When, during or just after last year’s presidential campaign, I talked to or read about young voters enthusiastic about Barack Obama, I found that a healthy percentage, perhaps as high as 80%, had little idea what their man stood for. They were enthusiastic about the “new kind of politics” he was going to bring to Washington, how he was going to change the ways things were being done in our nation’s capital.
When I asked for specifics, I either got blank stares, repetitions of campaign clichés or discourses on how Obama was different from George W. Bush.
It wasn’t just the young Obama supporters who had little idea what their candidate stands for. Lately, I’ve been hearing from some friends in Hollywood that their liberal Obama-supporting colleagues are dumbfounded by the amount of spending their candidate is proposing as president. They didn’t think he’d so increase the federal debt.
Given the spending and regulation inherent in the Obama governing agenda, the Republican Party has a golden opportunity to pick off a good number of Obama supporters, particularly among the young. That’s why I believe Michael Barone’s Examiner column which I quoted yesterday should be must-reading for anyone who wants to rebuild the GOP. (I hope he sent a copy to Chairman Steele.)
Pointing out that voters over 30 esssentially broke even in last fall’s presidential contest, Barone notes that Obama won younger voters by a margin of 66-32. But, he also finds that younger Americans “are used to making their own choices, setting up their own networks, taking their own initiatives.” This is not the first time he has addressed this issue.
And the Obama agenda discourages individual initiative.
If the GOP can succeed in reaching these voters and showing that Republicans prefers private to government solutions, they could pick up at least a quarter of Obama’s youth vote, perhaps more. (Private sector solutions mean more choices for individuals than do government ones.) And with modest gains among voters over 30, that puts us back in the majority (and comfortably so).
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. And don’t yet have any specific ideas how to do so, but that is the task at hand.
While Barone advises Republicans against channeling the Gipper, contending he is “a remote figure to the young,” there is one thing about Ronald Reagan abundantly clear to Americans of my–and Bruce’s–generation. Although a septuagenarian in the 80s, he inspired the young of that era.
It’s not necessarily youth we need in our leadership, but those who can communicate ideas which resonate with younger voters.