Ted Cruz kicked off his presidential run on Monday with a speech at Liberty University. And while the Texas senator hailed liberty as the goal of his campaign, his view of liberty doesn’t comport with that of most Millennials.
Thomas Jefferson defined liberty as “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” That is a timeless sentiment with which most young people largely agree. Today’s youth increasingly support economic freedom, individual liberty, and a peaceful foreign policy.
Unfortunately, Cruz only embraces the same limited view of liberty as failed Republican candidates of the past.
Were Cruz truly a principled champion of free markets, he would seek to advance a more open immigration process, thus allowing worthy immigrant workers to freely trade their labor with American businesses. Instead Cruz makes Latinos the scapegoats of his attack on illegal immigration and grandstands about building a wall along the southern border.
Moreover, Cruz isn’t friendly to personal liberties, as are most forward-looking Millennials. The Texas senator wants to restore the Justice Department’s prosecution of non-violent marijuana users in states where it is legal, despite the fact that more than 60 percent of young Republicans support marijuana legalization.
Worse is the senator’s demagogic opposition to same-sex marriage. Almost 70 percent of Millennials support marriage equality.
The Millennial spirit is decidedly cosmopolitan and forward-looking; the principles of liberty happen to be so as well. But Cruz’s campaign seems to prefer a cloaked agenda of freedom for me but not for thee.
Forthcoming Democratic candidates who offer the same policies as the current administration won’t necessarily get a pass either. While Millennials largely supported President Obama in recent election cycles, they are trending less supportive of both Republicans and Democrats.
Harvard’s Institute of Politics recently found that young people aged 18-29 have “historically low” levels of trust in government, and 47 percent say that, given the chance, they would recall and replace the president. More specifically, the poll found concerns with Obamacare, government surveillance, and national debt — issues that neither party’s leading contenders are addressing.
Clearly, there’s a libertarian streak among Millennials, which means that the youth vote is up for grabs for the candidate who can offer policies that will draw down the failed war on drugs, reduce the deficit, and encourage more foreign diplomacy.
One potential candidate, who not only pays homage to the issues the Millennial generation cares about but also has a record to substantiate it, is Senator Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator has already sought youth support in earnest, having recently opened a tech office during South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Last month, Paul also addressed over 1,700 students from 50 countries at the annual International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C.
This is not mere posturing. As a senator, Paul’s record is one of reaching across the aisle to fight NSA snooping and prevent the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana users in states where it is legal.
On economic matters, Paul has introduced legislation to enforce a federal balanced budget, rein in unwarranted government rules that harm the little guy, and reduce the tax burden on the middle class.
And many young people still freshly remember Paul’s heroic 13-hour filibuster, which challenged the legality and broader constitutionality of the government’s use of lethal force, including drone strikes.
Rand Paul, unlike the rest of the political class in the Washington beltway, seems to understand that young people are averse to politicians who threaten social and economic freedom. They want a candidate who will make meaningful strides towards expanding civil liberties, free markets, and peace. The traditional talking points of both parties won’t appeal to Millennials—only deeply established special interests.
Regrettably, Ted Cruz, as well as the forthcoming Democratic presidential hopefuls, seem to offer the same illiberal menu of ideas that the growing Millennial voting bloc now rejects.
With Rand Paul’s expected entry into the presidential race, young voters may have found the candidate who identifies with their concerns.