Capturing the Youth Vote: A Strategy for 2016
Let’s be honest, e’re all licking our wounds right about now. As conservatives retreat into the comforts of cyberspace and right-thinking communities, liberals are partying like it’s 2008. This celebration is even more prevalent on college campuses, where students are displaying their borderline-worship of Barack Obama with buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. Honestly, if I hear the phrase “forward” one more time, I’m going to have a fit. Meanwhile, college conservatives like me were tempted to shrink into the background until the partying ceases.
While it’s easy to drift into silence in the face of a shockingly resound loss, that’s not what we do.Neither should we turn on each other while searching for the “correct” strategy to capture the youth vote in 2014 and 2016. I certainly do not intend to cower in fear at the left’s corruption of the youth and domination of my generation’s voting block. This is a time to strategize, fight back, and reform.
What we really need is a strategy for approaching the youth, like me, in future elections. I’ll be very clear: the left has portrayed conservatism as an ideology that caters to and is solely espoused by rich white males. They’ve been successful. Young people have flocked to candidates like Barack Obama, whose slick persona and flashy campaign is attractive to people in my generation who are more likely to be swayed by emotion, rather than fact. Sure, conservatism espouses solid values and policies sure to push our country in the right direction. But let’s be honest, we fail at articulating conservatism in a way that’s attractive to youth voters. Big time. We don’t need to change our principles. We just need to repackage them.
College conservative groups have spent months trying to spread our message on liberal campuses all around the country. We’ve tried to sway apathetic college students (the majority) to our cause by spreading information about the economic damage Barack Obama’s policies have on young people. Meanwhile, Obama for America flooded campuses with money and volunteers and created an active bloc of voters who swayed the more apathetic students to their cause.
Don’t get me wrong. College Republicans and College Conservative groups worked their tails off this election cycle. However, the message we preached was not one that was immediately attractive to our less-involved classmates. We might be able to explain Reaganomics or recite the Constitution backwards and forwards, but to many college students that’s irrelevant. Sometimes our messaging is downright boring. Liberals had Jay-Z and Beyonce. We had Clint Eastwood and Donald Trump. See the problem? While we were talking about reforming the tax code, liberals were busy talking about women’s “rights” and “fairness.” In short, they tugged at the heartstrings while we tugged at the wallet.
Economic issues are important, especially for young people whose future depends upon this nation’s fiscal policies. However, facts, statistics and theories are difficult to stuff into shiny packaging that tugs at a person’s emotions, which is exactly what liberals did this election cycle. They won the youth vote with emotional appeals. I still believe our policies and our values are the best for this nation. However, unless we take a page from the liberals’ book and articulate our platform in a way that is “hip” and attractive to the apathetic youth who flood college campuses, we’re doomed.
We all know the War on Women is a manufactured “crisis” designed to pander to women voters, especially single women. We know that the portrayal of Mitt Romney as an “out of touch” elitist was merely a ploy which swayed young voters to vote for someone who was “more on their level.” I could preach all day about the facts and stats refuting these and similar claims, but in the end I’ll come up short with my peers. We truly need to package our arguments in ways that tug at the heartstrings of young voters instead of forcing them to think about complex tax policy and historical trends. That’s for the political junkies like me to do. Talk about youth unemployment. Talk about the opportunities for women in a society that values liberty. Develop a message that makes freedom marketable and collectivism blasé. Oh, and wear jeans, not slacks. You’ve got to look the part too. Change the discussion. Change the culture. Then we can market our message of American exceptionalism, free market economics, and liberty to a generation currently in the grips of a fierce liberal ideology destined to affect all of us, regardless of age.
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