As a Republican, I’ve heard the old axiom, “learn as a liberal, live as a conservative” about ten million times. It’s always served as a handy explanation for why the Democrats’ activist base looks so much younger than ours in the GOP.
Knocking thousands of doors as a grassroots canvasser is a younger person’s game. That’s certain. And Democrats deliver the human horsepower while Republicans often accept “learn as a liberal” as a ready-made excuse for why we’re constantly out-numbered in the field.
Frankly, the math behind this belief has never added up. America is a Center-Right nation and while “Socialism” is enjoying a brand zenith right now, the ideology behind it is still out of favor.
Surveys indicate that “Socialism” is in vogue with 42 percent of Americans age 18-29. But still, even among young people, “Capitalism” wins with 52 percent support. In campaign terms, that’s a landslide.
Even better, if you drill down and ask about their support for a “government managed economy” versus a “free market economy,” the free market wins huge, 64 percent to 32 percent.
So where in the world are all these young, conservative activists? Because the math of their non-existence makes no sense.
The answer could be pretty simple and a recent Harvard study may have shed some light. This study showed that while 60 percent of Millennials support American troop deployment against ISIS, self-described Republicans outnumber self-described Democrats almost 2.2 to 1 in their willingness to join the military and fight the fight personally.
So while many 18 to 29-year-old Leftists show their patriotism by knocking on doors in places like Denver and Philly, many of their political counterparts will be knocking doors in cities in places like Afghanistan and Iraq this year as members of the Armed Forces.
Ok, so members of the military are disproportionately Republican. That ain’t news. True. But the notion that these folks are a major part of the Right’s “grassroots activist class” kind of is.
While we do have our cadre of strong, young activists stateside, who are moving mountains on behalf of GOP candidates and causes, it’s very interesting to contemplate the ramifications of many of their brothers and sisters demonstrating their love of country by serving overseas.
Here’s what’s really interesting. As you’re thinking to yourself, “Way to figure this out Captain Obvious: the military is a hotbed of Republicanism. Not shocking.” But it’s not so simple. There are a few major aspects to the military that should make it very not Republican. One is age—it’s really young. The second is diversity—the military is more diverse than the nation as a whole.
Almost 73 percent of the 1.3 million serving on active duty (that’s almost 950,000 people) are under the age of 30. Only 5.6 percent are 41 or older. And while Anglos make up 78 percent of the population overall, they’re only 69.7 percent of the military.
So, soldiers are Millennials. They’re diverse. And according to a November 2015 Rasmussen survey only 3 percent of them have a “very favorable” opinion of Hillary Clinton. Wow.
What this indicates is that they’re not just predisposed to vote Republican. It shows that they see their world clearly, live by a code, and they take action. That’s an activist mindset.
For Republicans it gives us hope that our ideology isn’t on the endangered species list. In fact, our ideals have strong support among our nation’s young people.
At Stampede Consulting, we recruit young veterans. Our 2016 mission is to train and deploy 1,000 of them as full-time, professional canvassers in battleground districts across America. Why we do this can be best explained in the words of a few heroes, who work for us.
Dewayne Gill, a Navy veteran, who walked away from a full ride academic scholarship to college to enlist after 9/11 offers this: “I did not come from a military family, but I felt as if the future of my country, my home, should come first. I felt that I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t serve when I was needed most.”
Marine Gunnery Sergeant (Ret.) Jason Willette has more insight: “Many from the younger generation join because their upbringing is usually from a conservative background and they’re enlisting to defend the dream of America. These young Republicans are defending the 1st Amendment and making our whole political process possible.”
Even more encouraging for GOP campaigns, the pool of men and women exiting the service is not the only easily identifiable reservoir of talent for young people who share our values. We can also find them within the “feeders” for the military—like JROTC programs.
The reason is that young people who express an interest in the military in high school will over index towards being ideologically similar to those who actually enlist. They’re cut from the same cloth.
For GOP campaigns, your army of young activists is out there. Now that you know where to look. Go win.