With the 2012 Republican primary race well under way, I am filled with anticipation: Who is going to be the Republican nominee? If the GOP does not unite in 2012, President Obama will be a two-term president.
As a millennial - my generation was born between the Reagan-through-Clinton presidencies, now ages 18-29 - I was excited to read Margaret Hoover’s book, “American Individualism,” and it is thought provoking.
Ms. Hoover is a Fox News analyst and appears on “The O'Reilly Factor” as a “culture warrior.” She is the great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover. However, growing up as a Hoover was never easy for the author. Throughout her education, she listened to teachers and professors vilify her great-grandfather.
Nevertheless, when Ms. Hoover came across one of Herbert Hoover’s pamphlets published in 1922 titled “American Individualism,” she was struck by the opportunity to advance his legacy. The pamphlet is a broad and forceful statement of political philosophy and an essay on the relationship between the individual and the state. Written nearly a century ago, it applies to circumstances today.
“American Individualism” could not be coming out at a more critical time. Ms. Hoover reflects on the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections and what it means for the upcoming presidential race. Moreover, as she makes the case for how the GOP can right itself and capture the allegiance of younger voters, she challenges the up-and-coming millennial generation to take another look at the Republican Party.
Ms. Hoover nails down the way the millennial generation is trending - politically, culturally and spiritually - predominantly in moderate- and independent-voting areas of the country. In fact, the GOP presidential campaigns should apply some of Ms. Hoover’s insights when the candidates address younger voters.
Ms. Hoover believes that the GOP is uniquely positioned to offer solutions for the most pressing problems facing America - skyrocketing debt, crises in education and immigration, a war against Islamic extremism - but she argues that it is held back by the outsized influence of certain factions within the party. She describes the steps the party must take to become home to the millennial generation.
Ronald Reagan was the last leader who led with the big-tent approach. He understood that if someone is conservative on 8 to 10 major conservative principles, that was sufficient to secure their vote. Reagan managed to link neoconservatives, anti-communists and national security conservatives with social conservatives.
In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama had a similar approach with liberals, blue dogs and independents. Mr. Obama electrified the millennial base and they came out in droves to the polls. However, now in 2011, all millennials can remember from the Obama campaign is “change.” As a result of Mr. Obama’s fiscal mismanagement,Republicans have an opportunity to make headway with younger voters.
Millennials are natural go-getters. In college many are involved in extracurricular activities and internships to prepare for future employers. Now, however, they are unable to find jobs, and many must still live at home with their parents. Their unemployment rate is currently 37 percent. With fewer fiscally responsible Democrats in office, this dire circumstance leaves an opening for Republicans.
In 1936, Herbert Hoover said, “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” Ms. Hoover writes that a Hoover growth plan would channel his business instincts: Stop printing money. Get our fiscal house in order. Balance the budget. Reform entitlement spending. Stop runaway spending in Congress.
That will make sense to younger voters, too, who know the economy they are being given will give them a lower standard of living than their parents. Millennials understand that poor economic growth and our unsustainable spending is generational theft.
Republicans are running out of time to connect with the next generation. Partisan identification solidifies after three presidential cycles. Millennials voted decisively for John F. Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. Politicians have 16 months to make inroads with this generation - the largest voting bloc in history, which will make up 24 percent of the votes in 2012, and which made all the difference in Mr. Obama’s election.
Youth voted overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and it can happen again. With a conservative pro-growth economic agenda that puts the millennial generation to work and brings millennials into the GOP, the future is ours.
Heather Wolf is a former Bush White House aide and a John McCain presidential campaign staffer.
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