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Recently on his show, former Gov. Mike Huckabee ran a segment called, “Does the GOP need to start listening to millennials?” The answer to this question is not only a “yes,” it’s a “you should have started listening several years ago.”
The segment consisted of Huckabee speaking with three college students about what they stand for and what makes them active in politics. The students and Heartland Senior Fellow Benjamin Domenech gave good, thoughtful answers, however, they barely scratched the surface of the growing liberty movement and its potential impact.
This movement started to form into a cohesive group back during the primaries of the 2008 presidential election. The messages of freedom and peace espoused by Ron Paul resonated with many young people and spread wildly on the internet. While the candidate was mostly ignored by the mainstream media, his supporters did all in their power to counteract this apparent blackout in coverage.
A true grassroots campaign took shape. “Who is Ron Paul?” signs started showing up along many streets. Internet polls were targeted to show Ron Paul as the favorite among candidates. Then the money started to roll in. Supporters of Paul embraced the “Money Bomb,” a one day fundraising blitz. On November 5th, 2007, the campaign raised $4.3 million in a single day. Then on December 16, 2007, Paul’s campaign made headlines by raising nearly $6 million in one day, breaking the previous record.
The campaign showed they were a force; it showed the supporters they could organize and cause ripples at a national level. Although Paul is no longer running, the supporters are still actively engaged in politics and policy discussions. In the years since the 2008 primaries, the Libertarian Party has seen an explosion in membership. Also, the presence of the liberty movement on the internet is unavoidable.
There are multiple reasons the freedom message connected with youth. Millennials, like myself, have grown up in a broken system. The national debt was already at appalling levels; the economy collapsed and has been limping on ever since; unemployment, especially among the youth, remains high; and student debt is piling up. What is most concerning is that the government seems unable to do anything about it. In fact, it is becoming more apparent that the government is the main source of these problems. This is why the liberty movement has grown so large recently; it is refreshing to think there may be a solution that takes the weight of such a large and bloated government off the backs of these disenfranchised individuals.
This is where the GOP comes in. The Republican Party has an opportunity to pick up these politically active individuals. They will have to work for it though. While generally the Republican Party advocates for smaller government, they have to take it a few steps further to win over the libertarian-minded youth. These millennials see no justification for the government to be involved in personal matters, bedroom issues, or other unnecessary prohibitions.
If the Republican Party embraces the idea of a smaller government with less intrusion into individual privacy, they’ll have a chance of absorbing much of this liberty movement. This alteration will turn the appearance of the GOP from a party of “old white men” to one that accepts and encompasses a wide range of people who believe freedom is the answer to societal problems.