As you all have seen and will continue to see, many in the Republican Party have been asking the same thing: Why didn’t we win?
That question will undoubtedly be answered in a multitude of ways, with responses covering everything from poor campaign strategies to vote-counting conspiracy theories. This is not a time, however, to look back on what we lost; no, it is a time to look forward to what we can win. In this looking forward, we are looking into the future, and it is that very future of the party which we should be concerned about.
For the record, I’m 17. I can’t vote, but of course I wish I could have, and I do 100% intend to run for political office as soon as it is feasible for me. During this past campaign season, I spent some time working locally here in Illinois for the campaign of Christine Prochno for the Illinois General Assembly’s 66th District. We lost that campaign, and I think [Elk Grove Trustee] Prochno’s main problem was most evident when I walked into her “victory” party:
In a room of about 100 people, I counted 6 who were under the age of 40, one of which was me. I then counted 55 whom I estimated to be over the age of 70.Where on earth is the party youth? The 18-25 voting group? The ones who could arguably be called the backbone, heart, and brain of Obama’s campaign? The ones who have the power to excite? To gossip with their friends about candidates and issues?
The problem is that, well, and I’m speaking in the kindest way possible here…
We put an old man up as our Presidential Candidate. We put old men and women up as our Senators and Reps, as our State Legislators and our City Officials. We don’t put up an Obama-esque, young, charismatic candidate who can talk to the youth like he is one of the youth.
I’m not saying, of course, that there’s anything wrong with the values or character of the people we support — What I am saying, though, is that we need young leaders in our party, we need to energize the youth base, and we need to make sure we don’t compromise on our values in the process.
So, that leads me to the next section: How do we do what I just said we need to do?
First, as I discussed earlier, we need to field younger, more “hip” candidates who can grab some of the “MTV Vote”. We need candidates like Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, etc. Having a candidate who can get his/her face on Rolling Stone, and draw record-breaking crowds with high energy and passion will result in more young votes simply because it starts to look “cool”.
Next, we need to remind the youth that life unfortunately is all about money, and that Conservatives like to let them keep more of it for themselves, spend it as they wish, and invest it to make themselves rich and prosperous. We need to counter the arguments that we don’t care about the poor and downtrodden by publically, visibly encouraging citizens to donate to charitible (and truly non-partisan) organizations (note: that means saying no to ACORN). We also need to encourage more tax breaks for both parents and students who attend top-level colleges.
Of course, going back to the first point, we need to encourage hip, young Conservatives to become hip, young Conservative candidates. We need to tap the grassroots levels in unprecedented ways, by helping to get young candidates involved as early as possible (no, maybe not right when they turn 18) and by helping to fund and support their campaigns as best we can.
Now, not to send too much praise to the President-Elect, but we really need to set up some campaign events and rallies with the same force, the same intensity and vigor of an Obama event. No, we don’t need the altar, or the Greek columns, but we do need to have something exciting to show on TV. Unfortunately, watching Sen. McCain talk to two or three thousand people doesn’t quite have the same media effect as watching Obama preach to crowds of 10,000+.
Finally, we need to stop expecting the nation, especially the young voters, to be educated on the issues. We need to stop simply deflecting attacks, and start returning fire (on the level of “they pull a 9mm, we roll in a tank”). Expecting voters to know what is going on, to know where our candidates stand on the issues, or, even worse, expecting the media to educate them, is a recipe for disaster.