Republican Strategist Tells Rush Limbaugh: You Are Wrong About Millennials


I recently read Rush Limbaugh’s article on the GOP "pandering" to Millennials. I actually found it surprisingly thoughtful and hope he takes to the pen more often to express his views. Here are two key quotes from Limbaugh’s article:

"I understand the desire and need for people of younger generations to be heard and acknowledged. I totally get that. But the truth is that it is up to you to be heard, up to you to get noticed, up to you to stand out. You are not entitled to be respected just because of your age."

"I think a political party that reaches out to groups and demographics with ideas that lack cohesion is a party destined to lose because it will fragment. A party has to be about a universal set of principles and ideas that attract all kinds of people from all walks of life. All ages, all genders, all orientations. It has been done recently. Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections in 1980 and 1984. You can tailor your message for individual groups, but not your principles."

On some of the issues Limbaugh addresses, he is correct. We should have respect for our elders — the fights they have fought and the battles they have waged on our behalf. And he’s also right that respect is earned, not given. There is no participation trophy in life. It is what you make of it.

Those things being said, there is no reason to pander to Millennials. Pandering is by definition falsely praising or kowtowing before someone or a group to curry favor. The GOP should not do this to Millennials any more than they should do it to other groups they’re trying to reach.

But Limbaugh’s perspective highlights something profound. When he talks about Reagan’s ’80 and ’84 elections, he refers to them as “recent.” I’m a Gen Xer and those elections were not recent for me. I was four when Reagan was elected and eight when he won a second term. Reagan was reelected 29 years ago. He left office a quarter century ago.

Both times Reagan ran, the world was dominated by three TV channels and your local newspapers. My grandmother was still receiving an evening paper until I was 10 or 11 years old. That world is gone forever, despite how comfortable it might have been.

Rush also cautions against losing core values to gain voters. Guiding principles are essential. But what those principles are – and if the party is evolving – is a discussion worth having. Millennials bring a unique perspective, in that most of them understand the world as it is today better than we do. They’ve come up in the post-9/11, post-Internet world. They’ve known radically evolving technology all their lives and lived the chaos that the last decade has proven to be.

In fact, if there is a reason to engage Millennials, or any young person, it is because they are sufficiently worried or distraught at the current state of affairs. President Obama promised them better days. Instead, they have enormous debt loads, shrinking employment opportunities, and as hard a road to travel as any generation since that of my grandparents’ (their great-grandparents).

Republicans need to give them, and all voters, a positive picture of the future and how our collective vision can help get us there. Growth of government provides short-term salves to long-term problems, generally making the problems worse.

But individual and economic growth across demographics changes lives, families, and countries. That is what we should shoot for. Why do we ask Americans to settle for subsistence as good enough for us? That is a terrible thing to ask people to accept. That’s a liberal worldview.

It isn’t ours. We’re going to ask you to put your back into it. That’s what we need from you. We can only smooth out so many bumps. We can only crack open so many doors. At some point it is up to you to walk through them.

We also need Millennials on our campaigns and in our institutions. These are the young men and women who understand technology, data, and programming better than we ever will. We see Facebook as a place to put up cute pictures of our kids. Maybe as a party, we see it as an "organizing tool," but that’s really a false metric based on how much money we’ve spent advertising to gain a number of "Likes." They and their Democratic counterparts see Facebook as one more place to mine the vast veins of personal data that Millennials are more than happy to share with the world.

So Rush Limbaugh is right in some pieces. Telling Millennials what they want to hear without principle is a mistake. That would be a mistake for any group. Ignoring them is a mistake as well. They are growing up and we need their votes to win elections. Our coalition is shrinking — and parties (and their ideals) can’t survive that way.

There must be room for all voters in the Republican family. While our youngest adult cohort may not have the collective wisdom of many generations, they have bright, idealistic eyes and enthusiasm for their future. Their glide path is on the ascent — not yet weighed down by age or parental responsibility. Why wouldn’t we want some of that adrenaline injected into the older, but strong, GOP bones?

Article originally appeared on Nameless.