The Republicans need the millennials (like me), or they’ll join the Federalists and Whigs in political party heaven. And right now, the numbers aren't looking good for them. Millennials backed President Obama over GOP candidate Mitt Romney by 14 points this election cycle. But don’t give up yet, Republicans. It was only back in 1992 that the party gap among young people was practically non-existent.
If the Republicans want to win millennials over, having an economic edge over the Democratic Party is one thing that could really help. And support for higher education, reformed health care, job provision, and an end to the crusade against Obamacare would help immensely.
Higher education is important to millennials, who are shaping up to be the most highly educated generation in history. More importantly, they are also the most likely to be unemployed. That means that student loan support is very important. The average 20-29 year-old is saddled with $45,000 in debt, mostly student loans, and has over a 12% chance of being unemployed (not counting people who left the job market). Republicans don’t have the best record of being very supportive on that. Demonstrating that financing higher education is a priority for their party would take away a lot of steam from the Democrats.
Health care costs are going to be incredibly important for the economic future of our nation. We millennials will live in that future longer than any present generation, and are therefore quite concerned about that future. Take one look at this graph, and tell me it isn't really scary for those of us planning to be very much alive in the year 2040:
I’ll hold on for a second while you process how tremendous the implications of this graph are. If Republicans are going to be the party of the future, they need to really embrace this, tie it into their fiscal responsibility platform, and start working on shrinking medical costs. That does not mean shrinking the medical costs of the government, but medical costs overall. I say again. Don’t be concerned about how much of the medical costs will be covered by the government nearly as much as how much the medical costs in this country will increase overall. That means funding research into cost-saving innovations.
Jobs. Remember that 12% unemployment rate up there? The worst of any age group in the country? Many millennials are just graduating, or just graduated, college. Right now, it is like stepping off an escalator to an imaginary second floor — a really long build-up, followed by a crushing fall that will leave you screaming for your mom. Anyone who can genuinely fix that problem would be greeted as a savior. I’m not talking about rhetoric here. I am talking about one of the parties passing a policy that demonstrably leads to short-term major job growth, for entry-level, above-minimum-wage employment. Whichever party that is would see a lot of gratitude from all the 20-somethings in their formative political years.
And if you win someone’s loyalty at that stage of their lives, they’ll soon get to the "I won’t change my opinions till I die" stage of their lives and become locked into that party. If you look at this data on Ohio party-unaffiliated young adults, you’ll see a tremendous opportunity for Republicans to win over some young’uns. When it comes to job creation, independent Millennials tend to think a bit like Republicans.
Finally, Republicans need to cut out the constant bickering over Obamacare. Two reasons: first, it isn't going to get repealed in this term, so continuing to squabble over it just perpetuates the partisan gridlock everyone is tired of; second, millennials like staying on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. That’s a nice little piece of security, given that so many of us are unemployed and in debt.
Or, Republicans could just ask us what we want. The GOP is great at messaging and branding with just about everything else (this is the party that brought you "Stay the Course," "Obamacare," and the "Death Tax," after all...). But when they deal with young people, women, and minority groups, they tend to forget the most important thing in marketing: Make a product that the consumer wants.