Finley: Millennials should love GOP

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

It’s political gospel that young voters are more inclined to be liberal, and thus aligned with the Democratic Party. The hope for Republicans is that they wise up as they grow older, and that families, careers and perhaps business ownership turn them more conservative.

But Republicans should take a hard look at their potential with millennials.

The values of the under-30 generation and the economic reality they face as they reach adulthood should make them receptive to core conservative principles. And the GOP’s message of a smaller, less intrusive government that allows them the freedom to create should resonate with them.

Individuality is a fiercely held tenet of millennials, according to the demographers who’ve already studied them to death. They want to make their own decisions. And half of them identify as political independents. Republicans should be marketing their stance on personal freedoms.

Government encroachment has a larger comparative impact on this generation. The sharing economy in which so many of them work cannot flourish in an environment of oppressive regulation and aggressive taxation.

The fledgling economic system involves such concepts as collaborative consumption, cooperative purchasing, crowdfunding, social media and trading goods and services, among a lot other things.

Its success requires a wide-open climate of loose rules that allow for quick adaptation and the space to twist and turn.

It’s also about stringing together multiple gigs to come up with a livable income. These kids don’t expect to join big companies with traditional paychecks and benefits and stay there for decades. They’re conditioned by necessity to hustling. That makes them more entrepreneurial, which again should give the GOP an edge.

The problem is they don’t recognize the GOP is the party that will defend their right to drive Uber cars or keep the IRS off their backs as they barter and swap. They see it as the party obsessed with abortion and gay rights and unwilling to play nice with others.

That doesn’t fit the lessons they were taught by the big yellow bird who raised them. To reach them, conservatives must rediscover their compassion. This is the give-back generation; they’re all about social responsibility and compulsive volunteerism.

Millennials have also been schooled since birth in environmentalism. Recycling, conservation, nature worship are deep in their psyche. They won’t warm to a Republican Party whose only response to climate change is, “It ain’t so.” The GOP has to offer environmental policy that answers their concerns without destroying the economy.

Remember, too, that the first searing image for many in this generation was of the Twin Towers falling. They’ve grown up under the cloud of terrorism the way baby boomers did the atom bomb. They want to know their government is doing its basic job of keeping them safe.

There is much about the Republican Party that should appeal to millennials. But first it has to move into their millennium.


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