Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The GOP and the Youth Vote (College Republican Report)

The College Republicans have come out with a 95 page report on why young people don't like the GOP. Why don't they? It turns out there are three categories:
  1. Technology. It isn't just technical capabilities that the Republicans lack--but also presence on Facebook and Twitter where young people get their news and their messaging. Obama's pictures went viral. Republican memes bombed. Republicans aren't usually appearing on their smart phones or music streams (exception: Romney WAS on Pandora).
  2. Policy. The youth vote doesn't respond to the "end big government" message (although they do like Fix The Deficit). They're generally more pro-immigration and definitely pro-gay marriage. They're divided on abortion. The big one is gay marriage though: the testing found that even if candidates agreed with the youth on almost EVERYTHING--if they were anti-gay marriage? A substantial number still won't vote GOP.
  3. Branding. Words like 'racist,' 'old fashioned,' 'rigid,' and 'close-minded' are how the GOP brand sells to young people ... or, well, tries to sell to young people, I guess.
Here is Bill O'Riley discussing the study with the authors:

Notably, he decides that despite what the study says, it all comes down to a "charismatic candidate who can speak to students using words they understand." Presumably small ones.

If that seems a little dismissive of the deep 100pg, evidence-backed report, consider the commentary elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere.
  • Fox News: No coverage*
  • The Blaze: No coverage
  • Brietbart: Coverage. Zero comments
  • Newsmax: Coverage. Zero comments
  • World News Daily: No coverage
  • Washington Times: No coverage
  • Daily Caller: Covered. Sample comment:
The trouble is too many worthless parents live on government handouts, then indiscriminately breed and make more welfare spawn. The problem grows exponentially, and those of us who actually work get raped with taxes to support the welfare leeches.
  • The Weekly Standard: No coverage
  • National Review Online: No coverage
  • Hot Air: No coverage
  • Ace of Spades HQ: No coverage
  • RightWingNews: No coverage
  • American Thinker: Coverage. Sample comment
Based on this survey, I'd say the college weepubicans are mis-named. Let's call them what they are - Left leaning, Liberal-lite, gimme/grabby, libertine children, stained by the socialist propaganda they've been immersed in throughout their entire schooling. 
If this is the GOP's future, it is doomed for certain.
So Maybe It's Not News?
The idea that losing the youth vote isn't news is ludicrous. From the document:
President Barack Obama won 5 million more votes than Gov. Mitt Romney among voters under the age of 30 in the 2012 election. Despite Romney holding a 2 million-vote advantage over the President among voters aged 30 and older, Obama’s significant lead with the youth vote was enough to ensure his reelection. While Obama’s advantage among young people shrank from 34 points in the 2008 election to 23 points in 2012, the election reinforced the generational challenge faced by the GOP.
Indeed, the post-mortem by the RNC found much the same thing ... and it was widely covered. Now, the post-mortem is much higher profile--but the college Republicans work is pretty serious ... so what's different this time? Why radio silence?

Why IS There Radio Silence?
Words that were used to describe the (very professionally done) report were 'scathing' and 'brutal.' Also, from the report itself, 'dismal.' I think that a big part of the problem is that the narrative has no good answer. The "What Now?" section sounds, at the enumerated point level, pretty darn good.
  1. Focus on the economic issues that affect young people today: education, the cost of health care, unemployment.
  2. Capture the brand attributes of intelligence, hard work, and responsibility.
  3. Don’t concede “caring” and “open-minded” to the left.
  4. Fix the debt and cut spending, but recognize that  messages about “big government” are the least effective way to win this battle of ideas with young voters.
  5. Go where young voters are and give them something to share.
The fine print actually isn't bad either--although it's light on specifics. And that's where I think the problems come in. The reason that no one is making much of this is (a) they've (kinda) heard it all before--from the post-mortem and (b) there's absolutely nothing that can be done about it. I mean, you can take a "Let the states decide approach" to gay marriage. You can change "ending big government" to "fixing the deficit" because those words poll better and mean the same thing. You can hire ex-Facebook guys to run your technology stack (although problematically, that's not likely the layer where the magic resides)--but when it comes down to it:
  • Close-Minded: This likely means exclusionary--both to immigrants and gays. Policy isn't likely to budge on immigration and social conservatives won't budge on gays. They're hoping for / cheering the collapse of the Boy Scouts as we speak.
  • Rigid: The very nature of conservatism is to conserve. For a base that values principles above all else (whether or not it lives up to them regularly), rigidity is a feature. If the GOP could turn on a dime policy and principle wise they wouldn't be Republicans. Consider the amount of elasticity in the abortion debate ... or gun control.
  • Old-Fashioned: This likely means religious. For Libertarians this is always a problem--but it's the core constituency of the GOP. If the GOP got rid of religion they wouldn't be the GOP.
In other words, the dismal key-words that young people use to describe the GOP are, today, largely not just accurate--but baked in. All but one. There's one more word they used with frequency.

It appears exactly once in the 96 page document. It is never addressed as any kind of policy statement. That word is:
  • Racist: Now, to be fair, Rigid only appears once as well--but closed-minded and old-fashioned get a lot of play (for which 'rigid' is fairly close in terms of meaning). But racist? That's a whole 'nother thing. What can you imagine the discussion around that would look like? "They're calling us racist." "Well, they're wrong." "Right--I know--totally wrong. We had Nikki Haley right up on that stage!" "Yeah, I know--and Herman Cain too." "Okay, we're done here--we just need a more charismatic candidate."
Come to think of it--that's pretty much what Bill O'Reilly said.

* That I could find. I would use the search function and type "college" and "young" and see if that turned anything up--and scan the front page or 2 pages (or whatever I could that got me back to the 2nd). If nothing turned up there ... no coverage.

1 comment:

  1. To me, the republican politicians seem to talk only to older white people, particularly married older whites who go to church more than once a month.

    As a result, that seems to be the only people I ever see at republican gatherings. The diversity they do have reeks of tokenism.

    Just look at how O'Reilly treated the two young women on his show. He was condescending and dismissive towards them. Looking at them like, "you silly girls, you don't know anything," even though they were responsible for this 100 page study. Instead of accepting the points of their study, he says, "how come young people JUST DON'T SEE that Obama has ruined the economy????" When they tried to say, "well, young people don't see it that way, as our study demonstrated" he dismissed them again, actually calling them immature, and looked like he wanted to pat them on the head.

    It's the same condescension and dismissal I sense from the party as a whole. Other polls show that most young people identify O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Palin, Beck as leaders of the GOP, and very few can identify actual GOP pols. That too is part of the problem.