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Establishment Republicans are facing some tough approval ratings. Speaker John Boehner has the same approval rating held by Rep. Nancy Pelosi when she brought Democrats back to the minority in the House in 2010. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is losing to the Democrat he will tentatively face for re-election next year.
To improve their numbers, the RNC has been developing its plan to win over young voters who fall in the millennial generation. It does not involve policy so much as it involves telling millennial voters how much their votes would be appreciated.
The New York Times recently reported that the party had hired a national youth director to tell millennial voters how much Republicans would like them to “get more involved in the political process.”
They are also continuing their nearly year-long search to find celebrities who will support them – “a work in progress,” as the RNC’s press secretary described it – and have taken out 1.5 million advertisements on Internet services like Hulu, Pandora and YouTube.
Are celebrities, advertisements and appreciation all it should take for Republicans to start winning the support of young adults? This strategy depends on millennials overlooking all of the instances where Republicans supported (or failed to fight) policies that hurt young Americans.
Millennial voters do not approve of NSA spying or its lies on the topic. Obama’s approval rating among voters under 30 dropped by 17 percentage points in the month following Edward Snowden’s revelations. Did Boehner capitalize on that opportunity to side with youthful voters? On the contrary, he called Snowden a “traitor” and stood up for Obama, saying, “The president outlined… that these are important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face.”
Those most hurt by Obamacare are young voters. In New Jersey, for instance, it was discovered that low-cost healthcare plans were no longer offered by colleges in the state. Obama’s law meant that the plans would have cost “more than a thousand dollars per student,” according to one college official. That means many students can no longer afford insurance.
Despite campaigning in 2010 and 2012 on promises to fight Obamacare, Republicans in leadership have no plan for ending the law. Sen. Ted Cruz had a plan, but was thwarted when Boehner used Democrats to pass Obamacare funding over the objection of House Republicans. Thus Republicans are doing little to appeal to the young adults who have lost the ability to afford insurance coverage.
With the national debt at $17 trillion, up from $10 trillion when Obama took office, every American would need to contribute more than $120,000 to pay it off today. That has contributed to an ailing economy where fewer young adults can get jobs, afford homes or own cars.
Far from fighting to reduce the debt, Boehner has fought to increase it. In October alone, Boehner and 86 other Republicans voted with Democrats to increase the ceiling. Debt is another policy area where Boehner’s Republicans have left youthful voters to fend for themselves.
Obama defeated Hillary Clinton under the pretense of two foreign policy differences pertaining to Iraq. One was that he did not believe in engaging in conflicts unilaterally. The second was that he only believed in engaging in wars of necessity.
When he proposed a conflict with Syria in September, it appeared that he had abandoned his previous criteria for engagements. One of his strongest voting blocs, voters aged 18-29, opposed air strikes in Syria by 47 to a diminutive 27 percent.
One reason for that may have been the effect any conflict would have had on the budget. An assessment of five potential U.S. military options in Syria and their associated costs ranged from $500 million per year to over $1 billion per month.
What did Boehner do in light of the polling and the potential costs? He did what he usually does, of course. He sided with Obama.
5) The Republican establishment criticizes and ridicules the small-government leaders that most voters (especially young voters) support.
Sen. Cruz placed first in the presidential straw poll held at the Values Voters Summit with 42 percent of the vote to 13 percent for the second place finishers. Elsewhere, polls show Sen. Rand Paul leading the Republican field for president among voters in New Hampshire. (Chris Christie, a favorite among Democrats, places second.)
Conservative Republicans usually enjoy high approval ratings. Yet instead of following their lead, establishment Republicans usually attack conservatives who win high approval ratings. Well over ten Republicans attacked Cruz – not the Democrats – during the shutdown.
6) Boehner’s Republicans are dependent on business contributions. Those businesses want a government that enables the kind of cronyism that hurts the economy.
Big donors rely on favors, subsidies, and bailouts to do business. That is not capitalism, but those are practices that establishment Republicans are willing to continue in order to win contributions. Just last week, Sen. McConnell promised donors that he would do anything it took to continue a redistributive, patronage-based political system over the objections of people like Sen. Cruz.
Increases in spending and the debt hurt the economy, prevent young adults from getting jobs, and increase their long-term economic burden. Boehner and McConnell are unwilling and unable to do anything about it, because they would lose the elite donors they have become too reliant upon.
7) The RNC wants the youth vote, but frowns on their participation in the delegate process.
The Republican National Committee discourages participation in the Republican Party. The issue of those that the RNC did not approve of – mainly young adults – winning elections to become delegates to the party’s 2012 national convention caused great consternation among party leaders last year.
To keep it from happening in the future, the RNC, in collaboration with Romney legal counsel Ben Ginsberg, “passed” some amendments to the party’s rules that would allow the Republican presidential nominee to bar delegates to the convention from participating. The changes also allowed the 168-member RNC to change the rules at any time in the future without any further participation from delegates.
(Note: “Passed” lies within quotations on account of the fact that the changes came under less-than-legitimate circumstances. For instance, the RNC imprisoned some delegates who opposed the amendments on a bus that circled the convention while the vote was held. Secondly, the votes were never counted. Speaker Boehner, who was presiding over the convention at the time, read from a publicly-displayed teleprompter that instructed him to declare that the rules change had passed when it was clear it had not.)
Is appreciation enough?
Considering these issues, it is little surprise that Mitt Romney lost voters under 30 by five million votes. (He won those over 30 by 1.8 million votes.) Has the “appreciation campaign” waged by Republicans in the year to pass won any of those disillusioned young voters back?
The answer so far is negative. As of October, Democrats maintained a 21-point advantage (among voters aged 18-29) over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot.
Ironically, Republicans like Boehner and McConnell often talk about electability. They say that they need to support more debt, more spending, government spying and deceptions about spying, ObamaCare, and President Obama in order to remain electable. Yet the numbers are not bearing those arguments out.
If Republicans want to win millennial voters, they should try supporting a smaller, more transparent government. Until that happens, it is likely that no appreciation campaign is going to be enough.