Let’s address the elephant (ha!) in the room right up front. My politics lean progressive. But I’ll do my best not to let those politics get in the way of my comments on a June 28, 2021 Boston Globe article entitled, “Generation Z seeks the kind of results that Republicans can bring to the table.“
In keeping with the theme of this blog, let me note that my comments aren’t completely out of school–authors John Olds and Samuel Garber raise education as one of four “Es” that young Americans care about: “entrepreneurship, education, the environment, and equality.” While I don’t know where “entrepreneurship” would poll among this demographic, I’d certainly agree with the other three.
On the topic of education, Olds and Garber might consider a trip back to school to brush up on critical thinking, argument, and debate.
For those outside the paywall or unable/unwilling to muster the energy to click through to the article, Olds and Garber begin:
As a generation born into endless foreign wars, tempered by a devastating financial crisis, and coming to maturity during a pandemic, Generation Z has a persistent yearning for any semblance of attention to the issues affecting young Americans. Throughout the past year, we have listened to and learned from our peers on the ground throughout the country and heard their complaints about our current state of politics. Our generation is frustrated that the political system does not care about them. Unfortunately, the byproduct of this sentiment has been a Democratic Party that feigns interest in us in exchange for our votes. The Democrats manipulate young voters with undeliverable promises such as free health care and free education even though these so-called solutions are not free, substantive, or even able to be implemented. The frustration of young Americans is not borne of innate progressivism; it is borne of a lack of choice. Over the past year, we have engaged with members of Generation Z across the country with town halls, grass-roots programming, and social media campaigns through the organization we cofounded: Gen Z Grow Our Platform.
My main objection will be one of asking for evidence, the foundation of making an argument. I won’t tread into the waters of what-about-ism, so I’ll just ask for evidence that the Democratic Party has a monopoly on feigning interesting in exchange for votes, manipulating voters, and the like. Readers interested in learning more might start with Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? I’ll certainly agree, however, that young Americans have a lack of choice.
Not that Olds and Garber are looking to conceal their partisanship, but I suspect that I’m not the only one to notice that “Gen Z Grow Our Platform” abbreviates to Gen Z GOP.
Young Americans feel ignored by political power structures. As Democrats pay lip service to their causes, Republicans are seen as antagonists. And through it all, the next generation of American leadership desires a good-faith engagement on the issues they care most about: entrepreneurship, education, the environment, and equality. These four policy areas have Republican-inspired solutions, but the party needs to communicate its position on these ideas and have a conversation around them to properly engage young Americans.
“… have Republican-inspired solutions as well as Democratic ones, but the party needs …” There, fixed it for you.
This generation has a deep desire to innovate and create the businesses of the future [ENTREPRENEURSHIP]. We want to be our own bosses and manage purpose-driven enterprises. Republicans have long supported the free market, but we have failed to share how those policies allow this generation to fulfill their dreams. The conservative movement has an opportunity to own this issue. It’s time to communicate the connection between market systems and personal independence. On policy, Republicans stand with the risk-takers and dreamers, but we must highlight this mission.
Generation Z is faced with an educational crisis: mountains of student debt and a general feeling that the EDUCATION system does not serve them adequately. Republicans must prioritize solutions that reduce the cost of attending college and prepare students for real life. Republican administrations have long spoken about the value of educational choice and academic freedom. Yet these messages and policies have not translated into narrower achievement gaps or a sense of hope. Republicans must address educational issues proposing real solutions to the issues families face. Conservatives can offer a pedagogy that prepares students for life and for the specific job they intend to hold upon graduation or the businesses they want to build, all while standing for free speech and the advancement of free thought.
As for addressing student loan debt, that’s an area in which the noise is all made by Democrats.
While Generation Z cares about the health of the natural ENVIRONMENT, many Republicans are continually sandbagged by climate change denial. While Democrats dominate environmental policy discussions with talk of a Green New Deal, Republicans cannot be unengaged. As Democrats posit doom, Republicans cannot offer denial. Generation Z seeks results, and Republicans can bring these to the table. The conservative movement should prioritize free-market solutions to climate change, propose common-sense pathways to a renewable energy future, and give some indication to Generation Z that they care about the global issue of our time. Republicans can put forward solutions that will actually work and be enacted.
It’s of course not fair to say that Democrats “posit doom”–the Green New Deal is all about positing a future that works. On the topic of the environment, we quickly find ourselves back on education’s turf. Namely, a belief in science.
EQUALITY is an important issue for Generation Z. Whether it be on the basis of religion, gender, race, or sexual orientation, young Americans are keenly aware of the inequalities that persist in our society. If the Republican Party is to be successful, we need to discuss how conservatism must offer equal opportunity in our economy, our workplaces, our communities, and for our families. A Republican Party that values inclusivity of races, voices, and identities is the only GOP that can win the hearts and minds of Generation Z. As cancel culture and “woke” politics pervade the national discourse, Republicans can occupy reasonable ground. Valuing equality of voices — conservative and liberal, traditional and nontraditional — is crucial and common sense.
The cancel culture extremes of the left are admittedly a reaction too far. But they are by far not the perspective of the left as a whole.
These four issue areas are the keys to success. Republicans and conservatives have the solutions, but we must talk about them. The defining feature of Republicanism can be a devotion to positive change for the next generation, or it can be a preoccupation with the past. As Gen Z Grow Our Platform refocuses its energy on these important issues, we intend to show Generation Z that the American right can meet them where they are and deliver real progress. John Olds is the executive director and Samuel Garber is the executive vice president of Gen Z Grow Our Platform.
If the American right can meet young Americans where they are and deliver real results, I’d be thrilled. America should aspire to a vibrant two-party system. We’re only one party away.
The article’s subtitle echoes the point above: “But the party needs to engage the next generation of leaders in good faith.”