Ramesh Ponnuru: Millennials and the Libertarian Moment
Pace Senator Rand Paul, it’s not clear that Millenial generation (those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) is necessarily becoming more libertarian, writes political analyst Ramesh Ponnuru.
Senator Paul has become the poster child for Republican outreach to young libertarians. As Ponnuru notes, a New York Times Magazine opinion piece on the topic featured the Senator’s picture. That article, written by Robert Draper, suggested that, because of the tendencies of Millennials toward liberal social views as well as unhappiness over the ongoing war in the Middle East and the government’s growing disregard for individual liberties, they might find the libertarian movement attractive. Draper questioned if it would be possible for the Republican Party to attract more millennial voters by adopting some libertarian viewpoints, suggesting that relenting on issues such as gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana while maintaining a strong stance on individual liberty might expand the party’s reach.
Although the Times Magazine article depicted Paul as the ambassador to libertarians—one photo caption noted, “Rand Paul is to the libertarian movement what Pearl Jam is to rock, according to one prominent libertarian”—Ponnuru points out that he did not perform exceptionally well among young voters when elected. Senator Paul received 56 percent of the vote in the 2010 election, but earned only 48 percent of the “under-30” vote. Compared to young votes earned by other Republicans elected that year, such as Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri with 44 percent, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio with 45 percent, and Senator John Boozman of Arkansas with 51 percent, it is not all that impressive.
Additionally, a comparison of the the under-30 vote to the senior vote for the four Senators further undercuts the argument that Senator Paul does significantly better among the young. According to Ponnuru, “If Paul had a distinctive appeal to young voters, his gap should have been significantly smaller.” Senator Paul, however, earned 10 percentage points more from senior voters than young ones, while Representatives Blunt and Boozeman 12 points, and Representative Portman 16 points.
While granting that Senator Paul may be more successful with young voters than other candidates in the 2016 Presidential election, Ramesh Ponnuru concludes, “In its one electoral test so far, though, Paul’s brand of Republican politics has done roughly the same as the generic version.”
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