A memo to young Republicans

Build a new party
By Sam Patten | Feb 18, 2021

What do you tell the rising generation — the ones graduating from college in year or two — when the landscape around them has been scorched to ash? I’m not talking about young Syrians or Sudanese, but rather young Republicans.

They are coming of age with a political identity heavy with stigma. There was once such a thing as the Nixon youth, but their baggage was considerably lighter.

Earlier this week, I spoke with the Colby College Republicans — a registered campus club — by Zoom. A little over a year ago, I talked to their Orono counterparts who got themselves unregistered (we related on this) and thrown off campus, so we met in Pat’s Pizza.

Both groups were relatively small, but the most recent one struck me as really swimming up current, because of everything that’s happened in the last few months.

In the last week alone, the last Republican president was acquitted, but your senator voted to convict, conservative radio show icon Rush Limbaugh died, the retired general probing the Capitol security breakdown last month called rising GOP star Josh Hawley a “little piece of s*** who should be run out of town and disbarred,” and Ted Cruz actually did skip town ice-stricken Texas for a Cancun holiday.

Morale is low right about now.

The topic of my talk was a quote by the late Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg about politics ending at the water’s edge, so our discussion had little to do with the parlous state of affairs for Republicans today.

I felt bad the next day when I realized I hadn’t left them with any aspirational thoughts for the dark months, and perhaps years, ahead should they stick with the GOP — provided it doesn’t implode. What should I have said to offer them hope?

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have said three things:

First, don’t be a target. Fury at Trump will be slow to cool and as we learned Jan. 6, he’s not great when it comes to backing up own his supporters. Dump Trump and don’t carry on his grievances in place of issues. Ditto for the new congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene who became spokeswoman for the party exactly how? Move swiftly to the next thing.

Second, there’s a lot of room right now for a smart opposition. As the latest stimulus soars towards $2 trillion in new borrowing, there will be many opportunities to challenge the wisdom of big government solutions. Also, unlike in Vandenberg’s time, differences in politics no longer end at the water’s edge. How tough are we being on China? Or Iran?

Third, it’s your party now. I asked a friend of my son who identifies as Republican why he does, and he didn’t skip a beat before saying “limited government” — the same thing I usually say. He went on to list a few other logical reasons and it struck me different people approach politics in distinct ways.

For some logic is key, for others it is feeling. But, this young man was quick to point out, in the Age of Trump plenty of feeling was injected into the right as well. The rising generation should say what it wants out of the Republican Party, if in fact it wants anything at all.

If we were talking about an actual party, as opposed to a political one, we’d probably agree the house has been trashed so badly, it’s better everyone take off in different directions for awhile and lay low.

Of course I’m kidding, conscientiousness can be a trait among conservatives.

There is little to be gained in laying down litmus tests about the past. Some activists in the party in Maine are mad at Susan Collins for voting to convict Trump of incitement. One wrote to me after my last piece last week to say “it (incitement) never happened.” They can make their case respectfully, and she can listen respectfully. But in the end, Trump was acquitted, so it’s a theoretical argument at best.

Let young Republicans keep thinking about what the party should like now. The bar’s pretty low, and chances are they’ll impress us.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at waldo.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at waldo.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (2)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Feb 19, 2021 14:39

If the Donald was still in power he would be there tossing flashlights and books of matches to the crowds.



Posted by: Susan Reider | Feb 19, 2021 14:15

Limited government works great until it doesn’t. Ask anyone you know in Texas except Rick Perry if they’d rather accept federal help or live without power for 5 days and have their pipes burst. Of course the first thing Greg Abbott did after blaming the power outage on Democrats was ask Joe Biden for help.



If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps