The biggest threat to conservatives right now is President Barack Obama, but the long-term threat to conservatism is an internal threat– young republicans. The RNC is doing everything in its power to prevent them from gaining power, but will it work?
If you were to talk to any reporter covering this year’s election they’ll tell you that most of the attendees at GOP events are over 40 years old. You can’t help but ask yourself “where are the young people?” Well, they’re busy organizing a libertarian take-over of the GOP.
Young republicans aren’t on board with social conservatism, instead we’re seeing an unprecedented level of enthusiasm for libertarianism. Many of my conservative colleagues will argue that, “ah, this is just a phase amongst young republicans.” But being socially liberal isn’t a phase. What we’re seeing is a cultural shift that is inevitably going to force the Republican Party to make some major platform adjustments. For example, take gay marriage. Millennials have grown up a time where it’s no longer taboo to be openly gay. Our favorite films and television shows have gay characters. Some of the most prominent figures in American culture are openly gay. If you look at the polls, public opinion has moved sharply in favor of gay marriage in recent years with 76% of 18-34 year olds saying that the law should recognize same sex marriage.
What also attracts young republicans to libertarianism is their support of a non-interventionist foreign policy. Millennials have spent almost half of their lives living with their country at war and, unfortunately for the GOP, they don’t seem to be as supportive of a strong interventionist foreign policy as older conservatives. Just look at who the American youth lent their support to in 2008—Obama. A non-interventionist foreign policy was the single issue most identified with Obama back in 2008, when he got 66% of the 18-29 vote.
The young libertarians in the Republican Party make up some of the most active grassroots activists who worked throughout this election year increasing support for libertarianism on the state level by racking up delegates and taking over state committees and conventions. Instead of figuring out a way to take advantage of this extraordinary young energy by making some concessions, the RNC has decided to do everything in it’s power to limit their influence.
At last week’s convention, a controversial vote took place aimed at preventing this youthful libertarian momentum from gaining influence within the party. A new rule was voted on and passed which now allows the Republican National Committee to change any of the party’s rules between party conventions without the consent of delegates. All they would need is a supermajority – three quarters of it’s members. What this does is strip away power from the local, young grassroots folks and gives it to the RNC. So the flow of power is now top-down, thus preventing young libertarian activists from exerting influence.
The RNC is so determined to stop this movement that they didn’t even allow for a fair fight. The controversial vote was already decided on before the vote took place. Yes, you read correctly. Before. Watch the video below of Speaker Boehner’s teleprompter during the vote. You’ll see that the outcome of the vote (“the ayes have it”) had been predetermined and put into the teleprompter.
These young libertarians might be fiscal hawks who make Paul Ryan look like a dove in comparison, but their stance on social issues like gay marriage scares conservatives. The RNC defeated them this year by successfully changing the rules and discrediting Ron Paul’s libertarian message, but the enthusiasm that Paul has generated and the ideas he’s advanced among young republicans isn’t likely to go away. It’s a potent force that will likely increase in time.
Visit any college campus and you’ll see that the most active political groups are not the College Republicans or the College Democrats. The most politically active groups are the libertarian-leaning “Student for Liberty” groups. Libertarian groups like Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Liberty have taken over college campuses by working non-stop to educate and groom republican students to have the charisma and speaking skills of a Marco Rubio, but the ideas and knowledge of Ron Paul.
The Republican establishment has every right to be worried about the unpopularity of social conservatism among young Americans because, as of right now, it looks as if once the older generations in America die, so will social conservatism.