Five Ways the GOP Can Defuse Its Demographic Time-Bomb
Republicans will soon hold the White House, and majorities in both chambers of Congress.
Yet, as General Patton liked to remind the soldiers under his command, all glory is fleeting.
And unfortunately for the Republican Party, the glory of last week’s election victory has already begun to fade.
The exit polls tell the tale: Hillary Clinton received 18 percent more voters ages 18–29 than Donald Trump. In any election, an 18 percent margin is a landslide. The simple takeaway? Many young Americans do not like Trump or the GOP. Because of his blue state appeal, it didn’t matter for Trump this year. For future Republican candidates, though, this ticking demographic time bomb is a big electoral problem.
Here are five ways the GOP can defuse it:
1. Embrace new humility
Following the election, many Republicans understandably want to celebrate. That’s fine, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of conservative introspection. Political change does not exist in a four-year microcosm. Over the long term, Republicans must persuade the younger generation to give them a second look. If the GOP simply ignores the disenchantment of younger voters, it will multiply.
In that case, Democratic politicians will take advantage. They recognize their grave error in stacking the deck against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Doing so deterred young people from voting. Next election, Democrats will take nothing for granted. The GOP shouldn’t, either. Crowing at the vanquished only fuels their discontent.
For future Republican candidates, this ticking demographic time bomb is a big electoral problem
2. Build an opportunity culture that is blind to color-creed-race
As a demographic group, Americans dislike Trump for many reasons, but his willingness to negatively typecast individuals is pivotal. As the nation’s future, young Americans have most at stake in its long-term stability. Divisive leadership will win only our opposition.
This is not to say that Republicans should embrace easy choices. On the contrary, they must broach uncomfortable topics such as the epidemic of minority families abandoned to poverty and extreme violence. But just as GOP officials promote jobs over welfare, they must provide a foundation for the future. They should strive for a future in which the average school in Englewood, Chicago, is as good as the average school in Upper East Side, Manhattan. Fortunately, Trump confidant Chris Christie has led on this issue of equal access to opportunity.
The urban policies of the Democratic Party have been an utter failure, challenging them would earn respect from those the Democrats have failed. Of course, it’s not just about the cities. We must also ensure that rural, predominantly white citizens who voted for Trump find results from the GOP’s governing majority. To help rebuild American communities that have been lost to technological changes and educational failures, Republicans should support innovation alongside investment in skilled-trades training. We must also free the energy industry from its Obama Administration shackles. Doing so will bring lower energy bills and well paid jobs.
3. Make social conservatism more socially inclusive
Today, thanks to Democratic Party misrepresentations and flawed Republican candidates, many young Americans despise the very phrase “social conservative.” They see it as an ideology focused on restricting individual freedom, rather than improving lives. But just as President Obama’s misguided social engineering has weakened the U.S. military, misguided Republican social engineering would fray national unity. Abortion, obviously, will remain an area where conservatives and liberals disagree. But new federal restrictions on early-midterm abortions should not be the priority. Instead, we should make it easier for women to give birth with optimism about their child’s future and their own future.
Republicans also need outreach on LGBT issues. At present, they often fail to include LGBT Americans in social conservative policy. For one, while Republicans are absolutely right in trying to strengthen families, they neglect issues such as gay adoption laws, and support for other faiths. These things matter. Gay adoption offers tens of thousands of kids in foster care the chance to find better lives with two loving parents.
We should make it easier for women to give birth with optimism about their child’s future and their own future
4. Allow young people to earn and keep more of their money
This is the defining economic opportunity that conservatives can offer the young. First, we need to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is a disaster for young people. It has reduced access to quality medical care. It has also sent deductibles and premiums soaring. Taking from the young to give to the old, it is wholly immoral.
Another element of this agenda is the sharing economy. As their attacks on Uber and AirBnBattest, Democrats want to cripple the sharing economy. Republicans need to oppose that effort and stand up for the interests of young people here. After all, the sharing economy enables them to make money or save money. Illuminating the party distinctions, Republicans will find growing support from Millennials.
Republicans also need to own their opposition to minimum wage laws. Instead of hiding from the debate, Republicans should explain clearly why minimum wage laws are bad. Namely, by using data to prove that the laws reduce employment, bankrupt small businesses, and prevent the youngest and least skilled from getting experience.
5. Fight cronyism and special interests politics
Tax reform is important here. If the GOP can get rid of loopholes, deductions and high tax rates, all Americans would benefit. That is, all Americans except for accountants, tax lawyers and those who game the system! Young voters would respect Republicans for these reforms because at present, many of them see the GOP as the factory of cronyism.
That said, tax reform won’t be enough. Republicans will also have to make hard choices about special interests. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offers a good example. As I noted during the primaries, Cruz’s opposition to the Iowa ethanol lobby (and Iowa’s ethanol-supplicant Republican governor) was courageous. More Republicans need to follow that lead. If cozy interests define the next two years of Republican leadership, voters will punish Republicans. And the demographic time bomb will expand.
Again, all glory is fleeting. Republicans are in power, but the history of American politics is never measured in a moment. To secure conservative interests for the long term, Republicans must win more support from young people. The GOP has the ideas; it just needs the courage. Absent reform, their current jest will soon savor but of shallow wit.
Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist for Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.