Senator Rand Paul has taken the lead on something that many in the GOP have ignored for far too long: youth outreach. In a piece at PolicyMic, Paul speaks to millennials directly, defending his filibuster and addressing the need for a GOP that “speaks to the rising generation”:
Most Americans, and especially young people, worry about our country’s $16 trillion debt. This deficit is a burden that is guaranteed to grow more as time passes, and as Washington continues with its reckless spending. The number one contributor to our debt — entitlements — is something most young people simply don’t expect to see. We need to have serious reform to save Social Security and Medicare so that those who’ve paid into these systems all their lives can receive their benefits. But for young Americans, they need a way to opt out or at least something very different.
Most young people will tell you the same, if those in Washington would only listen.
The thing that many young people value above and beyond anything else is choice. They want options. They want to control their futures. They don’t like being bossed around. However, in the entitlement-reform debate, they are often ignored. Where are the GOP-sponsored forums engaging young people in what solutions they believe in? Where is the effort to show young people that the GOP cares about what they have to say?
I believe a Republican Party that is more tolerant and dedicated to keeping the government out of people’s lives as much as possible would be more appealing to the rising generation. We have a nation of 300 million people who all harbor very different opinions on various policies. We have a Constitution that allows, even requires, many of these decisions to be made at the state and local level, which could accommodate the diversity of opinion in this country. Most young people I encounter simply have no desire to tell other people what to do or how to live.
Another part of our debt woes is the trillions of dollars we spend fighting decade-long wars and sending foreign aid all over the world. America must always maintain a strong national defense, but young people can imagine a world in which the United States doesn’t have to be involved in every part of it. We can’t continue borrowing money from China or spending ourselves into debt to protect the entire globe. We simply cannot afford it. It is not what’s best for our country. It makes us less secure, not more.
As many of you know, I’ve taught students of diverse ages. My mom ran a performing arts school for many years where students of all ages attended. I’ve been a high school Dean and Adviser. In other words, I’ve spent a lot of time around young people. I have also spent a good deal of time interacting with young, politically-engaged people these past three years.
Most of the young people I’ve dealt with are big on people living their private lives as they see fit. They strongly believe in the freedom to live and let live. When it comes to national security, many are tired of our financial aid and other assistance being distributed to those who can’t be trusted to have our back. They prefer a far more cautious approach to U.S. foreign-policy involvement.
That’s not to say that all young people feel this way. Of course we are a country of diverse opinions, thankfully. But from my experiences, Paul’s assessment is pretty accurate.
Regardless, what I deem most important about Paul’s piece is that he bothered to speak directly to young people, to let them know that he’s listening and values their input.
It’s about time someone in the GOP did.
Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila