Why young Libertarians could save the GOP

The GOP is done, over, kaput -- at least that’s what the liberal media claims. Some say demographics alone will topple Republicans. According to this story line, the growing percentage of black and Hispanic voters, and those groups’ allegiance to Democrats, dooms the GOP.

Those writing Republican obits also cite the increasing voice of the gay community and the left-ward tilt of women.

On top of all that, Republicans are now fighting amongst themselves, with the recently-established Conservative Victory Project inflaming those on the far right. The new group, headed by Karl Rove et al, wants to keep some undesirable candidates from running for the Senate; fans of those same candidates are furious. The left is having a field day.


What to do? Should we just start calling Hillary "Madame President" now and save the country $2 billion dollars?

No -- the GOP can regroup, and here’s how.

While the pundits have focused on minorities, it turns out that the youth vote was just as instrumental in keeping President Obama ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The incumbent won the youth vote 67 to 30 percent; as important, it was voters under 29 who determined the outcome in several key states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. But, the net margin of young people voting for Obama over Romney dropped by 2.4 million; Millenials didn’t like what Romney had to say, but a great many were disappointed in Obama, too. Only about half of eligible voters in the 18-29 category turned out. There is opportunity here.

To attract young people, the GOP needs to open the tent flaps to Libertarians -- a group not always welcome in the past. The Romney campaign failed on many fronts, but surely one of the most damaging was its inability to articulate an appealing pro-growth, small government message – the kind of message that would resonate with kids ready to conquer the world. The kind of message that have attracted young voters to Libertarians. A revealing poll by John Zogby last September showed Romney running about even against Obama -- unless Libertarian Gary Johnson’s name was added to the mix. In that match-up, Romney fell behind.

Young people don’t stream out of our schools hoping to be on welfare; they want a shot at the American dream. That dream, in this century, is to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Andrew Mason (who founded Groupon; Zuckerberg needs no introduction.)

This should have been open field for Republicans, and for Romney. Understanding what it takes to build a business – his exceptional success in founding Bain Capital -- was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s great talking point, but the Obama team shredded that advantage.

Democrats tarred Romney’s career, and portrayed the former Massachusetts governor as a plutocrat – out of touch with ordinary people. Through his clever push for higher taxes on the wealthy, Obama positioned balky Republicans as champions of the well-to-do.

Worse, Romney could hardly endorse small government when he had launched universal health care in Massachusetts. In the end, he could not capitalize on Obama’s disastrous embrace of Big Government.

The GOP needs to focus on unleashing the energy of our private sector and the competitiveness of our workers.

What does that mean?

It means pushing for right-to-work laws across the country; it means ripping through the claustrophobic spider webs of unnecessary regulation that makes it so daunting to open a new business.

It means allowing consumers and producers to decide the value of wind farms versus fracking, and it means permitting health insurers to compete across state lines. It means letting the free market function, and allowing the successful to enjoy the fruits of their labors. These are appealing messages. Americans – and especially ambitious young people -- cherish our history of risk-taking and exploration. They celebrate our entrepreneurs.

Young people also want the country’s finances put in order. They aren’t stupid; they know that the $16 trillion in debt will come due some day, and that that towering obligation darkens their future.

Surveys show only a minority of millenials are convinced that the government should provide health insurance or food and housing; in a poll last spring, only 20% agreed that the government should spend more to boost the economy. Shockingly, only 28% thought that the feds should do more to curb climate change. They want the government to back off.

Of course, it is not just young people who want our finances put in order. According to Gallup, Americans rank the economy our top problem – by far – and under that, the number one issue is debts and deficits. More people are worried about our fiscal situation that about jobs. But...they don’t want to cut Social Security or Medicare; they therefore fear Republicans’ efforts at reform. Not so young people; they would like to see those programs made sustainable – so they have a shot at them too.

Republicans repulse younger supporters on social issues. A Libertarian slant would help.

Libertarians generally support individual liberty and free markets; they believe in civil society, in which individuals have control over their lives.

To a libertarian, the idea that the government would tell you whom you could marry is nonsense.

On abortion, they think the individual has the right to choose; on the other hand, they believe that other people should not be compelled to pay for that abortion. If someone wants to help another person acquire an abortion, they should be free to do so.

Our bizarre primary process may require that candidates oppose abortion or gay marriage. Those are issues that will be forever argued; at the moment, as Mitch Daniels said early on, it is more important to get our economy growing again, and to put the 23 million unable to find full-time jobs back to work.

There will be areas of disagreement between mainstream Republicans and Libertarians, to be sure. Nowhere is the schism more profound than on defense policy.

Libertarians believe our war powers should be used sparingly, and only to further our own interests; the GOP believes the role expected of this exceptional nation is broader. Given the fiscal constraints faced by the United States, and the unconvincing gains from our military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, more Americans may come round to supporting a restrained military.

The GOP needs to broaden its appeal, and especially to young voters. Opening its ranks to Libertarians would be a step in the right direction.