How can the Republicans Convince you to be a Republican?

This came to me from a lonely High School Republican.  So how can the Republicans best attract your generation to join the party?

Sarah Westwood: Advice From a Lonely College Republican

The GOP is like a supermodel who’s been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup.


If the election results told us anything, it’s that the GOP has some serious soul searching to do. On paper, Mitt Romney’s history of accomplishment towered over President Obama’s train wreck of a record, so his loss seemed nearly inexplicable. But Mr. Obama carried his key groups so easily that Republicans should give him props for such a feat— and start taking notes.

In politics, as in life, perception is key. The Chicago machine and the Democratic National Committee as a whole have perfected the art of marketing, even when they’ve got nothing to sell. They’re like a used-car salesman who pushes lemons on unsuspecting drivers and never gets caught. Democrats can home in on Latinos, blacks, single women, young voters—and have them chanting “Four more years!” before they know what hit them.

I happen to be one of the latter, a college student at a time when youth is a hot political commodity. Most kids my age bristle at the word “conservative,” and I don’t blame them. The right has done nothing to welcome young people.

If Republicans hope to win in 2016 and beyond, they need to change everything about the way they sell themselves. They’re viewed by the 18-24 set as the “party of the rich” and as social bigots. That harsh, flawed opinion could be rectified if Republicans started presenting their positions in a different way. The GOP is like a supermodel who has been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup. But fix the lighting, dab on some foundation and highlight her good side, and she can take the most attractive picture.

My age group is one pocket of voters who Republicans should be carrying with ease. Youth is all about rebellion and freedom and independence—things the Democratic Party preaches but doesn’t deliver. Behind their clever one-liners lurks a government shackle waiting to be slapped onto the wrists of every young voter they ensnare.

The left proudly shouts “stick it to the rich,” which naturally draws the rambunctious college crowd into its fold. But Democrats fail to mention how broadly they define the rich—or that in reality, they want to dip into everyone’s wallets, not just Bill Gates’s.



Associated Press

Shame on Republicans for not seizing the opportunity this time around. They could so easily define their brand as the true advocate of rebellion; a “stick it to the government” movement in the spirit of the 1960s hippie wave.

It wouldn’t be a smoke-and-mirrors, bait-and-switch trick either, like what goes on across the aisle. Republicans truly are the party of a less intrusive ruling class. Frame the Republican fundamentals—tax less, spend less—as a fresh populist approach instead of Grandpa’s adage, and the party is back in business.

Another leg up that the left has is its claim to the moral high ground. The party of pro-choice, pro-gay has such a hold on young people because those are issues they can care about easily. Not many 20-year-olds can hold a coherent conversation about Social Security reform or double taxation, but all of them can argue passionately for gay rights.

As a member of this all-important demographic, I know that neither I nor (almost) anybody else coming of age today supports the Republican social agenda. That’s the way the country is moving—so just deal with it. Modernize and prioritize.

Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don’t have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.

Embracing a more liberal social agenda doesn’t require anyone to abandon her own personal values; it’s possible to keep faith and the party too. But the evangelical set essentially hijacked the Republican Party in the 1970s; now we need to take it back. Thawing the icy attitude of our most vocal, radical voices—including the raucous right (a la Limbaugh)—could let a fatally fractured party put the pieces together again.

The GOP won’t survive if it doesn’t start courting young voters. Simple math dictates that the Republican Party can wrest power away from the left only if it builds an army of fresh young members into its base. Democrats are the ones doing that now.

Ms. Westwood will be a sophomore at George Washington University in January.

22 responses to “How can the Republicans Convince you to be a Republican?”

  1. Tanya4 says :

    I agreed with Westwoods point that the Republicans need to modernize their platform so to speak. Many conservatives views on social issues are off putting to the young voters in a time of acceptance (ex: gay rights). I also think that one of the major issues as Brooks an NY Times writer has stated is that “the basic Republican framing no longer resonates.” It seems outdated. For example the arguments regarding big government vs. small government is old news.Young people are less likely to care about the size or scope of the government, and more likely to care about how it will specifically affect their lives. The Republican Party would do well to reorganize its platform and change some of its values particularly on social issues. This would in turn lead to a rise in Republican youth.

  2. Adam7 says :

    A big issue that the author failed to address is the influence of young immigrants. As the children of “illegals” come of age, they are faced with a choice between a party that talks of kicking them and their families out ASAP, and one that wants to provide them with many of the same privileges natural-born citizens enjoy. Republicans need to move to the center on immigration, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This would kill (woo?) two birds (Latinos and youths) with one stone.

  3. BenLev4 says :

    The Republican party can no longer run on the social platform of “G-d, Gays and Guns.” There are a few reasons for this. From the fact that the only states that strongly support this platform (the south) don’t carry enough electoral votes to win, to how outdated this ideology is; I believe it will be difficult for Republicans to win if they continue to support these beliefs. The overarching reason why this ideology is no longer worth the republican support is because most of America, but specifically, young people no longer believe in it. Westwood stated Republicans need to “modernize.” Frankly, the Republicans social views are no longer up to date.They are “grandpas adage.” Most of America has centered around a socially liberal view and if the Republicans aspire to win, they too must begin to move left. As Westwood said, young voters can strongly argue gay rights, but may not know a thing about social security. If Republicans want to win in the future, they NEED young voters. I agree with Westwood that one way to appeal to the youngsters is to ease up on socially conservative views, but more importantly, begin to get rid of the Ole South title that they have been branded with.

  4. sophiae7 says :

    Westwood’s statement that the Republican Party needs to “Modernize and prioritize” is necessary if they want to win in 2016 and beyond. This is essential if the Republican Party wants to attract demographics, such as young voters. Like Westwood pointed out, Democrats have “perfected the art of marketing.” Many people feel that the Republican Party is extremely outdated; a great start in shedding that image would be to improve their marketing efforts.

  5. Emily1 says :

    “That’s the way the country is moving—so just deal with it.”

    I think that this small quote is the perfect description of what the Republican party is dealing with right now. Westwood has made a point that is completely valid and should give Conservatives a wake up call. Instead of moving forward with America, social issues in particular have remained at a standstill and have not advanced with the time period. Fifty or even twenty years ago, these ideas may have been supported. But in a new generation, with younger people supporting gay marriage and being against other conservative social issues Republicans have stood behind for generations, it is time to move on. As Westwood stated, in order for the Republican party to get any of the younger vote, they need to adapt to the time period.

    But modernizing is not only important for Republicans to gain younger support. Growing numbers of immigrants and Latinos are effecting the influence of the white vote, as seen in this past election. With majority of these demographic groups voting Democratic, they are a large influence in the elections. In order for Republicans to be victorious in 2016, they need to gain the support of these Demographics. The white vote alone isn’t enough anymore.

  6. Lizzie1 says :

    I agree with what Westwood is saying, but it is easier said than done. The political process requires a candidate to win the base before campaigning for president, and the base is socially conservative. If Westwood is suggesting the entire party should move left, she is implying that they should alienate a large part of their base. If a few leaders of the Republican party decide to make this decision, and create a new party platform that is more liberal on social issues, they will lose a lot of pure conservative votes.

    The reward for moving left is the youth vote, but I don’t think the dramatic shift will happen within the next four or even eight years, especially if the Republican base is as vocal on social issues as they have been in these last elections.

  7. Crawford4 says :

    I recently had a conversation with adam about the problems the republican party faces and this article addresses them pretty well. Although they leave out immigration which is something the republican party has to compromise on or they will loose the latino demographic. The base of the republican party is shrinking as the base of the democratic party is expanding. My belief is the the majority of new republicans are social either liberal or indifferent but believe in the Republican economic policy. This brings up an interesting thought, adam and i talked about which is the libertarian party. It would seem as though they have the perfect mix of the two. Although they aren’t socially liberal because thats what they believe but rather they just think its none of their business they are none the less for the most part social liberal or at least tending in that direction. I think the Republican party has to come back to the middle OR create a stronger base by compromising on some issues. And i also think we could see the rise of the libertarian party. I think with more exposure the libertarian party could become a viable option for more young and new americans.

  8. benjamin1 says :

    I couldn’t help but feel that this article was written with a certain amount of bias. I do not buy into her assumption, that, if only the conservatives could reveal who they really are, the republican party would have no problem beating democrats. Yes, young voters are immensely important for the future of both parties, but that is not the only reason the “GOP” lost this election. The “latinos, blacks, single women, [and] young voters” are not mindless people waiting to be told who to support, as she suggests. They represent the demographical shift that consciously elected a liberal democrat, and will most likely continue to do so.

  9. megweck1 says :

    I agree with Ben. Of course there is a shift that needs to happen in order for a Republican presidential victory to happen. But that shift is going to be greater than she suggests- it seems as though she thinks it is purely social issues that drove this campaign. I disagree, because although there are many people who have been dissatisfied with the social agenda of the conservatives, this campaign dealt with economic issues at the forefront. In my opinion, it will be quite difficult to make such a dramatic shift. Social liberals will not all of a sudden change their party affiliations, especially if the candidates are in consensus on social issues, and true social conservatives will just become extremely alienated, as outdated as their view may be. At the root of the author’s argument, though, is the suggestion that the Conservative party needs to shift toward the center, and with that I agree- Romney failed to win the center, and that is what cost him the election.

  10. Chad4 says :

    I think Sarah Westwood makes a lot of great points in her article, but I think it is important to add some historical perspective to this argument. Every few presidential election cycles or so, each party seems to go through a momentary phase of drudgery and despair.

    For instance, during the years of the Great Depression and World War II, Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress for over three presidential election cycles, coming immediately after an era in the 1920s that featured party control by the Republicans.

    In 1972, Republican, Richard Nixon, defeated Democrat, George McGovern, with more than 90% of the nation’s electoral votes. This victory came exactly eight years after Lyndon B. Johnson and the Democrat’s astounding victory in the 1964 presidential election.

    The point I’m trying to make is that presidential elections like these happen. There comes a time every few election cycles when a party’s message just stops working, which causes that party to adapt to the new politics of that age.

    In 1984, Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in a landslide victory for the Republicans that left the Democratic Party unable to win the Presidency for another eight years. Yet, when the Democrats were finally able to break through and defeat the Republican Party, their party was able to control the White House for eight years of their own. I believe the Republican Party will adapt and learn from its past. They have to—the party depends on it.

  11. molly4 says :

    One thing that really hurt the Republican Party this year was the fact that there were no Democratic Party challengers for the presidency, while a whole host of Republicans duked it out for the nomination. This meant that a lot of time was spent by all of the candidates pandering to the Republican base, while Obama could move directly to appealing to a broader spectrum of voters. Leading up to and during the Republican primaries, the candidates were particularly vocal on social issues, which Westwood pointed out are much more resonant with young voters than fiscal policy. With so many candidates spewing ideals very far right on the ideological spectrum (e.g. anything said by Rick Santorum), naturally many young voters began to associate the Republican Party with these radical views. While the Republican Party certainly needs to modernize its social ideals to appeal to the growing progressive state of mind in the U.S., I do attribute some of its failure this year to the overwhelming amount of far right conservatives present in the presidential primary.

  12. Nick4 says :

    I think Molly makes a really good point. The Republicans need to modernize their platform. The Republican platform was under serious fire this election because of some of the candidates’ extreme social views. Especially for young voters, a candidate’s social views can be a deciding factor. Young voters tend to have more socially liberal views, and won’t settle for a president with more conservative views, regardless of their fiscal policies. The Republicans need to realize this. However, by changing their platform to a more socially liberal one, they could lose voters, too. Evangelical Christians have begun to take control of the party, but with social views that don’t match theirs, they might refuse to vote. It’s a fragile balance that the Republicans have to consider: please the young voters and potentially lose evangelical christians, or stick to a socially conservative platform and deal with a lack of young voter support. It will be interesting to see how this affects the 2016 election.

  13. nicoleb7 says :

    “Not many 20-year-olds can hold a coherent conversation about Social Security reform or double taxation, but all of them can argue passionately for gay rights.” I think this is exactly the reason the Republican Party is not making progress with young voters. These days it is all about the social issues and gay marriage is the most popular at the moment. Although some young college/graduate students will vote based on issues like taxes and health care most will not. This is either because it is not as relevant to them or because they are just not as passionate about it but when it comes to voting, young people tend to vote for the Democratic Party because of their social views. If the republicans want to win in the elections coming forward then they need to start appealing to a younger audience, and moving more towards the middle, when it comes to social issues, is the only way to do it.

  14. sarahb7 says :

    I agree with Westwood; the Republican Party definitely needs to break from the social right in order to re- gain some control. They also should try to appeal to racial minorities to gain the presidency, and one of the most effective ways they could accomplish this is by nominating a candidate like Marco Rubio. Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States and having a Latino running for the presidency would likely draw turnout in support of the GOP like Obama and the Democratic party drew from the African American population, especially in the 2008 election. Rubio is also significantly less conservative on religious issues than the typical GOP nominee. It’s primarily the elderly voters who support the socially conservative agenda of the Republican party, but it’s the young vote that is becoming ever more critical, so it’s crucial for the party’s survival that they modernize their stance on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and prayer in public schools that hit so close to home for so many voters.

  15. Connor1 says :

    It is very clear that if the Republican Party doesn’t change their social platform, they can basically throw away the election for however many years they stand strong to those beliefs. Times have changed and so have the mindsets, and the demographics of people voting, and the principles that the Republicans are selling do not appeal to the majority of who is electing the President. Mitt Romney originally was a pretty moderate conservative, until the primaries came along and he needed to become extremely conservative just to get the votes of his people. If he was able to run for president under his previous ideas, it would’ve given him a much better chance at being elected, because most people believe that he is the best man for the job of fixing our economy. Yes changing the platform to appeal to young voters is crucial, because Romney was only able to win the majority of older voters, but reaching out to the minorities is just as important to winning the next election. Like I said before, there is a very different demographic of people who vote in present day America, and it is essential for the Republican Party to change their principles to suit the appeal of those people if they want to regain office.

  16. katiepetrino4 says :

    As Westwood says, the Republican Party’s agenda is outdated. The GOP was formerly the party of the American dream and patriotism, but this election cycle, they turned into the doom and gloom party. Though negative ads are effective, the depressing and fearful tone likely turned off young voters. Very few young people want to believe that their futures will be as bleak as Republicans make them out to be. Additionally, the Republican Party did not offer the American people any new ideas. The 18-24 set grew up during the prosperity of new millennium and came of age during the economic downfall. For many, it is easy to see that the GOP’s policies of deregulation and less taxation do not work.

    Moreover, 18-24 year olds are either still in school or entering the workforce so though the economy may be their biggest issue, social issues are never far behind. The extremist, Bible-belt sector of the Republican Party scares off many young voters. Until the party as a whole rejects or at the very least downplays these views, young people will go to the Democratic Party.

    I reject Westwood’s notion that the Democratic Party simply markets ideas and panders to “Latinos, Blacks, single women, and young voters” as if these people mindlessly pledge their allegiance to the party. Does a gap exist in these groups between the Democrats and Republicans? Certainly, however, that can be attributed to policy, not marketing. This article was meant to show how Republicans have lost the young vote. Westwood’s clear bias muddles this thesis, making her tone an angst filled whine.

  17. eddiemeyercord4 says :

    As a young person observing the election, I believe there is much truth to the general basis of Ms. Westwood’s argument: that the Republican party must make some fundamental changes and ideological compromises if it hopes to win back the young vote. That being said, I think there are many instances when she oversimplifies solutions or overemphasizes certain issues. As Ben notes, Ms. Westwood seems to believe that by simply changing the party’s advertising and message, young people will realize what they have been missing out on, so to speak. She also spends a fair amount of time talking about gay rights, and how the correlation between the Republican Party and anti-gay rights is turning off young voters. While young students such as Ms. Westwood and at PDS are perhaps more conscious and supportive of gay rights than most, I believe that the amount of people for whom gay rights is the determining factor in how they vote is very slim. While it may be a factor for some, I think there are more significant fundamental differences about the role of government that may be driving the shift of young people, unsure about their own economic futures, towards the Democratic party and the promise of more government services and support. Whatever the solution may be, Ms. Westwood is certainly right in stressing that the Republican Party must take some kind of drastic action if it hopes to win a presidential election in the future.

  18. molly4 says :

    I would just like to add that while I stated previously that Republicans need to “modernize” their social views, I am very torn about that statement. I do not support changing one’s ideals, whether or not I personally agree with those ideals, simply in order to appeal to a certain demographic. The Republican party should not have to alter what it believes so that the youth will like them as much as they like the Democrats. If young voters are only aware of issues such as gay marriage (probably their number one voting issue), that illustrates a flaw in the Republican party’s presentation of its other beliefs, and the success of the Democrats for capitalizing on this hot topic for young voters. Of the 98 topics outlined in the Republican party platform, only two adress the issue of same-sex marriage. There is a lot more to the Republican Party than the radical Evangelical Christians would have the media believe. Therefore, rather than allowing the youth to vote based off of what they hear more about in their daily lives (e.g. same-sex marriage), the Republican Party must publicize the rest of their extensive platform more effectively. This will lead to voters making decisions based on a holistic judgment, rather than just what their friends are discussing.

  19. Ryan4 says :

    As a young person living in todays society, I will agree that the Republican Party appears to have waned in its efforts and ability to draw in the younger crowds, something that will soon be imperative for their future success in politics. Mainly because I have grown up in a very modern country and beliefs that some would consider “abnormal” elsewhere have become common. Because of this comfort with elements of change on social policies (abortion, gay marriage, immigration…) I think it is necessary for Republicans to begin to try and adapt. Some may think this to be a sign of weakness from the party, but the truth remains that parties have been changing ever since their creation, and it is necessary that republicans begin to adapt their social policies perhaps not in a liberal manner, but one that would appear to a larger and more diverse futuristic population.

  20. jackb7 says :

    Based on the right’s current social policy, they will have no chance at winning the youth vote. That’s just the way it goes. And while I, like many people, do not wish to impose their beliefs on others (in fact that’s exactly why many of the youth are estranged from the right) I am not afraid to say that the social platform the right rests on is outdated and dying, just like many of their base. It may sound cruel, but its true and I won’t dance around that issue. That being said, she seems to make a strong case for winning the youth vote…but not much else. How can the right win blacks, women, and latinos? These people aren’t sheep. They follow the issues and were conscious on voting day, so where’s the angle for those demographics? And while she stresses a point that I’ve often brought up which is that if the right changed its stances on social issues they would appeal more, it is worthy of noting that fiscally they don’t come off as very appealing WHEN you take a look at the personnel supporting the platform. The supporters of the conservative economic policy of deregulation and tax cuts in todays day and age are typically portrayed as rich, white businessmen, or at least that is how they are portrayed in the media (a source where most people get their news). But while not all supporters of the policy fall under that category, and while many of the top earners aren’t the way they are portrayed there are still a number of selfish drawbridge republicans behind the conservative fiscal philosophy who are way to easy to pick on through media and hurt the conservative image.

    Also, how can she compare the idea of “conservative rebellion” to the hippie counter culture? Modern conservatism is pushes hard for free market, laissez faire capitalism, the idea of the American dream and the white picket fence if you will. And while the concept is great, wasn’t that what the hippies of the sixties were rebelling against in the first place?! A society based on greed, war, the imposition of ideology, and the domineering upper class? How can she even begin to compare the two? Many hippies lived and survived in communes for god’s sake. It is absolutely mind blowing…

  21. langston4 says :

    I agree with some of the points made here in this article. if Republicans hope to appeal to not only younger voters, but a broader demographic, they need to adjust to a more modern platform. With the times changing where more young people are becoming active in politics and an increase in the minority population (particularly the Latino population), having the same ideas that appeal to an older generation simply won’t cut it, especially when many of the states that support this view do not have many electoral votes. For example, today’s generation is more accepting towards gay and lesbian couples and lifestyles, and many would say they support it (just look at the poll we took). To have a social policy that bans gay marriage and certain gay rights would turn many younger voters away from voting for the Republican party. If Republicans hope to make a run for office in 2016, they need to adjust their game plan to appeal to a broader demographic.

  22. iqra07 says :

    I agree with Westwood that the Republican Party needs to create a more modern social platform in order to appeal to young voters. In the society we live in now with younger people supporting liberal views on social issues, Republicans can either separate themselves from the Church or watch as their party crumbles. The number of people supporting gay couples and the right to an abortion has risen, and it will continue to do so. Leaving behind their conservative social platform will help Republicans get the vote of the younger generation. However, getting the young white generation isn’t the only thing Republicans need to win. They also need the support of minorities, Latinos especially. Unless Republicans adjust their position on immigration, Latinos will continue to support the Democrats. Because the Latino population is growing so quickly, the Republican Party cannot prosper without getting some support from them. The Republican Party is in a difficult situation, and unless they make considerable changes, it will only get worse.

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