3 reasons why young voters might make a right turn (and how we missed an opportunity with them)

How many new voters has the tea party movement created?  There’s reason to hope that first time voters will begin shifting to the right in 2010. There’s also reason for us on the right to worry.

About 8 million people turned 18 since the 2008 election.  While the left undoubtedly brainwashed many of them before they reached voting age, many others avoided indoctrination through good parenting, good thinking, or simply not paying attention to the left’s message.

1.  The latest batch of voters heard a competing message for the past 2 years.  The Tea Party message, unlike traditional Republican messages, presents first-time voters with a choice, not an echo.  The GOP, on the other hand, tried to inspire people by holding up whatever Democrats advanced and announcing, “We’ll do it slower and cheaper.”

2.  At the same time, young people have become more skeptical than ever about government promises.  Six in ten Americans doubt they’ll ever see a penny from Social Security. These skeptics align well with the Tea Party movement, assuming we spoke to them in the right channels with the right language at the right times.

3.  Still on the positive side, the left’s message has become stale and flat since 2008. Barack Obama’s failure as a leader has opened young people’s eyes to the limitations of the person who occupies the White House and of government to solve problems. 

But did they vote? And how?

The Tea Party movement spent its first year talking to people who had dropped out of the political arena. Most of the people I met at early events leaned conservative—they simply hadn’t been roused to action until Stimulus.  For these folks—and there are many—tri-cornered hats and fife-and-drum teams stir passion.

Do archaic symbols of the 18th century inspire young adults?  I’d be surprised.  They simply haven’t received cultural or educational exposure to American history.  College students get a collective F in their knowledge of US History.  They were as young as nine-years-old when Muslim terrorists attacked America on September 12, 2001.  They get their news over game chat channels and cable networks that specialize in entertainment, not news.

So what has the Tea Party done to engage the kids?

When we talk to people who were in middle school when Americans landed in Afghanistan, our message should be consistent and honest:

“Look, we all know that Social Security likely won’t be there when you retire.  We all know that, in addition to student loans, the government has saddled you with $50,000 in debt.  And we know that federal regulations make it more difficult for you to choose your own career. Face it: your options in life are limited . 

“But there’s a solution. Some of us want to give you back your fundamental rights to pursue happiness.  We need your help. If it sounds like we’re saying, ‘Hey, we effed it all up—can you fix it?’ we are.” 

Despite our gains on November 2, we have work to do.  We need to open channels that reach young voters. Those channels will change all the time, so this won’t be a one-time effort.

A progressive blog claims that youth vote was down 60 percent in 2010 from 2008. The reason? Millennials are disenchanted with Barack Obama. (Join the club, kids.)   

Now, we can bloviate about young people needing to “get it,” or we can design effective and entertaining education strategies. 

What you do you think?


One thought on “3 reasons why young voters might make a right turn (and how we missed an opportunity with them)”

  1. There’s definitely a lack of accessible information from a conservative perspective on broad issues that concern young adults like social inequality, the environment and ideology. We’ve missed an opportunity to frame the debate articulately from a conservative perspective. Millennials often lack the intellectual tools to take alternative positions. Many have the erroneous impression that conservatives don’t care about critical issues, when instead, we realize that, for example, laissez faire, natural-law approaches often produce more desirable outcomes than even the best-intentioned intervention, and we can back it up with evidence.

    Occasionally, I ask Millennials to take the Nolan Test (http://www.nolanchart.com/survey.php), which charts s/he’s position on the political spectrum. No one’s ever declined. It’s fun! It’s easy to know where one stands on a left-right axis, but a revelation to find where one falls on a top-down axis. Whether they are on the left or right, they consistently land in the lower, or “liberty” section which includes historical figures spanning the Dali Lama and Mahatma Gandhi to Milton Friedman. That’s pretty impressive company! The upper axis, the “authoritarians,” include figures like George Bush, Hillary Clinton and Adolph Hitler. Whether left or right, there is common ground; we desire freedom… and we’re losing it (http://www.heritage.org/index/).

    Internet debate is a powerful medium and seems to work to the conservative advantage (and a threat to authoritarian control). Engaging these online influencers, and arming them with a source for facts, statistics and interactive/entertainment/image tools, may be one way to reach this demographic.

    As they mature politically, they seem to respond in significant ways to someone like Ron Paul. Having figures like him deliver the conservative message in a no-hype manner also may be effective.

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