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Searching For a Candidate That Doesn’t Exist

As the media begins to buzz with anticipation over the first televised Republican presidential debate [1]—taking place this evening on Fox News—it’s difficult not to feel disillusioned before it even begins.

Because, along with (I assume) at least a few other millennials out there, I don’t think there’s a single candidate I want to vote for. And the shouting matches that are sure to build over the next several months are only going to further entrench that viewpoint.

The problem is that the politics of the millennial generation is more diverse, issue-based, and flexible than those of our forbears. Few of us are fanatically partisan. Many of the conservative young people I talk to are passionate about their pro-life beliefs, but lean libertarian on issues such as foreign policy and same-sex marriage: they want to be less involved in conflicts overseas, are disillusioned by hawkish rhetoric, and open to diplomatic measures such as the Iran deal. Be they religious or no, many believe that the government should not ban gay marriage. They have a greater appreciation for compassion and nuance in the illegal immigration debate, and are looking for realistic, positive solutions to the problem. They’re very interested in fighting poverty and social injustices, and are more likely to have an opinion on police brutality or inner city violence. Many are skeptical of the anti-environmentalist leanings of the Republican Party, and want to see a candidate who prizes sustainability and ecological restoration. They don’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and read Fox News—some read Wendell Berry, peruse the Daily Beast’s website, watch Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

But they will get none of this nuance from the Republican candidates who mount the stage this evening. Because the politicians on stage aren’t speaking to conservative-leaning millennials or their interests: they’re using the same tired rhetoric and debate tactics they’ve used for ages, rehashing the same GOP establishment statements and talking points. Though some of the politicians on stage were hoped—and expected—to be different, they’ve made their share of mistakes, and have slowly slipped from the limelight [2].

Republicans aren’t necessarily ignoring young voters—it’s just that they’re trying to reach them with technology [3], with fancy websites and Snapchat accounts. And as much as I appreciate a well-designed website, it’s rather offensive to see politicians thinking they can win me over with aesthetics and gadgetry, rather than with meaningful platforms and ideas for reform.

And they have a great chance—if they would only embrace it—to actually win over young voters. Though they’re the generation most likely to self-identify as liberal, many millennials were disillusioned [4] by Obama’s presidency, and appear open to change.

Unfortunately, change isn’t what they’re going to get—at least not with politicians like Donald Trump (whose supporters are “more likely to be male, white, older, with less education [5]“) dominating the political discourse. Newer candidates like Marco Rubio are sticking to the party line on issues like foreign policy (as A.J. Delgado put it in our latest magazine [6], “If you’re clamoring for the … policy of the George W. Bush years, Rubio’s your guy. If you want something pensive, positive, and fresh—he probably isn’t.”) The libertarian-leaning Rand Paul has adopted a caution that has left him well behind [7] other contenders, and unlikely to catch up. Scott Walker, while lacking in any obviously detrimental political baggage, has also never commented deeply on schismatic social and foreign policy issues—thus making him likely “to simply adopt whatever the GOP consensus is on the topic,” as Sean Scallon pointed out [8] in May.

Perhaps new hope will come to light after tonight’s debate. Perhaps a candidate will surprise us with a fresh or thoughtful take on a typical partisan issue. But unfortunately, that’s not usually how televised debates work. Indeed, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, it seems harder than ever to foster a really deep and meaningful discourse.

But we can keep learning about the candidates [9] and their politics, educating ourselves on the lesser of the evils they represent. We can learn more about the Democrats running for president and the political views they represent—some, like Jim Webb, are far more interesting alternatives for the independent-leaning conservative than Donald Trump or Rick Santorum.

And perhaps, if the Republicans take another hard hit in 2016 amongst millennial voters, they’ll finally learn what they should have learned in 2012: you can’t win over young Americans with fancy websites, Twitter accounts, and hashtag campaigns. Unless you offer something meaningful, thoughtful reform, we’re going to look elsewhere.

63 Comments (Open | Close)

63 Comments To "Searching For a Candidate That Doesn’t Exist"

#1 Comment By Potato Soup On August 7, 2015 @ 5:43 pm

“Millenials are experiencing buyers’ regret because the Obama administration has seen the lowest rate of business startups in thirty years. Republicans would see the tax code reformed to allow businesses to grow, and to therefore create jobs across the nation. They would encourage investors to pursue investments in small businesses. They would seek a financial environment that would make financing and credit more accessible to small businesses, allowing them to pursue manufacturing and expansion.”

Not really. As a Millennial myself, I will tell you straight up that what you’ve wrote is nonsense.

“He has a 58% approval rating among 18-29 year olds – just shy of the 61% he obtained in 2012 – and his numbers are 54% among 30-49 year olds.”

[10]

The GOP will endorse tax cuts for the rich, cutting the death tax for the rich, cutting the capital gains tax for their Wall Street donors, etc. They’ll couch it in the same old tired (and incorrect) talking points they do in every election. It didn’t work in 2012, and it won’t work in 2012.

#2 Comment By Potato Soup On August 7, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

*2016

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 7, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

“they want to be less involved in conflicts overseas, are disillusioned by hawkish rhetoric, and open to diplomatic measures such as the Iran deal. Be they religious or no, many believe that the government should not ban gay marriage. They have a greater appreciation for compassion and nuance in the illegal immigration debate, and are looking for realistic, positive solutions to the problem.”

I think for an article such as this it would be nice to have presented what ou think conservatism is. But from the above, in my understanding of conservatism, there’s not much consertive thought or practice in the above.

There is however, a good deal of emotional injection.

Let’s take for example, the comment about forcing a woman to carry a child to term. My response is that everyone who has children is expected to care for them – period. If they are unable they are expected to hand the same off to those whoe who will. Now if one does not want children, don’t pregnant — that does not require a college degree to figure out. It seems that the compassion here is limitted to one’s self interest. So much for a softer gentler ethic provided by a more sensitive enlightened youth.

Hmmmmm . . . uhh, college debt. Nearly every generation has faced that issue in the last fifty years. What makes the last thirty years more painful is are the dwindling jobs to pay for the same. I can gurantee you this, importing illegal immigrants, easing immigration laws to make becoming a citizen easier is npt going to alleviate that burden. How about some compassion and nuance for your fellow citizens. This is the me generation on novacaine.

As for your views on homosexual marriage, it might be a good idea to visit some textbooks on the human biology and societal formulation. As a conservative, I care not what you do with another consenting adult. But I do care about the foundations of what fosters stable societies, and homosexuals bring noting to the table on that score and therefore, married or not remain in the same position as all single people and simply do not qualify for any special protections or benefits. In fact, the hard truth remains, a society interested in “flourishing” as the term is actually understood, would be one that discourages same sex relations because it does quite the opposite of what “flourishing” represents. Let me know when the country is dragging homosexuals out of their homes and hanging them at will, or denying them employment, or stops tham from becoming judges, politicians, teachers, sports professionsal, lawyers, physicians, bankers, business owners . . . or save us another actor, singer country or rock, until then, give it a rest. Speaking of nuance, the government does not ban marriage of the form noted. It simply does not recognize them as legal entities and that actually makes sense given the role that such unions play in our society.

Based on the comments there is no evidence that the group in question is seeking anything more than emotional fulfillment and protections against hard choices of taking responsibility for their country.

Want social justice, roll up your sleeves and get busy. Whare you say . . . take your pick:

Detroit, Compton, St Louis, Washington,DC, Chicago, Appalachian Mountains, Hit the streets there are plenty of homeless shelters, adopt a kid, soup kichens, take on unraveling the injustice in the justice system. Volunteer to visit any number of veteran’s hospitals, or assist programs, etc.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 7, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

And fpr pete’s sake.

Stop watching programs of pretend news.

I cannot think of anything healthier that is a step in the right direction than the end of the John Steward editorials touted about as news.

#5 Comment By Clark McNabb On August 8, 2015 @ 10:36 am

The unapologetically pro-abortion Jim Webb is not a serious alternative for this millennial’s vote. I don’t care how realist his foreign policy is, as long as he supports abortion.

#6 Comment By panda On August 8, 2015 @ 12:20 pm

“Millenials have buyers’ regret for their Obama votes because the BLS reports that 93,770,000 people (16 and older) were neither employed last month nor had made specific efforts to find work in the prior four weeks.

1. Early polling evidence suggests that something like 65% of people aged 18-30 support Hillary. This is exactly the same proportion of Millennial support Obama got in 2012. There is no statistical evidence for buyer’s remorse, if by buyer’s remorse you mean Obama’s performance making millenials more conservative (as others pointed out, there is some anecdotal evidence, like the Bernie surge, that for a lot of Obama voters, he wasn’t liberal enough).
2. Your number is exactly how one lies with statistics: your figure includes, among others, the sick, retirees (growing population) and stay at home parents. Better measures find that there are about 3-5 million “missing workers”- people who would have been in the job market if the economy was better. That’s a terrible problem (for which no GOP candidate has no shred of solution..) but it doesn’t sound quite as drastic as 93 MILLION PEOPLE.

#7 Comment By panda On August 8, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

And, of course, Clint’s numbers all applied to 2012, when economic situation was far worse, and yet Obama’s millenial support hardly budged..

#8 Comment By Clint On August 8, 2015 @ 3:53 pm

January 13, 2015
American Entrepreneurship: Dead or Alive?
by Jim Clifton
Chairman and CEO of Gallup,

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year — the birth and death rates of American companies — have crossed for the first time since the measurement began. I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees, the real engines of economic growth. Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.”

#9 Comment By Clint On August 8, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

January 13,2015
Jim Clifton
Chairman ans CEO of Gallup.

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year — the birth and death rates of American companies — have crossed for the first time since the measurement began. I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees, the real engines of economic growth. Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.”

#10 Comment By Tony D. On August 10, 2015 @ 8:57 am

There seems to be a template for some of these comments:
“Millennials are having buyer’s remorse because (insert commenter’s pet issue here).”

I’m a bit older, but I regretted voting for Obama before his inauguration, when I saw that his economic team was largely Wall Street insiders and neoliberal Clinton retreads – and Robert Reich was nowhere to be seen. (Of course I’m only a “social” conservative, not a libertarian/pro-capitalist “market uber alles” neoliberal.)

#11 Comment By brians On August 11, 2015 @ 10:31 am

At least in the religious (millennial trad?) circles my family runs in, the trend seems to be a social conservatism tied together to an economic liberalism, the way Tony D describes himself above, and more wholly consistent with Catholic social teaching. I thought I was the lone oddball until I put FoxNews & John MacArthur behind me for an RCC parish run by Dominican Friars. Gracy’s articles make me feel a little less lonely too. Fact is, most millennials & gen-xers raised in religious environments, especially ex-fundies like me, are looking for a 1940’s Catholic Democrat to vote for: someone who talks in paragraphs rather than sound bytes, and is capable of expressing that crazy, unheard of thing called “Nuance.”

#12 Comment By Nick On August 12, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

I’m a late Gen-Xer and here is the conundrum I face in this election:

1) I will not vote for somebody who is pro-choice.

2) I will not vote for a Baby Boomer.

That pretty much leaves Rubio or Walker. Cruz is an obnoxious, bomb-throwing, self-aggrandizing jerk.

#13 Comment By brians On August 13, 2015 @ 9:55 am

Nick, reconsider Kasich, though he’s a bit too old for you…he’s truly the only serious candidate in the Republican field, now that Rand has folded on foreign policy.

Kasich was instrumental in balancing the Federal budget in the 90’s, balanced and $8 billion (yes, billion)deficit in Ohio WHILE EXPANDING MEDICAID AT THE SAME TIME, has authored numerous laws restricting abortion, but isn’t rabidly anti-gay, is generally electable by independents, and generally a nice fellow. Yes, he’s still an old white guy, but I’ll be one of those soon myself, so I’m not willing to entirely write them off.

Unfortunately, the race remains a circus, thanks to Trump, Graham, Cruz et al.