The U.S. House Republican Policy Committee, under the direction of Indiana congressman Luke Messer, recently held a hearing titled “Millennials and the GOP: Learning from America’s Emerging Leaders to Shape Tomorrow’s Republican Agenda.”
The hearing, which was also attended by Indiana congresswoman Susan Brooks, was chaired by a Millennial who holds a special place in history. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a 31-year-old graduate of Harvard University, is the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (full disclosure: Elise and I previously worked together at the White House, and I contributed to her 2014 campaign).
One day, we may look back at Stefanik’s hearing as a milestone moment for the future of the Republican Party – and perhaps for the country. It signaled that members of Congress are starting to get that despite the lack of political involvement of Millennials we are an increasingly potent force in America.
Typically called lazy, disengaged, narcissistic technology zombies with streaks of idealism, we are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the history of our country. And there is no doubt that with few exceptions, Republicans have struggled to connect with racially and ethnically diverse constituencies.
From an even broader demographic sense, sparking a conversation with Millennials is critical to the party’s 2016 success. There will be 8 million more voting age adults come next year than there are today. Politically speaking, that’s extremely important even though young people only accounted for 18 percent of the actual voting electorate in the last presidential election. And yet, we can still sway elections.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University (say it out loud; it’s a mouthful) reported that Barack Obama’s 2008 win in Indiana was thanks to under-30 voters. He won our demographic with 63 percent but lost every other age group.
We, as a generation, carried him to victory in the Hoosier State.
The story was similar in 2012 as well. If Mitt Romney had been able to pull young voters in the four key swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania, he would be president today.
Messer and Stefanik get this. The latter told journalist Ron Fournier of National Journal that she wants to “help Congress put together a vision and set of policies that resonate with my generation.” Doing so would not only be good for Republicans, but for the country, as well.
While Republicans are the ones who held the hearing, a dialogue with our cohort that leads to practical solutions to America’s challenges could deliver decades of dividends for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike as this conversation is about more than party, it’s about the future of America.