Hey, have you heard that the Republican Party is too old, white and male? Well, unless you are old, white, male and unconscious, you likely have. It’s been so drummed into our heads that it’s become a mantra — even for the older white males who wear the descriptions around like a hair shirt, making them irritable and grouchy (like my dog Jasper when his winter coat chafes — but that’s another story). I’ve been observing this dirge from multiple party participants lately, and it’s driving me crazy.
Because yes, we get it. Everyone knows the GOP needs to attract younger and more diverse members, to keep the tent broad enough so that more feel welcome. But clearly, some of our guys have totally missed the improvements in this area, especially by a re-energized Republican National Committee and the College Republicans.
There is a new communication position and political position at the RNC that have focused solely on the youth ground game and youth outreach. The College GOP has 229 campus captains working seven days a week in the target states. They have new strategies and modern tactics —They’re not afraid to try in non-traditional GOP areas, such as on-campus in liberal Chicago and Miami. An ad urging young women in Florida to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott has hundreds of thousands of views, and 300,000 came to it in its first 72 hours. Even Justin Bieber couldn’t draw those numbers these days. So, yes, guys, this isn’t your father’s GOP.
Through these efforts, young people have worked on campaigns all across the country this year. They are drawn to smart, fresh campaigns, and they know that their future depends on the leadership direction of the country. That why they’ve knocked on millions of doors, given up their free time and likely become lifelong Republicans. So before you brush off their accomplishments, meet a few of these genuine rebels:
Lindsey Sheppard of Avon, Conn. has been interning in the campaign office of David Perdue for U.S. Senate. Lindsey’s identification with the GOP started in high school, and unlike all those Chomskyites clogging our campus quads these days, her conservative commitment grew stronger with every semester of college. She is currently double-majoring in Business and Political Science. Her job on the campaign was voter outreach — specifically, a study analyzing whether likely Democrats opposed to ObamaCare would consider voting for Perdue. She put her statistical analytical skills and political science research to work and says, “The campaign has educated me about the political and financial efforts that make a campaign function so smoothly and effectively.”
This young woman already sounds successful. Lindsey Sheppard. Remember her name.
Ali Swee of Kansas City, Kan., is a junior at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. She spent her summer working six days a week as a field director for Sen. Pat Roberts in Johnson County, the most populated county in the Sunflower State. (Her whole summer, people. This is not a frivolous woman.) Each day her mission was to talk to the voters of Johnson County, so Ali would strap on her Fitbit and spend the day walking and talking until the campaign’s daily goal was reached. She spent her evenings making calls and reaching out to voters in a tireless effort to support the party that reflects her inherent values.
Hearing all of this, I want to invite this woman for s’mores around a campfire. Ali – we owe you one summer!
Torey Tibbetts of Vicksburg, Mich., attends Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and supports Margaret O’Brien, a Republican state Senate candidate. Torey volunteered on the phone banks, knocked on doors and worked at events for O’Brien. She spent weekends at a booth at the county fair, talking to everyone who came by (with apologies to Bob Beckel, this was not a kissing booth).
She said, “O’Brien’s campaign solidified my desire to pursue a career in politics on the campaign trail and one day become a campaign manager.” Torey, in her first experience pounding the pavement for the Grand Old Party, steadfastly supports the GOP and wants to make campaigns her life’s work.
I’m not sure I agree with her. I think she should run herself someday.
Kyle Spaulding of Hurricane, W. Va., is throwing his weight behind Shelley Moore Capito’s U.S. Senate campaign. Kyle says, “We need a responsible government focusing on tax relief and curbing government spending.” Which makes him a true campus radical.
“Interning for Capito’s campaign was important to me, as I truly believe she represents those West Virginia values.” Kyle, a Marshall University senior majoring in Secondary Education, put in four or five days a week in the campaign office doing whatever was needed to get that next vote — making phone calls, knocking on doors, talking to the people at rallies — and from these responsibilities he “learned about the importance of reaching out to voters.”
Wow. The teachers’ union is going to just love this guy.
I asked these young people to tell me about their experiences because I’m curious about what attracted them to the Republican Party — the party without the Hollywood bling — and what they were looking for in a candidate to make them volunteer. So many of them are doing the much-needed and under-celebrated grassroots work that turns out the vote in elections. They’re not behind closed doors raising buckets of cash; they’re not writing intrusive algorithms that bombard your Facebook page with “Ready for Hillary!” spam; but their contributions are every bit as valuable as a check from the latest PAC. And far more personal and long-lasting.
I’m sure Republican Party elders know this activity is important, but they need to snap out of their funk and thank these upstarts instead of saddling them with an “old, white and male” label that doesn’t fit them. I think the men I’m talking about would be surprised to hear that they sound so unsupportive of efforts to broaden the appeal of the GOP. In the last few months I’ve been shaking my head at these guys — they’re missing the good stuff. Fellas, we’re not as old, white and male as you think.
I like what Ed Gillespie, the U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia, says to his college Republican volunteers: “I promise never to make it harder on you to be a college Republican.” And thank God for that. It’s already harder than majoring in quantum mechanics. In Arabic.
The Cliffs Notes version: Young people are attracted to energetic, vibrant campaigns and good ideas. The Republican approach to governing in a way that empowers the individual is simply the better one for America’s young people. So let’s stop checking IDs at the door. There’s new blood knocking. Let them in. This Grand Old Party is just getting started.
Dana Perino currently serves as co-host of FOX News Channel's "The Five" (weekdays 5-6PM/ET). She previously served as Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. She is the author of the new book "Let Me Tell You about Jasper : How My Best Friend Became America's Dog" (October 25, 2016). Ms. Perino joined the network in 2009 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Dana Perino. Follow her on Twitter@DanaPerino.