BOOK REVIEW: GOP must appeal to millennials, urban voters
- In order to survive future election cycles, Republicans must appeal to millennial and urban voters, including the college protesters they often denigrate, says Evan Siegfried, author of GOP GPS.
- The GOP could appeal to college students who supported Bernie Sanders, for instance, by outlining conservative strategies for reducing student loan debt.
- Siegfried also suggests that conservatives should engage with student protesters rather than "publicly insulting" their ideas.
In order to survive future election cycles, Republicans must appeal to millennial and urban voters, including the college protesters they often denigrate, says Evan Siegfried, author of GOP GPS.
In GOP GPS, Siegfried makes the case that the Republican Party will soon be defunct if it does not embrace the groups it has historically ignored.
“Millennials and urban voters shall be the dominant and deciding voters of the twenty-first century,” he asserts in the book. “To ignore them and not bring them into the fold is outright political malpractice.”
In fact, Siegfried told Campus Reform that there is a “demographic problem” that the GOP is facing, explaining that “white working class voters are diminishing every four years and we aren’t connecting with millennials who are now becoming that big generation that we need to have to survive.”
Part of the effort to welcome millennials involves speaking on issues that matter to them rather than being dismissive of their concerns, which include topics like student debt and social justice.
While Republicans may normally be reluctant to make these issues part of their central platform, Siegfried says the GOP must provide conservative-friendly alternatives to bring millennials, particularly college students, on board.
“Bernie Sanders scored big with millennials in that he directly addressed what, to them, was the elephant in the room: student debt,” Siegfried writes. “Again, an average of $31,000 in student debt is a large and daunting number that scares recent college graduates who will make just over $35,000 a year for their first post-college job.”
Part of the reason for the student debt surge, he asserts, is wasteful spending by universities on “niche classes” and resort-level amenities that drive up tuition costs for students.
“When [Melissa] Click’s brush with infamy happened, many began to scrutinize what this communications professor actually teaches students,” he remarks. “ Melissa Click taught classes on such vital topics as Fifty Shades of Grey, Lady Gaga, and the relationship between class and food in reality television. For this work, she earned $57,798.26 a year.”
Siegfried also references lazy rivers and maid services as unnecessary expenses that are making college unaffordable for the average student, implying that the GOP can focus on eliminating wasteful spending and bringing down tuition costs for students to provide an alternative to Sanders’ free college plan.
“We really need to start talking about student debt as a party instead of laughing off when Bernie Sanders talks about it,” Siegfried told Campus Reform. “We need to actually go out and say, ‘that’s not going to happen but here’s our plan.’”
Another strategy for appealing to college students that is outlined in GOP GPS is to engage in dialogue with college protesters even when Republicans find their ideas or tactics to be unsavory.
“The GOP’s error was in that they did not even bother to reach out to the demonstrators,” Siegfried declares. “Instead, we ignored and dismissed their concerns. Making matters worse, many Republicans used the opportunity to chest-thump by publicly insulting these groups.”
While Siegfried admits that student protesters do not have the right to “detract from the experience of others” on campus, he argues that they do have the right to complain about current situations given how much they pay in tuition.
“They spend a copious amount of money—each student ends up owing an average of $31,000 at the time of graduation—annually in exchange for access to a service (education),” he writes. “They have every right to complain about the conditions on campus.”
There are ways to convert these protesters, but first, Republicans have to “sit down with these activists and not only hear what they have to say, but understand what they are saying.”
Siegfried provides the example of the protests that rocked the University of Missouri last year, venturing that the GOP could have at least appealed to the protesters regarding their demands for health insurance. Protesters at the time were angry that the school removed payment for graduate student health insurance, but it turns out the removal was due to mandates in the Affordable Care Act.
“We conservatives warned that while Obamacare was well-intentioned, its consequences would be vast and would negatively impact many Americans,” says Siegfried. “Protesters blamed the University of Missouri. They did not assign any responsibility to President Obama or the Democrats who championed Obamacare.”
The takeaway from this scenario, he argues, is that this is an area where the GOP should be communicating to students the true source of their woes, rather than mocking and belittling the protests.
“We’re not going to win all of them over, but we still must try,” Siegfried insists. “We must win over some that are a part of these social justice movements, as well as those who aren’t involved in them. It is important that we try or else we will face dire consequences at the ballot box.”
He reiterated that sentiment to Campus Reform, saying that the GOP has to “earn the right to be heard” and commit to being “consistent in being open to talking and promoting rational and stable ideas.”
GOP GPS walks through several other areas where millennials can be poached by the Republican Party, as well, providing what Larry J. Sabato, Director of the UVA Center for Politics called a “road map to prosperity,” though Siegfried stresses that changes will have to be focused on the long haul.
“Just because we talk to someone who votes differently than us doesn’t mean we can change their mind overnight,” he told Campus Reform.
Overall, GOP GPS provides a look at opportunities for the Republican Party to compete for millennial votes, even beyond college students, as an alternative to ignoring the entire voting bloc. Siegfried makes the case that it is vitally important that the GOP not become complacent after Trump’s victory, lest they risk losing the support of millennial and urban voters permanently.
“I want to stress 100 percent that this election seems to be making some people in the Republican Party complacent on the idea that [we need millennials],” Siegfried concluded, “and we are very worried that if we don’t act now in 2020 we could see an electoral loss.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey