It’s a Good Thing We Care About Social Issues

Ronna McDaniel speaks before a 2016 Republican presidential primary debate in Detroit. // Credit: AP.

Ronna McDaniel speaks before a 2016 Republican presidential primary debate in Detroit. // Credit: AP.

The Georgetown Institute of Politics and the College Republicans brought the Republican National Committee Chair, Ronna McDaniel, to Georgetown to talk to students where she was supposed to deliver “The Republicans’ Case to Millennials”; incidentally, that was also the title of the event. Ronna McDaniel’s full name is Ronna Romney McDaniel. She is the niece of the former Governor of Massachusetts and the current rumoured candidate for Utah Senate, Mitt Romney. She is also the former Michigan Republican Party chair and, according to her, the reason President Trump chose to spend time in Michigan, one of the states that ultimately brought him to the White House. She was also the one who sounded the alarm on the concerns of the white, middle class voter in Michigan and advocated for the party to pursue them in the general election. She appears to be the perfect figure for the Republican party and their current issues. However, when it comes to being the perfect representative for selling the Republican party to millennials, she falls short.

One of the biggest inner battles I have had this year was how I was going to treat President Trump voters. I can wrap my mind around voting for him because of his economic policies, but I still struggle with the fact that by voting for him they validated everything he has explicitly said about women and implied about minorities. However, I was talking to my friend this summer and she said something that helped me reevaluate my opinion: “If I was unemployed and in desperate need of work, I don’t think I would be thinking about social issues either.” What my friend said aligned almost perfectly with something McDaniel said at the event: “I know you guys, a lot of college kids care about social issues. Let me tell you, when you are going bankrupt and you are losing your home and you are having to move out of the state you grew up in and you loved, you’re thinking, ‘How am I going to eat?’”

I know I am incredibly privileged to not worry about simple necessities. I am the first one to admit it. In the case of the average Trump voter, I don’t agree, but I can comprehend why they would prioritize their jobs over some speeches given by President Trump. However, my saying “some speeches” underestimates the severity of the sentiments President Trump has expressed in the same way that McDaniel undervalued the importance of “social issues.” If McDaniel is the representative of Republicans, then Republicans need to stop acting like social issues are just minor issues that we on the left only use to get riled up about but will easily push aside when more serious matters come around. Social issues are not trivial. The very nation that the Republican party proudly proclaims as their own and that they adamantly defend against any peaceful protests was founded on a social issue: the problems of inequality. Centuries later, we are still fighting against this same matter. Our prison proportions are too skewed toward minorities, there is segregation in the workplace and graduation rates are not even close to demonstrating equality. I would think that the Republican Party would be happy that the next generation of voters and civic activists are paying attention to these issues that are plaguing our country.

However, perhaps it is unfair of me to not recognize McDaniel’s point: the Republican party helps you survive better than the Democratic party and their concentration on social issues. Yet in this past election cycle, the Democrats proposed reforms to Social Security, paid maternity leave, an increased number of affordable housing options and helping workers. If aiding individuals retire and families grow, allowing people to find housing and ensuring workers are treated properly isn’t helping people survive, and not only survive, but live, I am not quite sure what more McDaniel wants the Democratic party to do.

Still, she may have meant that Republicans are planning to create jobs while Democrats concentrate on social issues. The Democrats proposed a plan to revitalize the country’s infrastructure and also create thousands of jobs. They also proposed an increased investment in the technology job sector as well as in work for young Americans. They also believe in decreasing foreign imports and in encouraging small business, popularly known Republican ideals. When both party platforms are read side by side, the two parties look very similar in terms of their plan for job growth. Democrats seem to care about jobs just as much as Republicans. Now, the reality of whether they carry out the platform is another debate, but when making the case to young people should be about the party’s original ideals. The assumption should be that we then go out and carry out those ideals better than our predecessors.

McDaniel treated social issues as though they were something that millennials would easily toss aside once we left college, as though they didn’t fit into the real world. However, that is the very issue we are trying to address. Social issues need to be taken seriously and I think the other generations running the parties should recognize that. Thank god millennials do.