The GOP Needs to Reach Out to Young Tech Entrepreneurs

The party needs to get past the anger of the late ’00s.

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Eye-rolling young people and minorities who are feeling put off by GOP rhetoric are among the focus points of a new program that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released yesterday (you can read the report, including the surprisingly candid acknowledgement of youthful eye-rolls, here).

As any psychologist will tell you, you can't solve a problem until you admit you have one. And Priebus' "Growth and Opportunity Program" (whose winking acronym is of course GOP) begins by acknowledging the Republicans' problem, particularly at the federal level. (Unfortunately, now the party is going to have an acronym problem as people start writing about the GOP GOP.) The document contains a litany of electoral and demographic warning signs, such as the loss of four of the last six presidential contests.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

As significant as this acknowledgement and program may be, the RNC is not exactly on the leading edge here. For decades, Republican campaign strategists have been urging policy leaders to factor the shifting demographic landscape into their agendas. But these efforts, which began in the 1990s all seemed to whither under the anger that defined so much of the late '00s. It reached a point that if you were a Republican attending an ethnically diverse social gathering outside of the Beltway during the past few years, you were probably more than a little sheepish about acknowledging your party affiliation.

The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago captured the tone of many young, digital entrepreneurs who want to see the party become more relevant. I discussed that article and with one such leader over coffee the other day. "If I could make one change for the GOP," my friend said, "I'd camp out in coffee shops in places like Silicon Valley and Boulder." He said he'd try to recruit people to work in the party who are working in the tech industries or who are graduating not as activists but entrepreneurs. Interestingly enough the program announced Monday includes a vigorous outreach component.

Maybe, if the conversations in those coffee shops include lots of listening, this GOP GOP effort will lead to a significant renewal for the party. There are a lot of Republicans in battleground states who hope so. If not, GOP leaders should prepare for more eye-rolling.

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