Ronald Brownstein’s recent article in the Atlantic reveals that millennial, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson is losing faith in her party because of its growing nationalist wing. The cause for Anderson’s growing disillusion is real and reveals a genuine shift in the power behind the GOP. Instead of fearing and fighting the awakening giant of nationalism though, Anderson and others should embrace it in a way that doesn’t compromise their values.
Anderson is a very adept young woman who managed to strike success in Washington D.C. while still in college and is part of the millennial wave of data miners — or “data dummies” as Van Jones called them, over the perception that they remain aloof from personal voter connection—who view themselves as the future of political management. She worked for eight years with the D.C.-based opinion research and communications firm The Winston Group before co-founding Echelon Insights. After Barack Obama destroyed Mitt Romney with Millennials in 2012 (which cost Romney the election), Anderson helped formulate a guideplan on what the Republican Party needed to do to capture the Millennial vote in the future. In 2015, she released a book along the same lines: The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America (and How Republicans Can Keep Up).
Anderson says she arrived on the right of the political spectrum after a history teacher in high school taught her class about the Cold War. “You had these examples of countries where the government had tried to manage the economy really intensely and it ended up being bad for the citizens there,” she said. “I found myself beginning to lean more right on economic issues.”
But, when Obama captured the imagination of the overwhelming majority of Millennial voters in 2008, Anderson, like many right-leaning millennials made the mistake of thinking that if only the GOP turned more leftward on social issues it could cut into the Democratic Party’s gains with young voters. This was the basis of the post-mortem guideplan: Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation, which was based on polling and a number of post-election focus groups with millennial voters. When asked what came to mind when they thought of the Republican Party, one group of young, “winnable” Obama voters in January 2013, replied with words like “racist, rigid, and old-fashioned.”
Anderson sees the growing ethnic diversity in America as a prime reason why the GOP must change its tactics and even modify its message. Romney won the white Millennial vote by seven percentage points but lost the overall millennial vote by 23 points. Part of the reason for this is that more than 40 percent of the Millennial population is non-white. Furthermore, most of the Millennials that voted in the 2012 election leaned liberal on social and domestic issues like immigration, marriage, federalism, and government involvement in healthcare.
One key point though about the 2013 guideplan, or any political guideplan formed post-election, is voter turnout. The groups sampled were all voters in the 2012 election. Nearly half of eligible Millennial voters didn’t vote, which is not uncommon for the under-30 demographic in any presidential election. In 2016, Trump managed to galvanize millions of Americans who have either never voted or haven’t voted in years out of frustration with their options. Many of these voters were Millennials in middle America who either stayed home in 2012 or were too young to vote then.
While it’s true that the millennial generation is more liberal than their parents and grandparents’ generations, much of that is circumstantial. Millennials, more than previous generations have been through a college education system that is ideologically geared toward churning out liberal foot soldiers. They also came of age during the worst recession since the Great Depression—a recession overseen by a Republican administration. Most also had greater aspirations for themselves and their country than spending trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, fighting endless wars to spread democracy. They overwhelmingly depart with the conventional, Cold War foreign policy that John McCain and Mitt Romney offered.
Another factor to consider is that voters born after 1996, known as Generation Z could tend to be more conservative than millennials.
Professor Jeff Brauer of Keystone College, who has studied the political habits of this up-and-coming generation believes that unlike Millennials who mostly assimilated into the Democratic Party, Gen Z-ers tend to resemble libertarians or socially moderate fiscal conservatives.
There are several reasons for this generation being more conservative than the last. Part of it is the gig and freelance economy that has given them an entrepreneurial spirit that many millennials were only forced to discover as a means to pay off their college debt before they retire. According to Forbes, 77 percent Gen Z-ers earn their own spending money by doing“freelance work, a part-time job, or earned an allowance.”
Furthermore, these people have grown up on the internet and are much more likely to research an issue themselves and form their own opinion rather than take the word of a professor, politician, media pundit, or their favorite comedian. They also grew up under the unbelievably dull and economically-stagnating administration of the first minority president. So, all this millennial nonsense about white privilege kind of falls flat.
Last, but not least, they’ve gotten a front row seat to the decline and fall of what was once the world’s greatest university system. Most Gen Z-ers are not too anxious to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt to hear some aging hippie rant against his or her country’s history and tout the values of socialism, without at least being guaranteed a decent-paying job upon graduation.
Anderson wonders “whether Donald Trump’s GOP has a place for people like her, who want a party that marries support for less government and robust national defense with a commitment to racial and social inclusion.” The problem though is that there aren’t enough Americans that want that policy combination to win a presidential election. That was proven in 2008 and 2012. Anderson and her fellow “moderates” got the candidates they wanted in John McCain and Mitt Romney and Obama drubbed them both.
When one side gets its teeth kicked in twice in a row, it usually helps to find reinforcements the next time around–which is exactly what Trump did in 2016. He tapped into the silent, frustrated American majority that cares a lot more about rising healthcare premiums and economic opportunity for American citizens than statements or shows of racial and social inclusion. The overwhelming majority of voters on the right wanted a president who was going to put the country first at home and abroad, uphold the rule of law (i.e. crack down on border security and deport illegal immigrants), and stop trying to turn the U.S. into a social experiment.
Most people who want the government to make a big deal about racial and social inclusion also want a government that will commit to providing free college tuition, debt forgiveness, and free healthcare for all. The coalition that Anderson wants simply doesn’t exist.
According to Brownstein, she doesn’t want to join the Democrats but is open to a potential third party with the Republican policies in the mold of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
In 2016, the U.S. got the third way it had been craving for a long time. Trump is hardly a conservative. For many years, he supported Democrats. He is the most fiscally liberal Republican president since Theodore Roosevelt and he trounced Hillary Clinton with Independents. He was practically an independent that took over the Republican Party.
Anderson is disappointed that only one-in-four Republicans disagree with Trump’s response to Charlottesville. The shocker should be that a quarter of Republicans bought the media lie that Trump made a moral equivalence between fascists and anti-fascists. He didn’t. He made a moral equivalency in the violence perpetrated by both sides, which as dozens of videos on YouTube show, the leftist protesters started.
Moderation and ethnic inclusion are not antithetical to nationalism. The reason the nation is seeing such a rise in ethnic separatism and white nationalism is because the Republican Party and the conservative movement as a whole have failed to forge an American nationalism that unites all patriotic citizens. In one of the New York Times’ recent attempts to discover whether Trump is an actual racist, Katrina Pierson, a black lady who was a spokeswoman for the Trump presidential campaign summed up this concept fantastically:
“Just because you’re a nationalist and you’re white doesn’t make you a white nationalist. Putting Americans first makes you a nationalist and in that case, I’m a nationalist. I think we should take care of our families and our children first.”
Mankind is nationalistic by nature. The growing nationalism of Americans that found a voice in Donald Trump is not old or dying out—it’s growing stronger. The Democratic Party has already picked the politics of tribalism over Americanism and the Republican Party won’t win any brownie points from voters if it tries to keep playing sidekick to the DNC’s ideals. People on the right aren’t going to support a party that just wants to lower the top income tax rate from 39 to 35 percent and pour another billion dollars into a bloated military. If it weren’t for the appeal of nationalism, Hillary Clinton would be president and the Republicans would be in the minority in Congress. If for no other reason that shows that nationalism is the future of the GOP.