The millennial generation has been making quite the stir on the political scene. It started with the 2016 elections, when many millennials finally became old enough to vote. Their strident support for a 74-year-old socialist unveiled the extremely liberal economic opinions of a generation who entered the job market during the recession and have been facing low hiring prospects and mounting debts ever since. And their rally cries during #BlackLivesMatter protests, Marches of Science, and the iconic Women’s March only emphasized their liberal beliefs, this time showing they wanted equal social, as well as economic, opportunity.
And though, then candidate, Donald Trump won the presidential election by a 304-227 margin, 55% of 18-29-year-olds voted for Hillary Clinton (compared to the just 37% who voted Trump. Though there are many millennial and Generation Z’ers who hold conservative values, the overall trend of the country in the coming years, as the younger generations grow older and gain more influence, seems to be a steady turn left.
Congressman Drew Ferguson is one of the newest members of Congress. He was sworn in only six months ago to the congressional office of Georgia’s third district. The fact that he was elected only recently suggests he has a long political career ahead of him, one where he, along with his Republican colleagues, will be responsible for molding the party to appeal to these younger, more liberal generations.
His recent jump too, from the mayor of a small town in Georgia to representative of an entire district, gives him a fresh perspective on the Republican party’s agenda, and where they should and will evolve in the coming years. And though Congressman Ferguson’s beliefs definitely do not define the entire Republican party, they hint where the party could go in the coming years. Thus, I spoke with him about his stance on issues important to millennials and where changes to the party platform may occur.
Congressman Ferguson ran on family values conservatism in his 2016 election race. So when asked about the trend of some of the new generation to shift hard left, supporting a self-proclaimed socialist in the 2016 presidential election, the congressman acknowledged that “millennials are really struggling with the job market” and “that is one of the issues where America needs to do a better job of aligning the education system with the demands of a 21st century workforce.”
So how exactly is the Republican Party planning on getting millennials to cross over? Well if low job prospects seem to be the problem, Ferguson sees the solution in increasing funding for technical colleges.
“This got strong bipartisan support,” he said, referring to “the reauthorization of the Brookings College and Technician Act” which he “expect[s] to pass through the house next week.”
The Congressman hopes the bill, by increasing technical college funding, will give his constituents a higher education while offering manufacturers more workers.
On the Alt-Right
I continued with a question about the alt-right, how it shows potential for recruiting the next generation of conservatives and fixing the political imbalance of the younger generations, but seems to be doing so in what many see as a racist or white supremacist manner. The Congressman was quick to say otherwise.
“One of the mistakes that many people make is… To equate something like an alt-right movement or something that has a racist view with conservative leadership in any level of government. There is in no way that anyone who perpetrates any hate, isolationism, or racism has any place in any part of our society- whether it is on our Republican side or what we see on the Democrat side as well.”
But when asked, then, about how the current White House chief strategist was once on the executive board of Breitbart, the internet’s Mecca for the alt-right, or how the president once praised Alex Jones, an alt-right leader who also believes the government was involved in 9/11, Congressman Ferguson took a strong stance.
He said, “ When [people] start going into small corners with extreme movements, I don’t think that is the right thing to do.”
On under-representation in Congress
When it came to a specific question about how the Republican Party is compensating, if at all, for the under-representation of the younger generation in polls and in elections, Congressman Ferguson deferred to a semi-cliche, political answer, saying that having a “healthy economy, a strong growing economy, [being] safe, [and having] sound fundamental policies that will keep America in the forefront of growth and economic security going forward” are desires that all generations hold.
It seems then, that there is no concrete effort from the Republican Party, or Congress in general to alleviate problems specific and important to the younger generations. This makes sense. Democracy works so that the voters and their beliefs are represented. If millennials are not running for office and not voting, their policies and ideas get pushed to the backburner on Congress’ political agenda.
Take climate change, for example.A new poll by the University of Texas found 91 percent of millennials believing “climate change is occurring.” But when the Congressman was asked about his party’s initiative in diminishing the climate trend that will affect the younger generations the most, he cited companies that independently created “sustainable business models…that have a goal…to have a zero carbon footprint.” For him, “a good, strong environmental policy is important, but that cannot be at the expense of a growing economy that provides our citizens the resources they need to be productive and successful and to be able to give back.”
On the establishment
We then covered the establishment and millennials’ methods of trying to go against it. Congressman Ferguson, before he ran for office, was mayor of a city in Georgia, and thus a prominent member of the local Republican party. So when he announced his candidacy for the third district’s congressional seat, opponents were quick to brand him as the establishment’s choice. But Congressman Ferguson is insistent on correcting that belief.
“I certainly didn’t run as part of the establishment. Matter of fact, I ran for Congress because I had just lived through, as a mayor, as a business owner, and as a member of my community… The aftermath of massive job losses.”
However, interestingly enough, when asked for his opinion on candidates who tout their lack of experience as evidence that they are “outside the establishment,” the congressman said he believed that “anyone that sets out and says that I’m going to run for Congress or I’m going to run for state Senate… Those are the candidates that I find are the least productive. The ones that I find that are the most productive are the ones that… Understand their local government.”
It is a curious stance considering his party leader was the first president to hold no elected office before being sworn in.
And when asked if protesting might be an effective way to shift the establishment and a way for youth voices to be heard over the lack of voter and political representation, Ferguson felt otherwise.
“[Protests] are certainly part of the process and certainly in some esoteric way it raises the tension, but quite frankly I don’t see it as an effective way of changing policy,” he said.
Though it is still too early to tell how exactly the Republican Party will evolve in coming decades to appeal to this liberal younger generation, Congressman Ferguson’s answers may foreshadow the future Republican Party. A party that prioritizes technical colleges to create a workforce designed to head the next generation of manufacturing jobs. A party that seeks to brand itself away from the alt-right movement’s anti-establishment fervor and towards a symbol of economic and defense stability.
Congressman Ferguson believes that holding those two values, economic and defense stability, are a “common thread that runs through every generation.”
As the millennial and Z generations grow older and become more prominent taxpayers, workers, and members of society, Ferguson hopes their values will shift to prioritize that overall stability over equal opportunity. Only time can tell, however, if he will be right.