“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Those are the now famous words of every conservative’s favorite president, former President Ronald Reagan. And though that ‘anti-government help’ sentiment has not been spoken by a major Republican presidential candidate since, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is bringing it back.
Ever since Paul went to congress, he’s ridden on the wave of conservative libertarianism, or perhaps libertarian conservatism. Whichever it is, it is attractive to individuals who are disenchanted with politics and political parties.
Those individuals are Millennials.
Back in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Millennials took to President Obama like peanut butter on jelly, for truthfully no major reason, except for the fact that he spoke and looked nicer than the other guy.
Whether conservatives like it or not, Millennials make decisions on visual components and snippets of quotes and Youtube videos than any other generational group. And to disregard this, as many Republicans have done in the past and continue to do, has proven detrimental to the GOP’s outreach attempt.
But, Rand Paul gets it.
This is exactly why Paul is launching part of his presidential campaign through Snapchat, the short-video messenger app that most adults his age probably are not even aware of.
Paul is the first national politician to translate a presidential campaign to Snapchat, telling POLITICO, “We reach thousands of kids that we might not ever have reached before. In fact, we’re probably reaching some kids who aren’t yet 18, that will be 18 when the elections roll around the next time. We’ll have whole classrooms sometimes do a Snapchat to us.”
And Paul’s message to Millennials is simple: “You don’t want to replace your parents with the government.”
By using the federal government as a narrative which gets in the way of an individuals life and attempts to tell someone what to do, Paul is able to resonate with young adults who do not identify with either political party.
On top of this stroke of Millennial-outreach genius, Paul attended a conference at the tech-savvy and hip South by Southwest (SXSW) technology conference.
His message did not change, but he broadened it, introducing his ‘Leave-Me-Alone-Coalition,’ aimed at attacking the National Security Agency for their alleged spying into the private lives of individuals.
What may be so intriguing about Paul’s initiative, is that he does not force the individual to come to him, rather he goes directly to the individual, whether through Snapchat or SXSW.
And if all of this seems like tame areas for Paul to be going, you may not have heard about his recent trip to the very liberal Bowie State University in Maryland last week.
Bowie State is known for its traditionally majority African American student body. Liberal, black young adults to any other GOP-er could seem like uncharted territory. However, to Paul, it is exactly where he wants to be.
During the speech to the group of college students, Paul noted examples throughout history where African Americans were essentially screwed over by big government, making the same point he always makes to young people: Government is not the answer to your problems.
In a more libertarian-driven narrative, Paul also discussed the criminal justice system and how the federal government plays a large role in its problems and the militarization of local police forces.
Most remarkable is that Paul received a standing ovation from a crowd that largely votes for and with the Democratic Party.
Even though Paul is possibly the most unalike politician to Obama, he understands, like Obama did in 2008 and 2012, the oddness of Millennials and their obsession with imagery.
For Rand Paul, medium is the message. And for Millennials, Paul’s message may just be the answer.