the GOP as “detached from pop culture” (see page 22) and want party leaders to make appearances on MTV and in Us Weekly (see page 23) so they can appear more in touch.
The hideous, surface-level analysis and recommendations from this report cheapen young voters’ participation in the process, and give further credence to members of the older generation that view us as whiny infants with our eyes permanently glued to our iPhones. It ignores the huge chunk of young voters that swelled around Ron Paul because of what he stood for, and only pays attention to those they believe sit around all day watching television and reading gossip magazines.
This is all the more disappointing because, at first read, it seemed the report was going a different direction than the one it ultimately took. They introduced the section on young voters by appearing to take a page out of Ron Paul’s very successful playbook on how to attract this age group. From the report:
“…we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.”
You might assume that they would follow this pretty enlightened statement with some specific action steps to soften the party’s social policies, but you’d be wrong. Of the 14 recommendations the report makes on outreach to young voters, none mention social policy at all. Instead, they focus on surface level ways for young voters that already vote Republican to feel more included.
In lieu of softening rhetoric on social issues and ending the vilification of Republicans who announce their support for things like gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights, they are choosing to “Empower an RNC youth liaison to work closely with the College Republicans, Young Republicans, and Teenage Republicans.”
I’ve got news for you, Preibus: The few young people who join those organizations already vote for you. Wouldn’t your time be better spent figuring out how to attract the other 67 percent of young voters that don’t?
And instead of attracting more diversity to the party through meaningful outreach and a softening of hateful rhetoric, they are going to “make every effort to feature and use diverse committee members.”
In the end, most of their suggestions on how to become more youth-centric just involve making themselves appear more youth-friendly by using people who already vote for them and the few diverse members of the party that already exist. What few suggestions they have for attracting new young voters are laughable.
“Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract younger voters.”
Or how about this one:
“Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV and magazines such as People, Us Weekly, etc., as well as radio stations that are popular with the youth demographic.”
Because, really, all we need is Taylor Swift rocking out at the Republican National Convention and Rand Paul to make an appearance as a guest VJ on MTV to swing our votes. We don’t actually have any policy demands; we just want to see more Republican faces on our favorite television shows so we can tweet about it.
It would also be really awesome if you released a line of Toms with elephants on them – then the hipsters would feel more included, too. Or what about a skateboard with John Boehner’s face on it? Maybe an iPhone cover that proclaims the goodness of small government? Don’t stop at MTV and a celebrity task force — the possibilities are endless!
This report avoids advocating any meaningful change by sweeping everything under the rug and calling for a “youth advisory committee” to figure out how the Republican Party can do a better job. But honestly, if they haven’t figured out what we want by now, it’s unlikely that several dozen youths sitting around a conference table are likely to make them right their wrongs.
The people who rallied behind Ron Paul are sitting there, waiting for the Republican Party to actually be the party of small government — to be just as standoffish when it comes to the bedroom as they are when it comes to the economy. That this report said almost exactly that, and then offered no action steps the party could take to make it a reality is mind boggling, and I think speaks volumes about their willingness to meet the demands of the age group that could carry this party forward.