Youth Can Solve the GOP's Identity Crisis

The Pew Research Center recently released a “portrait” of America’s youth, describing a socially progressive outlok, fully grounded in the tenets of capitalism. This report demonstrates that this demographic supersedes political factions and is, in fact, generational. This is a politically viable group that neither party is reaching. If Republicans were to embrace moderate policies, they could lay the foundation for future political success. This does not require compromised values since principles of limited government and individual liberty coincide with the social views of this generation.

The Republican Party, like our generation, is in the midst of an identity crisis. After enjoying tremendous success throughout the 90s, current economic and social issues are forcing a re-examination of their political identities.

The GOP’s identity crisis centers around the party’s factional disputes, as some are struggling to maintain past personalities while others desperately seek to move the party forward. The political identity crisis of our generation has come by way of the economy, with many who backed President Barack Obama in 2008 reconsidering voting for him, or even voting at all. The current economic situation presents the GOP with an opportunity to capitalize on the youth vote, necessitating a shift [in what?] toward the future.

The GOP is being bombarded with a "no compromise" brand of conservatism, which runs the risk of alienating groups that are vital to win back the White House in 2012; one of the most important groups is the socially progressive, fiscally conservative youth demographic. Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.),  clarifies the GOP’s identity crisis: “I think we’re seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party, but it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past.”

This generation of young socially progressive, fiscally conservative voters is experiencing a similar identity crisis. Obama reinvigorated the youth vote in 2008 by promising prosperity, opportunity, and most importantly, change; youths embraced him and his rhetoric. But their trust was poorly rewarded with student loan debt, unemployment, and little evidence of transformation in our country, economically or politically. A generation, who came of age in the 90's believing that hard work and a college education was the golden ticket to prosperity, is now faced with a grim economic reality and little belief that anyone in Washington can solve these problems. Recent debt ceiling talks only serve to exacerbate these feelings.

The marriage of fiscal conservatism and social progressivism has the potential to bring stability to both groups and alleviate the stress inherent in the struggle to find an identity. Yet, criticism of this youthful populous is constant, labeling John McCain and the like as RINOs (Republican In Name Only). This criticism is shortsighted as these individuals represent a generation of educated, frustrated youths in search of a representative party: political gold in an election year. It is time for the Republican Party to move forward, and bring this generation with them.

The GOP struggles to find its footing, even as Obama faces record unemployment. Republicans need to embrace this generation and create a jolt to expand and invigorate the base in order to find a new symbol of prosperity.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Mallory Logan

I’m a native Mississippian and a current graduate student at Brooklyn College. I have a BA in English and History from Ole Miss, and I am enamored with William Faulkner. My area of historical research centers on the rise of Evangelicals to political, social, and economic prominence, so I am really interested in the interaction between religion and politics, and the ways they influence one another.

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