Just as social media has flattened the world and interconnected society causing companies to rebuild their infrastructures and reevaluate their missions, American political parties are on the verge of doing the same.
The question is, of course: Which party will do it first?
If social media has taught business anything, it’s that it should expect the unexpected, be authentic, and be unafraid of delivering what its audience wants. Social media’s democratizing blitz is now swooping in on political parties.
This week the Republican Party may have faced its flattening moment. Scrap the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert! Cancel the Michele Bachmann movie screening! Forget the events costing millions of dollars and years of planning! Hurricane Isaac is billowing in, forcing the RNC to deconstruct, reevaluate and hone in on its core message: The Future.
While there seems to be a resurgence of cultural conservatives in the GOP, the reality is, the country is becoming more liberal on social issues and younger Republicans are following this national trend. You’ll notice that the RNC highlights the future of the party: young Paul Ryan; Latino Marco Rubio; gay Richard Tisei; female Kelly Ayotte, and the authentic Chris Christie.
Wait, is this really the Grand Ole Party?
It sure is. Republican leadership realizes they must appeal to younger voters or else the party will collapse. (And so will the bank accounts of their wealthy backers.)
There’s nothing new here. The modern day GOP has always campaigned to its base membership off of social trends, but governed on its internal fiscal ideologies. Which is why this is the perfect moment for the GOP to tap millennials.
Millennials, the newly minted "cheaper generation" are trending fiscally conservative, skeptical of bureaucratic and industrial models, all while remaining socially liberal. Vocal leaders of the GOP – like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie – see that this shift occurring. But the party isn’t quite there. Understanding that millennials aren’t the major voting block yet, they’ve run socially conservative Tea Party-style primaries targeting older demographics who are consistent voters, while slowly elevating the next generation of socially liberal yet fiscally conservative Republicans.
Despite what pundits may think, the GOP is not dying; it’s undergoing a makeover. And, if designed right, they could be the party that actually capitalizes off of the millennial spirit.
What does this mean for Democrats? It’s time to run a message that actively and actually speaks to the next voting block generation. Democrats need to stop fighting the Republican rhetoric of the past (i.e. abortion and gay marriage) and create their own narrative for the future (i.e. embracing education reform and modernizing unions) before the GOP steals that narrative from them. Instead, Democrats are clinging to outdated models of what Democrats represent to older generations, and trusting that they will continue to retain enough younger voters to get them through the election.
But uber-connected millennials want to feel relevant all the time, not just when the party needs to get out the last-minute youth vote. They want to feel regularly included in the party’s conversation. They want leaders that are authentic and not afraid to challenge liberal ideologies that need to be modernized — even if they're not popular (i.e. Cory Booker on education reform).
Now is Mitt Romney that leader? Uh, no. If you tear off the outside layer of the façade at the RNC, however, you will see two parties.
There's the vocal GOP: the socially and fiscally conservative elder, male-led party that is slowly losing steam. And there's the dormant GOP: the socially liberal and fiscally conservative, diverse party being nurtured by GOP masterminds.
The Republican Convention’s hurricane hit may be a timely gift from the political gods. There’s an opportunity for the GOP to say to millennials,
“We get it. You’re sick of the grand standing; the catch phrases and empty rhetoric; the mass marketing and the showmanship. We understand that you want to feel connected to an authentic leader who speaks directly to you. We’ll be that party … soon.”
Then the leaders whisper under their breath, “But hang in there, you have to wait until the old racist guys die out."
Until then ... the show must go on.