This weekend hundreds of young conservative activists will gather in Chicago for the Young Republican National convention.
As of this writing, not a single one of the 17 (!) announced Republican presidential candidates is scheduled to swing by despite the fact that the Windy City is a little over an hour flight from Des Moines, Iowa- where most of the field not named Jeb Bush or Chris Christie are betting on making their breakout.
The closest thing the YRs have on the schedule to a presidential candidate is one of Bush’s kids, which speaks volumes about the GOP’s condescending view of the less moneyed wing of the party.
It sends the message that an undecided pensioner in Nashua, New Hampshire or a septuagenarian farmer in Perry, Iowa or a middle aged evangelical leader in Spartanburg, South Carolina means more than a group of committed activists who do the grunt work of phone banking and door to door.
And that is a shortsighted mentality tends to kill enthusiasm amongst folks who have decades of voting left in them, particularly in contrast with the aggressive way the other party cultivates their young voter base.
Watching the Democratic National Convention proved to be a painful experience not just in rhetoric but in visuals. Everywhere the television cameras panned you could see youthful faces on the floor of the convention and quite often at the podium.
Actor Kal Penn, of the Harold and Kumar pot-themed road trip films, delivered what I considered an effective shout out to young voters. He was not the only young person allotted a speaking role at their convention.
When I challenged a high ranking RNC official about the lack of youth involvement at the 2012 convention the party leader replied “what are you talking about, we let Kelly Ayotte give a speech!”
Too bad we didn’t make a play for Harold.
A good way to start the conversation is for Young Republicans and College Republicans to co-host one of the early presidential debates, something that has never happened.
Let young people who identify with the party ask questions that are relevant to themselves and their generation, queries that are particularly important to voters under the age of 40 like the debt, the future of social security and job creation.
While it’s true that millennials and some Generation X voters tend to support some issues that make older Republicans feel uncomfortable, such as marijuana decriminalization and same sex marriage, it is better for our field of candidates to learn how to address these matters with this voting bloc sooner than later.
That’s not to say that Ted Cruz and Scott Walker should change their positions, but rather learn how to sell their more conservative social message to a less than receptive audience. The primaries should not just be “preach to the choir” hour and it is better to start selling your message to the general electorate as early as possible.
Furthermore our presidential candidates would discover that the Uber generation of voters is very receptive to free market economic policies, which are polar opposites to the protective-crony government contract schemes that are championed by the special interest dominated Democratic Party.
To its credit, the Louisiana GOP adopted a resolution earlier this year asking for the RNC to designate one of the limited number of debates to youth issues; thus far the RNC has yet to officially embrace it.
This is a major mistake.
Allowing young people to see their peers questioning Republican presidential candidates at a debate would be a far better investment than taking out ads on Meghan McCain’s radio show.