Closed minded. Racist. Rigid. Old Fashioned. Those are just some of the devastating words used to describe today’s Republican Party. But these words are not coming from the Democrats. These descriptions came from voters in one of the most sought-after groups political parties need to woo in presidential elections, young voters. It’s all part of a study from the College Republican National Committee on why the youngest groups of voters have turned against the Republicans with a vengeance. The review is an attempt by the CRNC to fix the party in presidential elections.
In last year’s elections, Obama carried 60 percent of the youth vote. For years earlier, the Democrats carried more than two thirds of the nation’s young voters. Yes, it’s true that this group of voters is among the least likely to actually show up and cast a ballot. But, it’s also true that voters who support a particular party in their early voting years tend to stay with that party for life.
When I worked for the Obama campaign in 2008, we were told that if a person supports the same party in three consecutive elections, they will stay with that party for the rest of their life. Obviously there are some outliers, but this is why the Republicans are in such a heap of trouble.
Young voters do not stay young forever, and if they’re entering the electorate with continuing enthusiastic support for Democrats, the effects could linger for the GOP for the foreseeable future. Democrats faced a similar problem in the 1980’s when young voters came out in large numbers to support Republican Ronald Reagan. That group of voters has tended to stick with the Republican Party even to this day. I don’t need to point out Democrats lost three consecutive elections during the same period.
To compound the problem for Republicans, their most reliable voting bloc, senior citizens, are dying off. Not to be crass, but if the GOP party faithful is dying off by the day, who is going to replace these GOP members at the polling places? This is why the Republicans struggle with young votes is such a problem for the party.
If the party doesn’t fix its youth problem, Republicans could find themselves in a situation where presidential election victories are hard to come by (See: Democrats, 1980-1992). Republicans have already lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The numbers already back up the claim that we could be in a long-term era of Democratic governance.
The CRNC report has some suggestions for the party to get young voters back. Be more open-minded on the gay marriage issue. Make Hispanic voters feel welcome in the party. Lend a hand to help folks achieve their goals. And last, but not least, don’t make stupid comments.
Now, some in the Republican Party may argue that these suggestions run against GOP doctrine. It doesn’t really matter if that’s the case or not. The Republican Party is at a crossroads with a decision to make. Does it want to be the party of rigid and often exclusionary doctrine, or does it want to be a thriving party with the capacity to win elections?