FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- A new survey from Pew Research Center has news outlets -and even some Republicans themselves- questioning whether there’s a real long-term future for the Republican Party.
Today’s 18- to 33-year-olds -adult Millennials- are racially diverse, more liberal than conservative, and hold different views on social issues than many Republicans. So is it conceivable that the two-party system as we’ve known it could be crumbling?
“It’s always conceivable,” said IPFW political science professor Michael Wolf. “Or that one [party] might just blow up.”
Right now, there’s heavy speculation that the party more likely to blow up is the GOP. Even Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham recently said that unless his party changes, “They aren’t making enough angry white men for our party to have a future.” Not when the country is expected to be majority non-white in less than 30 years, and most non-whites are deeply distrustful of the GOP.
“Right now, Republicans are known as the party of ‘no’,” said veteran Republican political operative Pete Seat. “It’s all opposition.”
That’s a significant problem, according to Seat, who is himself a Millennial, former White House spokesman, and author of a new book titled The War on Millennials.
Seat thinks there are plenty of Millennials who philosophically agree with much of the Republican Party’s message, but are tuning it out because they think of the GOP as stuffy and don’t think they’re the kinds of people Republicans want to talk to.
“If you want young people to pay attention, you have to go where they are,” said Seat. “And that’s one place where this Obama Administration has been very, very good.”
Seat cited the president’s recent appearance on the podcast “Between Two Ferns” as an example of the new ways of reaching out to young voters that both parties -but especially Republicans- need to embrace.
To win voters in the future, Seat said Republicans will need to find personal, positive, genuine ways to listen to and connect with a generation that’s largely suspicious of big institutions. And once elected, Seat said the politicians who do manage to connect with young voters on the campaign trail must deliver on their promises or risk disillusioning them. Millennials, according to Seat, are just plain fed up with politics-as-usual.
“Those who are in power today don’t realize a simple truth about Millennials,” said Seat. “And that’s that we’re attracted to ideas.”
Indiana Republican Chairman Tim Berry said he is starting to see a growing emphasis at all levels of the party on ideas, and the need to communicate them clearly. Berry said the GOP’s message for the future must be, “We are a party where you can create your own opportunities, create your dreams.”
Berry said Republicans in Indiana have been pursuing measures aimed at helping people live out their dreams.
“It’s working to reduce taxes. It’s working to provide a government that lives within its means,” said Berry. “It’s working to provide education opportunities through school choice, through vocational education, ensuring that our children are both career- and college-ready.”
Those economic themes may well have some resonance for a generation facing massive college debt and high levels of unemployment. In addition to Berry’s list, Seat thinks Republicans should make a renewed push for a failed George W. Bush idea. “Personal social security retirement accounts have amazing support among Millennials,” said Seat.
But even if the GOP crafts creative proposals attuned to Millennials’ hopes and dreams and delivers them in positive ways, political experts like Wolf said the party still has the challenge of how to address its gap with younger voters on gay marriage and legalizing marijuana.
“You don’t have to emphasize these issues as much, most certainly, and maybe that’s the way the party will go,” said Wolf.
The bottom line? Back and forth bickering and government gridlock have soured America’s young adults on politics. If our political parties don’t change their ways -especially Republicans, given their demographic and cultural hurdles- it appears Millennials are ready to leave them behind.
“Their view of political activity is more civic-based,” said Wolf. “They’d rather go volunteer or go join an interest group.”
Seat added, “Millennials are very much about individualism. They’re about creating their own change and making the world a better place in our own way and that isn’t necessarily found through politics.”
Throughout our series of special reports, NewsChannel 15 has been focusing mostly on the Republicans because they appear to face the more stiff challenge long-term. But the GOP is far from being on life support and will have much to say about shaping its future.
After all, Millennials view Democrats with suspicion as well and neither party has the next generation locked up for the future.
Also, Republicans right now do have the advantage of controlling 26 state legislatures to just 18 for the Democrats. They also hold 29 governorships, and have full-party control (meaning control of the governsorship and legislature) in 23 states. That gives the GOP immense power to carry out its agenda at the local and state level, and to position itself for future electoral success.
Finally, while social issues have captured Millennials’ attention lately, the unpredictable news cycle could always bring events that change the political winds and could alter the parties’ trajectories. “Right now these are kind of the issues of the day,” said Wolf. “We’re one terrorist strike away from that going into the background.”