Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton accused the Republican Party of trying to suppress the youth vote. In a speech to a group of progressive college students, Clinton said, “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.”
Even if we believed Clinton’s unfounded characterization of Republicans, it’s clear that it would be a bad strategy for the GOP. Let’s hope the RNC isn’t asking Bill Clinton for any strategy memos.
The data show that Republicans would be wise to do all they can to encourage young voters to turn out in the 2012 elections. Indeed, a new poll out last month showed that 44 percent of young adults aged 18 to 29 disapproved of President Obama’s handing of youth unemployment, with only 31 percent approving. The president’s upside-down numbers on the issue that ranks far above all other issues on the priority list for young voters could put the “Obama generation” in play next year. The youth vote that seemed so enamored of Barack Obama in 2008 may just turn away from him in 2012.
In the same survey, 61 percent of young voters said they would place a higher priority on a presidential candidate’s policy positions and record than on the candidate’s charisma and likability — perhaps another blow to the Obama they once adored.
For all the hype about the youth vote in 2008, turnout of 18-to-29-year-olds was only two points higher than it was in 2004 — and one point lower than when President Clinton was first elected in 1992. Clinton’s current rhetoric about suppression of the youth vote is not only unfounded but also gives us insight into Democratic tactics heading into the presidential election. Democrats are so concerned after being swept out of power in the House in the midterms that they are extending the scare tactics that they used against seniors in 2010 to young people in 2012.
From students facing college graduation in the coming years to young professionals maneuvering through the early stages of their careers, members of our generation have one priority: JOBS. Young voters are looking for a candidate who can get our country back on track and start creating jobs. And with the president’s poor performance on the economy, Republican candidates have a real chance to capture this demographic in the 2012 elections — but only if they offer a clear vision, a real plan and the hope for change we can truly believe in.
Rachel Hoff is a young Republican activist based in Washington, D.C.