Just because young voters historically do not show up to the polls in large numbers does not mean they should be overlooked. They may later work in education, the media, or Hollywood – three major institutions that play a pivotal role in shaping political opinions and, quite frankly, are dominated by the Left. If the GOP ever hopes of winning the youth vote, culture cannot be ignored.
Spending my college years as an outspoken conservative at UCLA, where Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore easily fill a large lecture hall while David Horowitz brings protests and walk-out demonstrations, was challenging, to say the least. I’ve always enjoyed the sense of rebellion and solidarity I felt with other conservatives on campus, but for others, it can be a very dark, lonely experience. The word "Republican" often brings up notions of racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, greed, Bible-clinging, and closed-mindedness, to name a few. Republicans themselves know that these are nothing more than absurd stereotypes and therefore do not give them the time of day. Name-calling is just not the GOP’s game. But for youth who are typically preoccupied with being accepted by their peers, these types of associations are avoided as much as possible. Especially on a college campus, where so-called “tolerance” and identity politics are all the rage, it’s simply not cool to be conservative.
In order to speak to the youth, the GOP must first focus on culture, which is a war we are currently losing on several fronts. Young Americans constantly hear the liberal message in the movies they see, the music they listen to, the television they watch, and the textbooks they read, without even knowing it. Where does the GOP’s message fit in here? It doesn’t. It comes through in the real world when college grads have a job to work, taxes to pay, etc. – in other words, when fiscal policy becomes more relevant and in-your-face than ever. We lose the youth vote because we focus too much on politics, which flies over their heads, stresses them out, or bores them.
Conservative blogger Bill Whittle compared this fight to the Korean War, when General MacArthur and his troops were essentially backed into a corner, outnumbered and ill-equipped. To win such a battle, we must get to places we’re not expected to be and show people things they’ve never seen before. Without getting into details on Whittle’s specific plan for doing this (and yes, he definitely has one), it involves creating parallel structures that show how much better private citizens are at getting things done than the government will ever be. We can do it faster, better, and cheaper without any of the government’s help. Show people what actually works in the real world through tangible results. Purify the conservative message and let the youth see that there is more to politics than gay marriage, abortion, free birth control, or whatever the cause du jour on campus may be at a given time. When those hot topics are swept aside, Left versus Right essentially becomes big versus small government, and the latter must become the hero of the story. Republicans have the ability to make individualism, self-reliance, and liberty, rather than identity politics, cool again, and they should try everything in their power to do so in hopes of ever capturing the youth vote.