If necessity is the mother of invention, when it comes to national politics, young people will need to be Patriarchs and Matriarchs 2.0.
In my last post, I issued an invitation to college students (who according to a recent poll, prefer to be referred to as Young Americans, rather than Millennials) to speak up about the current state of politics. During one of the most divisive and indecisive periods in our country's history, it will be partly up to them to help sort through the fragments of a fractured Republican Party and heal the split in the Democratic Party between center and left, in order to get our government working again.
The status quo in national politics is on its last legs and while it may hang around for this one last election cycle, things cannot continue as before in a gridlocked system where standoffs and shutdowns are the modus operandi. With an electorate this alienated and angry at Washington's continued dysfunction, the message that will linger long after November is that we need serious bipartisan dialogue about the issues and negotiations that will lead to compromises and solutions. Business-as-usual is politically bankrupt.
We put up a link on our Practically Republican website, Join the Conversation, inviting Young Americans to send in their thoughts, comments and ideas about where the nation is right now and where we need to go. I want to share some of their responses as they speak to the heart of the crisis/opportunity we are currently facing. (Note: the quotes have been edited for brevity).
Luke Phillips, a student at USC, is a GOP supporter and he talked about what he sees as his place in the national conversation.
"I want to DO stuff, not just complain or pontificate. And that means being involved in the circles where the power is. I just want to serve my country as an excellent intellectual, politico, and public servant who has his hands in various cookie jars, and puts his soul in without selling it. But I need to have access to circles of influence in order to do this and that means being involved in one of the major parties, rather than just joining online discussion groups."
Adam Richardson attends Park University and is looking at the employment landscape facing him after graduation. He points to education reform as one of the key issues that has so many young people flocking to Bernie Sanders and if the GOP wants to position itself as a job-creating party, it must address the prohibitive costs of a college education.
"Our economy is shifting away from the traditional employer/employee relationship. 'Jobs' now need to be careers and the only way a career can happen is with education. We need new professionals to innovate this new economy. The only way we can do this is if we dramatically lower or free up the cost of a four-year education."
The response that moved me the most was from a 25 year-old young man named John, who preferred to remain anonymous. John addressed how out of touch the GOP is with him and his peers on policies such as climate change and immigration, as well as on social issues. His decision to choose anonymity speaks directly to the latter.
"I have found it very difficult to support the Republican Party, with the attractive free market ideals clouded in divisive rhetoric and obstructionist tactics. As a gay person, I have also been repelled by the Party's socially conservative agenda. If the Republican Party wants to survive and gain the support of my generation, it needs to become the party of Reason. My generation is largely nonreligious, supportive of our diverse citizens (including race, sexual orientation etc.) and solution focused. I hope that Republican leaders will consider this going forward. Now is the perfect time to reinvent the Party."
John's final statement defines the greatest challenge facing the GOP. Polls show a 90% disapproval rate by the base of a seemingly clueless establishment and the donor class has been largely reduced to plutocrats and corporations. Yet even with these seismic faults, the bottom line for every politician is to get elected or re-elected. That means our votes are still the ultimate arbiter and reclaiming and renewing the party starts at the ballot box. And while this presidential campaign has left many Republicans feeling disheartened, disillusioned or even disgusted, there are races for Governors, Senators, Congressmen and state and local officials, that call for practical, commonsense leadership.
Speaking directly to Young Americans, you must not only take part in the electoral process, but also select and support the next generation of politicians, who will better reflect the nation's shifting ideologies and changing demographics. If we don't capitalize on your civic engagement, we may lose those of you who were primed for public service -- and JFK's clarion call in 1961 to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" will become a quaint memory in a history textbook.
So please Join the Conversation. Ultimately, you have the greatest stake in our country's future. There's still time to grow into the role, but you will need to become the parents of reinvention.