How Republicans could start a conversation with Millennials

Republicans have a long way to go to make in-roads with Millennials. These young people between the ages of 18 and 34 don’t necessarily agree with the message that the party has put forward over the years, particularly on social issues.

But there are avenues through which Republicans can start a much-needed conversation with Millennials, and it starts with the controversy over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

April Glaser of the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted late last week that college students are taking action on their campuses in growing numbers to spread the message about what the NSA is doing to their civil liberties. This particular advocacy organization has been traveling around the country, visiting colleges and seeing overwhelming response to this controversy.

Of all the issues in the Barack Obama’s presidency, the NSA domestic surveillance controversy has been the one to stick in Millennials minds.

In May 2013, shortly after Edward Snowden’s disclosures dominated the news cycle, CNN found that President Obama, who has constantly defended the NSA programs, held a 63/34 approval rating among this age group. But the following month, his approval rating with young voters was underwater, at 48/50.

The trend has more or less stuck. For example, Pew Research Center found in January that 59 percent of young voters disapprove of the NSA’s domestic surveillance, the highest of any age group, and 57 percent believe that Snowden’s disclosures served the public interest.

A Fox News poll released just last week found that 63% of Millennials believe President Obama often lies to the country on important issues.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), have pushed for meaningful reforms that would bring an end to the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.

Paul, for example, has taken his message to conservative gatherings like CPAC as well as to college campuses, including UC-Berkeley, which is traditionally a hostile ground for Republicans. The message has resonated.

Unfortunately, the John Boehners, Lindsey Grahams, and Peter Kings of Republican Party continue to insist upon the status quo, highlighting the contrasts between the Old Guard of the party and the strain of libertarianism that’s rapidly gaining popularity.

Millennials may not agree with Republicans on every hot-button issue and their votes may still be a long way off, but the starting point for a conversation is there. In order to have this discussion, there needs to be a strong push to change the status quo. That’s a challenge that the Republican Party faces, and it’s one that its going to have to overcome.

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