Young Republicans seek a new kind of party
Reflecting an Obama age, they want more diversity and pragmatism, less partisanship.
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In San Francisco, Jenniffer Rodriguez – young, Hispanic, and a lapsed Democrat – is creating the country’s first Republican election central. It’s a blogging, broadcast, and policy center smack in the middle of what she calls the “bluest of blue cities.”
At the University of Georgia here in Athens, Steven Lee, the son of Korean immigrants, spends his days at the Student Learning Center blogging at TheNewRepublicans.net about how the GOP can take advantage of an electorate clamoring for realpolitik instead of partisanship.
More inspired than dejected about the meteoric rise of Barack Obama to the presidency, young Republicans, often working from state capitals in the Democratic heartland, are mounting an ideological and technological insurgency to change the course of the GOP.
Their goal is to use lessons from the historic 2008 drubbing to tie political pragmatism, diversity, and idealism to traditional conservative values like small government and low taxes. Their aim is to broaden the Republican base and ensure its relevancy as a national party. Winning that internal debate over the party’s future, though, won’t be easy.
“I think young people could play a very central role in creating a more moderate and more pragmatic Republican notion of conservatism that is about change, but about change that is more consistent with traditional Republican principles,” says Professor Michael Delli Carpini, an expert on generational differences in politics at the University of Pennsylvania. “The Republican party has to figure out what it’s going to be, and you can see that battle taking place right now ... and young people can be very influential in [that debate].”
With only about a third of the under-30 crowd voting Republican in the Nov. 4 election, and Democrats opening up a 19 point lead in party affiliation among 18 to 29-year-olds, the GOP has rapidly – and, some in the party fear, irreversibly – lost ground among younger voters.
Mr. Obama’s unique political personality played a huge role in that transformation.