As a young Republican in liberal academia, I find it quite difficult at times to make political progress with my peers, especially other women on campus. Typically, young conservative females are viewed as regressive and willing to submit to “old white men,” while young liberal females are given credit for being independent trailblazers. Sandra Fluke is praised for demanding government funded contraception while Sarah Palin is mocked for fighting fiscal irresponsibility.
My problem is not with the different policies and political beliefs of each individual; I respect autonomous thinkers. I object to the fact that society deems Fluke a feminist leader while Palin, among other conservative women, are seen as accommodating to men. Sarah Palin herself ran against fellow Republican Governor Frank Murkoswki and his cronies (aka, a group of “old white men”) because she thought the state of Alaska needed better administration. The reality is, she would have fought anyone who was poorly governing her home state no matter their gender, color, or age.
Why is a woman only considered empowered and independent if she takes up the political agenda involving contraception and abortion rather than a gun? Yes, contraception allows a woman to take greater control of her personal life, but so does a gun! So what is the key difference here? Why can’t gun-toting girls be feminists, too?
You’re probably expecting an answer blaming cultural changes surrounding women. But that theory is tired, and is simply an excuse for not being able to capture the youth vote. As unsophisticated as it sounds, the reason the Republican Party isn’t resonating with young women is because the GOP just doesn’t seem cool. Do I think knowing how to shoot a range of weapons is cool? Absolutely. Do I enjoy seeing a fiscally responsible government? Of course! But even if these points resonate with other young people like myself, there is little marketing done to make those things trendy.
Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll probably see someone between the age of 17 and 28 with “Coexist,” environmentalist, and “Hope & Change” bumper stickers on their computer. Immediately identified as a liberal, others in the shop with similar views might strike up a conversation, begin to reconsider their views if undecided, or even decide to emblazon their own personal belongings with such paraphernalia. This is the most basic form of mobilization, but it is incredibly important and most effective among the youth group. As ridiculous as it sounds, we young people thrive on trends.
Meanwhile, you probably will not recognize me as a conservative in that same coffee shop, mainly because I have no physical label. For one, there are not a wide range of Republican accessories marketed, and those on the market tend to be rather bland and remind the youth of, well, “old white men.” Again, I have no problem with old white men, but for some reason young liberals don’t seem to think they are cool enough. (To all those who do not think old white men are “cool”, I submit Bill Murray and his awesome pants as evidence to the contrary.)
GOP: do you really want the youth vote? Give me catchy products. Distribute them on college campuses. Do whatever you have to do to make conservatism cool, because that’s how you’ll get mobilization. Get young people talking about the issues that matter, and maybe start with some products including Miranda Lambert lyrics: “GOP girls are made of gunpowder and lead.”
Elizabeth Marcello | William & Mary | @eliz_mariah