On Election Day as I approached my polling location, I was pleasantly surprised to recognize a friend of mine handing out sample ballots for the Romney/Ryan Republican ticket. This friend is a local Tea Party member. He has hair that falls past his shoulders and a beard that falls four inches below his chin. I told him how surprised I was to see him handing out Romney/Ryan ballots, as he was an avid Ron Paul supporter. He replied that he hadn’t voted for Romney for President (he voted Gary Johnson) and that he didn’t support Romney for President. He stated that he had become so frustrated with politics that he joined a local republican committee to “take it over” and effect change in a libertarian direction. Part of his responsibility was working the polls on Election Day.
It blew me away. The Romney campaign couldn’t find enough Romney-ites to work the polls for him in the Bible belt on Election Day. Yet, Ron Paul had young guys out there working the polls for libertarians.
And to be clear, this isn’t an isolated incident. These Ron Paul supporters all over America, worked their asses off for their guy in the primary. They knocked on doors, made phone calls, became delegates to the convention and made their presence (sometimes obnoxiously) known at Tea Party meetings. This is the conservative youth vote that Republicans left on the table in 2008 and 2012.
The Youth Vote.
Youth voters (those ages 18-29) were 19% of the electorate last Tuesday! They represented 18% in 2008 and 17% in 2004. In other words, one-in-five voters is a young person and they are making a huge impact. One-in-five. That’s enough to sway an election and President Obama received 60% of those voters.
Now, I have little doubt that many of these Obama supporters will be voting Republican by their late 30’s and early 40’s once they become informed. Having a job and losing one fifth of what one makes in taxes tends to make one more conservative over the long haul.
Likewise, divisive social issues such as abortion that seemed like such an important right during wilder college days, takes on new meaning for many after a new mother holds her newborn child in her arms.
Fundamentally, adults don’t believe that political candidates can stop the rise of the oceans. College students do. Thus, the long term challenges are not as large as the short term ones. Like retaining the stickers on a new baseball cap long into its wear, many youthful habits will mature. But no matter where these voters go when older, liberal ideas are more appealing to younger voters than conservative ideas. And make no mistake — the disconnect between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney couldn’t have been starker in the last election.
Barack Obama was still paying off school loans in the decade he became president. He gets it.
Mitt Romney actually stated, out loud, that college students should borrow money from their parents to get through college. To me (who didn’t find the 47% a gaffe) this was the gaffes of all gaffes. It showed just how out of touch Romney was from where the rest of us are. And Obama personified someone who wasn’t only a normal laid back guy, but someone who cared about student loan debts and interest rates. Now, that is fine. Democrats are busy building a coalition of people who want something. Whether it is financial assistance, lower school loan interest rates, civil rights bills for homosexuals, Amnesty, card check, etc. The entire party is a coalition of people with their hands out requesting something for themselves.
*(I would exclude environmentalists from this assertion. Unlike most on the left, for better or worse, they are voters truly dedicated to a cause larger than themselves.)
So I don’t suggest that Republicans start offering incentives to younger voters like Democrats tend to. That isn’t who we are as a party. What we must suggest though, is adopting a conservative political philosophy that appeals to younger voters. It is going to go in a libertarian direction and away from a neo-conservative viewpoint.
Ron Paul Contingency.
The 2012 Republican primaries demonstrated that although the Republican establishment from talk radio to Rince Priebus, had nothing but contempt for the Ron Paul contingency of the party, this was where the real enthusiasm was. While Republicans went from enthusiasm over Michelle Bachmann to Herman Cain to Rick Perry to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum – the Ron Paul people were unwavering. Redstate.com banned these people from posting about the man. Neil Boortz’s radio show mocked them incessantly and banned them from the show. And most embarrassingly, the Republican convention prevented Paul delegates from taking to the Convention floor and even changed convention rules mid-convention to ensure that any state that Romney won a majority in, would be counted as a sweep for Romney giving him the entirety of delegates, thus ignoring the hard-working Paul delegates and the established rules.
Now, with youthful voters you get hubris and ignorance. That has certainly been my experience at local meetings where the Ron Paul contingency has been caught lecturing people that have been involved in politics for forty years. That behavior is a large source of Republican frustration. But we have to get past that.
On social networking websites, predominantly participated in by young people, the disappointment was palpable. It wasn’t that they didn’t win that disappointed them. It was they didn’t even get their day in court. Part of the reason we as conservatives accept Barack Obama as our president is because although we are disappointed in our fellow Americans and although we know that Obama is slowly continuing to ruin our great country, we understand that we received a fair shot (twice) at unseating him and that we failed. We got our day in court and although we don’t like or agree with the outcome, we understand it. But these youthful Ron Paul supporters who are as idealistic as young Obama supporters, never received that. And I do mean that, the spirit and political innocence that was reflected in the eyes of so many college students in 2008 was in the eyes of these republican supporters last summer. These people believed in the cause and they got involved. Towards the end of this primary race, Ron Paul actually began holding rallies on college campuses. It’s a tremendous voter base to pull from.
What does Paul stand for? He’s a Constitutional libertarian. He believes in an isolationist foreign policy and global trade and remains libertarian on most other socially domestic issues. He is passionate about basing the currency on assets and commodities and he wants to “end the Fed[eral Reserve]”.
Where we don’t agree.
Libertarianism is by definition conservative. We both believe in smaller government and less interference. We believe in free markets. There is a lot that republicans can do as we continue to see government failure on bank bailouts, hurricane response and a faltering economy to show that we need a Calvin Coolidge presidential policy to give us a roaring twenties rather than an FDR giving us a quadruple dip recession in the thirties.
The sooner we as a party, stop kicking libertarians to the curb, the sooner we will begin winning national elections again. Now, we won’t agree on everything. We aren’t going on a Gold Standard and whether it is the Federal Reserve or some other regulatory body, a national bank is here to stay, with my apologizes to President Andrew Jackson.
We aren’t going to bring troops home from all over the world. While we don’t need American troops in over 130 countries, there will be countries that serve as strategic bases to protect American interests abroad.
Finally, the evangelicals standing for the Life of the unborn are a much bigger and stronger voting bloc than libertarians and will continue to serve as the foundation of the Reagan coalition.
Where we do agree.
Republicans agree with federalism. We, like libertarians, believe that the states should handle entitlements and healthcare.
On other issues, libertarians have a superior view to conservatives. The party could be less hawkish on foreign uprisings that don’t concern us. A more libertarian hands off approach to foreign policy would be cheaper. It would help to get the debt under control because we can’t afford to police the world. An updated version of the Monroe doctrine might come in useful as we try to determine where our interests lie, who are allies are and when we can make a difference in humanitarian missions.
While this site does not condone homosexual marriage personally or politically, the political winds are blowing in its favor. Libertarians can take comfort in that bit of federalism.
Last week, two states legalized marijuana usage under state law. Why there is nothing to gain from marijuana usage as a social policy, a loosening up of the “War on Drugs” might not be such a bad thing.
The point is that our similarities are greater than our differences and our party should be a big tent for conservative ideas. Now lets be clear, not a big tent for any idea, but for conservative ones – even when we don’t necessarily agree with them. Now allow me to make a bold assertion. If in 2016, Rand Paul was the presidential nominee or even Vice Presidential nominee – republicans could have a shot at winning the majority of young voters over. Some of the libertarian-minded Republican candidates that we have can articulate why less government is superior to more government in a way that a Neo-con could never do.
In 2016, we can’t be ignoring these voters or we will continue to lose national elections. The Democrat party is a hodgepodge of ideas and interests. But a party coalescing around the idea of individual liberty is something to really get excited about. That’s why republicans are going to need to begin mending their relationship with the younger generation if they plan on getting anywhere in the next election.