Following the passage of tax reform, Republicans are feeling confident heading into 2018, but they need to be careful. Republicans have a problem, and no, it is not the Russia problem; it’s a Millennial problem.
One of the largest growing voter blocks in America is currently overwhelmingly liberal or left-leaning. If Republicans want to win in 2018 and beyond, they’re going to need to solve this problem. The Grand Old Party needs to actively engage the Millennial Generation by showing what Republicans have to offer them and to finally win over the Millennials.
According to a July 2017 Pew Research study, Millennials and Gen Xers outvoted Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election, and the younger voters overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton. Why? From my own observations on my college campus and among my peers, it was apparent. Clinton and Democrats, generally, were addressing issues that were relevant to young adults. Democrats talked about diversity, an issue that a 2015 Deloitte report noted was increasingly important to young adults. The Democrats talked about education and income inequality. While Republicans addressed many of these issues, it was never in a way that engaged or excited Millennials.
If Republicans want to win over the Millennial Generation, they need to get the word out on how their platform is better than the Democrats’ platform on three core issues: diversity, education, and economic opportunity. These issues need not be addressed in terms of identity politics or class warfare rhetoric. Republicans can, instead, highlight how their policies are the policies that will make Millennials and their parents and future children more secure and prosperous.
First, Republicans must address diversity. In a 2015 report, “The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence,” Deloitte highlighted how Millennials are more cognizant of the importance of diversity and inclusion. With respect to the political sphere, Democrats have co-opted diversity issues, painting Republicans as old, white men who oppose progress. However, this is fundamentally untrue. Republicans need to highlight diversity within their own party and how their policies are helping all Americans prosper.
One example is how Republicans support increased educational opportunities such as school choice, which is one of the foremost vehicles for social mobility for low-income and minority Americans. Another example is that under the Trump Administration black and Hispanic unemployment rates are near record lows, an accomplishment that should be communicated more directly to Millennials. Highlight how Republicans, more so than their Democratic counterparts, have worked to increase employment opportunities for minorities.
Second, educational issues – particularly higher education – are important to young Americans. While Democrat choruses of free college sound nice, they are impractical, and Millennials know it.
The Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force, led by Rep. Elise Stefanik (the youngest Congresswoman in history) outlined various education proposals to make college more affordable. The recommendations included more flexible Pell Grants, which would allow students to draw on their Pell Grant fund at a faster pace, and the Fair Treatment of Scholarships Act, which would reduce tax burdens on college students by broadening tax-free treatment for scholarships and grants used to cover non-tuition expenses. Despite this work, Republicans have not effectively communicated this message that they have more practical, substantive solutions to improve the college system.
Lastly, the Republican party must highlight its strength, economic opportunity for all. Under the recent tax reform, Republicans have increased the individual standard deduction. Companies have pledged to give employee raises and additional bonuses. These are real policy changes that can increase the take-home pay of Millennials, helping them pay off student debt and allowing them to become economically independent. Yet the Republican Party is not providing a forum for Millennial Republicans to highlight these strengths to their peers.
If Republicans send out young supporters to spread this message, Millennials may realize that employment and wages under the Republican Party’s leadership will benefit them more than the policies of the Democrats.
The Republican Party has made progress in reaching out to Millennials, but it must do more. A simple Google search shows that the RNC and the Republican Party know that they need to attract Millennials, but there is no concrete plan to attract them. The GOP needs to create an addition Millennial Task Force, beyond what has been established by the Republican Policy Committee, made up exclusively of Millennials. The group should encourage Millennials to run for office, tackle issues relevant to their growing voter block in a more targeted peer-to-peer way, and bridge the divide between the Grand Old Party and the next generation of voters.
These tangible steps will establish a more accurate and appealing vision of what it means to be a young Republican. If Republicans do this, they will see success beyond 2018 and energize a new generation of Republican voters.
Allison Coukos is the chair of the GW College Republicans. The opinions expressed on this blog are her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official views of the GW College Republicans.