Election night. The air was vibrating with jubilation at the GOP after-party. The Doubletree Riverside was packed with raucous conversation, laughter, and congratulations for yet another Republican win. Jonathan Parker is the face of young Republicans in Idaho. Parker struted the room, a can of Mountain Dew in hand, a beaming smile bright enough to attract moths. As the 31-year-old executive director for the Young Republican Party of Idaho, he has been working from sun up to sun down for the past three months.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, but haven’t always been involved in politics. I’m the first one in my family to be involved. My grandpa was actually a union Democrat,” says Parker.
Statistically, young Americans are disengaged in politics. According to The Third Millennium, only one in ten voters are between the ages of 18-29.
Why this interest in the election among these young Idahoans? What issues resonate with them to lure them out late on a Tuesday night?
Parker said it's fiscal responsibility, “The stereotype of the Republican Party as being dominated by old, white men is being changed by the young Republicans. We’re trying to get everybody involved as an inclusive group and especially in the past few years we’ve seen our membership grow to people who are really concerned about the deficit. Our parents’ generation is not going to have to pay for this deficit, we are, and we’re seeing more people getting involved and taking a more active role in politics in Idaho.”
A young couple, each 20-years-old, who wished to remain anonymous said, “I think most of the young people I know, Republican and Democrat, are mostly concerned with the state of the economy. No one wants to be jobless right when they get out of college on top of having a huge student loan to pay off. We’re Republican because we think that money issues are taken seriously by our party.”
“I never gave a rip about elections until two years ago. I figured that Idaho is always Republican, so what does it matter? But now with the recession, every vote can count for something and I want my vote to be with the guys who will fight for tax breaks and self-reliance. I want my money to help me before helping a starving family in India,” says Joanna Barry, a 22-year-old student at Boise State University.
Are these guys and gals regurgitating the party line? Parker can’t stand a blind follower. “It’s actually one of my pet peeves that young Republicans and young Democrats just do whatever their parents or grandparents did and they really haven’t researched the issues or researched the candidates to really find out what they believe. On both sides they’re indoctrinated.”