Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Dangerous Appeal of Bernie Sanders and Socialism to Millennials– and the Anti-Opportunity Movement

To Americans who have lived through the Cold War, the very idea that a socialist is running for President of the USA is unimaginable.  After all, the country that ruled its population with an iron fist and denied their personal freedoms, killing over 20 million of its own citizens and threatening the extinction of America with thousands of nuclear missiles targeting us, was the USSR – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.[1]

This fact doesn’t appear to cross the minds of Millennials today; in a January 2016 survey conducted by YouGov, a shocking 43% of respondents under 30 expressed a favorable view of socialism, compared to only 32% who viewed capitalism favorably.[2]  They actually have a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism.  And, Millennials are “feeling the Bern”, supporting self-described socialist Bernie Sanders by wide margins over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries. Their generation apparently doesn’t give a second’s thought to the economic system that gave them things like their iPhones, computers, music, entertainment, advanced healthcare, and higher education - capitalism.  Socialism never did or ever could provide anything close. People chasing a profit, with the greatest economic opportunity ever afforded in the history of the world, is what drives these innovators to invent the ideas and technologies we take for granted everyday today.

The Dangerous Appeal of Bernie Sanders and Socialism to Millennials

Not to mention the fact that the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world has dropped by half over the past 20 years, dropping from 43% in 1990 to 22% today according to the United Nations.[3] This, thanks to the fall of the Soviet socialist empire and the benefits of capitalism and free trade. But if you tell this to a progressive young person, their eyes will likely glaze over with arguments at the ready about the supposed evils of capitalism and the benefits of socialism.  They are on the “Anti-Opportunity” train, attacking the free market and the economic opportunity it brings with their ideas of massive, central government control over education, healthcare, businesses and most every aspect of our lives.  

In an article written by OU professor David Deming, he notes that our youth’s attraction to Bernie Sanders is a symptom of our failure to educate them. He writes, Socialism is a dead end. For hundreds of years, it has failed everywhere it's been adopted…You don't have to be a student of ancient history to know socialism doesn't work. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was an unequivocal demonstration of the moral and economic superiority of capitalism. The misery caused by socialism is unfolding today in Venezuela. Since Venezuela embraced socialism in 1999, poverty, crime and corruption have all increased. Grocery shelves are empty and the annual inflation rate is estimated to be as high as 200 percent.”[4]  This is all true, of course, but you won’t find many college professors teaching these kinds of facts to their students today at the increasingly far-Left universities in America. They’re too busy bashing capitalism on a daily basis to ever consider defending it.

Capitalism, of course, also brings with it the chance of personal failure, and weeds out those ideas and visionaries who don’t have what it takes to compete and win in the market economy (and, rightly so).   Removing this capitalistic ideology will remove the chances of suffering failure – something almost half of Millennials apparently want to avoid at all costs – which, at the same time, also means removing the opportunity of success.  Yes, capitalism may seem “mean” and insensitive to some, because there ARE winners and losers, and that’s no very PC. However, capitalism also produces the best results by far compared to any other economic system.

Why are so many young people today so on board with socialism? They grew up being rewarded equally for most any effort; whether they won the race or came in last place, they got the same blue ribbon in school.   Winners often weren’t lauded because it might make the slower kids feel bad; when there are “winners” that means there must be “losers”, an anathema for Millennials. (This was NEVER the case in my years growing up, as an X-Gener).  The same went for almost every other endeavor they attempted - everyone, they have been told repeatedly, is a “winner”. Really?

The Dangerous Appeal of Bernie Sanders and Socialism to Millennials

Their progressive teachers, parents and coaches would have it no other way – they grew up to believe that they were entitled to almost everything they wanted, whether they worked hard for it or put in no effort at all.  They don’t just want equal opportunity, they demand equal results.  It’s just not fair if someone is smarter, stronger, faster, or harder working, everyone deserves the same damn blue ribbon, fair is fair.  To hell with the greedy champions and hard workers always stealing the spotlight.

Welcome to the making of a socialism here in America.

Bernie Sander’s “democratic socialist” agenda provides everything a Millennial could possibly hope for: free college education, no-cost healthcare, big government safety-net programs and extremely high taxes on the rich – to redistribute their wealth to others, including Millennials, who didn’t earn it.  At a cost of nearly $20 Trillion in additional new taxes, of course this can never, ever be paid for, but who cares?[5] It’s more free stuff!  The young generation today will be faced with paying the bill for this “free stuff” in the future that they won’t be able to cover, and they better brace for extremely tough times ahead if a politician like Sanders is ever elected to office. Bernie’s 90% taxes on the rich? How about 90% taxes on everyone and sky high unemployment rates??

Attacking the productive to “spread the wealth” to the unproductive is particularly appealing to generation who are living in their parents’ basements faced with some of the worst employment opportunities in decades for college graduates, and with the highest level of student debt in history.   Millennials want government to step in to “fix” the problem, never mind that one of the main drivers of the sky-high college tuition costs is directly attributed to the federal government itself and its limitless student loan guarantees.  This policy effectively gives colleges a blank check to increase tuition exponentially without penalty.  The students will just keep borrowing more to pay for it, as they have been doing, no matter the market value of their degree.

When young people listen to Bernie Sanders spout his firebrand ideas of a “democratic socialism”, they champion the idea of the European model of free college tuition. But, they fail to recognize that under this socialist system, only the very best students are granted entry to the universities, often chosen in their elementary school years, and they are told where they are going to college and what degree they will earn, at schools typically far inferior to American universities. The rest are placed in manual trades and labor disciplines of the government’s choosing, no questions asked. Their government will choose the winners and the losers.

If you can’t earn enough to get the apartment you want, no problem – the central government is there to save you.  But you will live where you’re told to live, and you have little choice in the matter.  You will get free (generally inferior quality) health care, and your doctor will be chosen for you.  It is the big trade off of giving over a very significant degree of your personal liberty to live in a “democratic socialist” society that takes away a big chunk of your freedom - and property in the form of high taxes - in return for the security of a nanny state to protect and support you cradle to grave.

Millennials have come to expect the kinds of freedoms they enjoy in America today, and are in for big shock when they find out that they can’t have all of the “free stuff” from the government without giving up the kind of choice and opportunity they now enjoy.  And, when they do decide that they want to pursue their dreams, they better be prepared to have the wind taken from their sails when they are forced to pay almost all of their earnings to the federal government as they penalty for their success – according to Bernie’s tax plan. 

The Dangerous Appeal of Bernie Sanders and Socialism to Millennials

The “democratic socialist” Scandinavian havens that Bernie Sanders admires so dearly have never landed a man on the moon, invented things like the combustible engine, electricity, the computer or mobile technology – there is just very little incentive to innovate when you know the central government will take most of your hard-earned profits to redistribute to people who never worked for it.   Why put in all the risk for so very little reward? 

Millennials are the generation who will be determining the future of our country, and with their heavily socialist leanings, the future looks grim.  Whether they realize it or not, their support of socialism translates directly to the “Anti-Opportunity” movement, removing economic and personal opportunity in place off massive socialist government programs – and government control.  Just wait until they really “feel the Bern” – the burning up their future.

Conservatives must provide a very convincing counter argument to instruct the young generation of the real dangers of socialism and the freedoms – and opportunity – they will forfeit if they don’t change course.  We need to better educate Millennials about the true nature of socialism and the inherent value and benefits of our capitalist economy. We must make “opportunity” the cornerstone of the new conservative movement, and we need to make socialism a dirty word, once again.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with the idea that socialism is a danger to America, and how do we better promote the value of capitalism to the Millennial generation?


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Capturing the Youth Vote: A Must for the GOP to Win in 2016

If you thought the youth vote was a problem for Republicans in 2008 and 2012, 2016 could be a nightmare.

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1999) number over 80 million and are the largest generation in 100 years. Accounting for roughly one-fourth of the total voters today—a larger voting block than seniors citizens—they are predicted to make up as much as 40 percent of the electorate by 2020.

Their size and scope as a generation cannot be ignored. They are now coming of age and beginning to take over the workforce. Soon, they’ll dominate American politics, too. 

The McCain and Romney campaigns largely glossed over the youth vote and paid the consequences. If either had one just 45 percent of the youth vote, they would have won their elections. Republicans do not need to win the youth vote, but we need a strategy to be competitive.

My business is marketing, and the GOP would be well served to take a business-driven look at what drives Millennial minds.

As Pew Research reports, “Millennials today are still the only generation in which liberals are not significantly outnumbered by conservatives.” Young voters continue to identify with the Democrat Party at relatively high levels and express significantly more liberal attitudes on a range of issues, from gay marriage, abortion, the environment, and the role of the federal government.

Republicans may not need to change their core beliefs, but the Party must take the time to understand how to understand the issues that young voters care about most about, how they see the world, and their media engagement habits and preferences.

With messaging, we need to be more specific.  

When it comes to politics, the “what works” principle seems to reign supreme in their minds. As an example, Pew has found that 53 percent of Millennials would prefer “Bigger government, more services,” as opposed to only 38 percent who prefer “Smaller government, fewer services.”

While this seems bad at first glance, the good news is that specific messaging might change this perception. A 2013 CRNC survey found that replacing vague warnings about government being “too big” with harder policy points was a good way to attract Millennials to the message and policies of limited government conservatives. We need to avoid clich├ęs and stick to practical policies that would help everyone.

Another example: in a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI), 55 percent of Millennials say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, vs. 42 percent who oppose. However, a National Journal poll showed that 52 percent of Millennials are in favor of banning abortions in the second trimester (after 13 weeks). 

Conservatives can win this controversial debate if we campaign on specifics. Running on banning late-term and pain-capable abortions is a winner, versus running on banning all abortions, which would lose Republicans significant support.

Beyond just messaging, Republicans also need to show up. We need to message to Millennials on their own turf.

Americans aged 18-to-24 consume 64 percent of their news online, and only 20 percent from television. Compare that to people to ages 55 and older consuming just 25 percent of their news online. Young voters have significantly less trust in traditional news outlets vs. online social media sites.

Conservatives are doing a great job reaching Republicans on Fox News, which older voters watch, but Republicans have no real presence in entertainment news. 39 percent of the Daily Shows regular viewers audience is younger than 30, the largest youth audience for any TV news program.

Republican candidates need to focus more on being heard and seen on shows that have online and social media reach. It may look ridiculous to older Americans for candidates to “slow jam the news” with Jimmy Kimmel, but those are the types of videos young voters watch.

Conservative media entrepreneurs should also consider investing in youth-friendly online videos or television shows focused on humor.  For TV news, it’s not necessarily that Millennials favor the “liberal take” on news and politics as much as the more appealing format of talk shows like The Tonight Show and The Daily Show.

If conservatives can create similar news programs with skits and jokes in this mode, and avoid the lecture-based news programming of today’s conservative programming, we may be able to get much bigger numbers of Millennial viewers consuming conservative viewpoints in the news.

Imagine recruiting Vince Va­­ughn or Rob Lowe to host a libertarian/conservative news show. That would be effective. While Republican candidates do not yet have access to these types of shows, we need to go into the lions’ den and appear on more liberal entertainment news more often.

Candidates who show up are more likely to win, and candidates who show up with specific, pragmatic, youth-focused messaging are what Republicans need to compete in 2016. If we do not start competing for the youth vote in 2016, we will be doomed as a Party by 2020.

What do you think, and what are your ideas and suggestions for the GOP to capture the support of this generation?