Former McCain policy adviser gives Republicans an urgent warning about the future of their party
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Many polls on the 2020 presidential race have found that President Donald Trump is much more popular among older voters, especially those who are white males, than he is among Millennials. But the GOP’s problem with Millennials goes way beyond Trump’s presidency: the Republican brand in general has problems appealing to Millennials. And GOP strategist Kori Schake warns fellow Republicans in a July 17 article for The Atlantic that their party will be at a serious disadvantage in the longrun if they don’t do more to win over Millennials.

Schake, now deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has a long track record in right-wing politics. She served as a senior policy advisor for the late John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, focusing heavily on foreign and defense policy. And before that, Schake served as deputy director for policy planning in the U.S. State Department under President George W. Bush.

In her Atlantic piece, Schake gives fellow Republicans some bad news: 59% of Millennial voters in the U.S. are registered Democrats — and in the 2018 midterms, Americans under 30 voted for Democrats “by a 35-point margin.” Millennials’ “rejection of the Republican Party,” Schake warns, “is not merely a short-term issue.”

There is a widely held belief that Americans grow more conservative as they age, which Republicans like to hear because Americans over 50 have been more likely to show up on Election Day. But Schake isn’t convinced that Millennials on the whole will necessarily be less liberal or progressive when they’re 50, 55 or 60 than they are now, and she stresses that it’s foolish for Republicans to “be complacent that young Americans will age into conservatism” because “there’s actually no evidence of the phenomenon.”

Schake gives fellow Republicans even more bad news in her article, asserting that “Americans under the age of 30” believe they have a long list of reasons to “revile” the GOP — from “the mistakes of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” to the Great Recession to “Trump’s behavior” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “refusal to vote on the Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland” in 2016.

“What we as a conservative movement look like to young Americans is old, white, male, bigoted and unprincipled — people who bray loudly at others breaking the rules but excuse ourselves doing so,” Schake warns.

Schake wraps up her piece by noting that for Republicans, how to win over Millennials is “the political question of the moment.” And while she isn’t overly specific in her recommendations, Schake advises that Republicans will have to find ways to talk to Millennials rather than at them.

Schake writes, “This argument about the future of conservatism will be won or lost not in the halls of Congress, but in Rotary Clubs and parish houses, city councils and school boards…. If we are to save conservatism as a political force in American life, we must all partake of it.”