Real relevance isn’t hanging with Jay-Z or playing the sax on the "Tonight Show." That’s all pretty cool, but it’s not ultimately significant to making America a better place.
It has been said that the Republicans are out of touch, but perhaps they are just out of tune. However, if I were a Millennial (someone approximately between ages 12 and 30) listening to the presidential debates last fall, I would think both the elephant and the donkey are on a different wavelength from me.
I am not sure I heard a substantive reference to challenges today’s young people face--for example, unemployment and school debt. That’s mystifying, when you consider their age cohort will be the largest voting bloc in the next presidential election.
Two of the biggest challenges Millennials encounter is not being taken seriously and not being listened to.
A recent study by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Politics and World Affairs finds that 33 percent of college-age Millennials identify as Democrats and 23 percentas Republicans. That 10-point deficit is bad news for the GOP, perhaps, but if we do the math (33 + 23) on the Millennials we see that the remaining, 44 percent, are undecided. Don’t confuse the term undecided with indecisive. Here's why:
The Georgetown study also reported that, compared to previous generations at the same age, Millennials are more likely to un-affiliate with the religion of their childhood.
If you read business news, you will discover that Millennials don’t mind un-affiliating with companies either.
So we can see it coming: the same Millennials certainly won’t have a problem un-affiliating with a political party.
That is good news for Republicans who fear the first wave of Millennials is already lost. But they should not lose heart, indeed, there’s even some evidence that Millennials are already cooling on Barack Obama.
In 2008, Millennials broke in favor of President Obama by 34 percentage points, but in 2012, he won them a smaller margin, 23 points. So yes, as we look ahead, we can see a huge bloc of voters, both affiliated and un-affiliated, looking for a political party that is in tune with them.
Here are five variablesthat will make the elephant relevant to Millennials:
1. Emphasize how out-of-control spending today equates to less opportunity for them tomorrow.
The number one thing Millennials want is to have opportunity. As conservative Millennial pundit and author Margaret Hoover observed recently, “Millennials are concerned with national debt and the deficits. The message that previous administrations' reckless spending—Republicans and Democrats alike—has amounted to ‘generational theft’ that is compromising the Millennial generation's fiscal future can resonate.”
At the same time, Republicans must be balanced in their approach: Millennials alsobelieve that entitlement programs cancreate opportunity and dignity, especially for the elderly, and thus are healthy for the country.
2. Tune into their voice
Not only are Millennial issues not being considered, they are not even in the conversation. Two of the biggest challenges Millennials encounter is not being taken seriously and not being listened to. Engage them. Give them a seat at the table.
3. Think collaboration and drop the “Father Knows Best” stuff.
Millennials are turned off by when a person, party, or religion claims to be right 100 percent of the time. If they had their own party, I think they would call it “Third Way.”
Millennials are natural collaborators and problem-solvers. They think there is always a third way to look at things.
They have grown up suspicious of people who think they are right about everything. For that reason, Vice President Biden didn’t help his boss with the youth vote in last fall’s vice-presidential debate. Not only was his performance condescending, it was creepy. So GOPers should watch that video for pointers on how not to act.
4. Understand that gay marriage is not a threat to national interests
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are the first generation in which the majority approves of gay marriage. If there is no room in the party for gay fathers, mothers, friends, aunts, and uncles who want to marry, then there is no room in that party for Millennials. It is personal to them, regardless of their own sexual preference.
5. Appreciate that Millennials value interdependence
Another name for Millennials is "Globals" (perhaps a more accurate label). As a generation, they have more in common with people their age from the rest of the world than previous generations. They value interdependence over independence when it comes to relating to both the earth and its citizens.
New faces running as Republicans in 2013 and 2014 will not be enough. Instead, Republicans need to get in tune. And that could lead to a winning jam session, in which the elephant is once again in tune.
Chip Espinoza, Ph.D. was born in Espanola, New Mexico. His mission in life is to help organizations become worthy of human habitation. Recently, he has focused on the integration of Millennials (AKA GenY) into the workplace. He is co-author of "Managing the Millennials: Discover The Core Competencies for Managing Today's Workforce."