NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Conservatives know they have a problem courting young and diverse people to their cause. At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) here near Washington, they're trying to figure out how to change that.
A panel on Thursday morning called "Reclaiming the American Dream: Millennials Look Toward Their Future" aimed to show how conservatives could reach out to a younger and more diverse crowd, and how young people could look to more conservative ideas and policies in their futures.
Three speakers — Ben Sasse, the newly elected 43-year-old senator from Nebraska; Mia Love, 39, the first-term African-American representative from Utah; and Charlie Kirk, a 21-year-old founder of Turning Point USA, a youth-centric, conservative-leaning organization — took turns batting around ideas.
Here were some of the points they repeatedly stressed in the panel.
1. Get more active.
Kirk cracked jokes about President Barack Obama's golf game and said that a "young person voting for a Democrat is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders." But the only way to change that, he said, is through actual action and organizing.
In 2012, he was at an Ohio State University football game, where he saw 11 Obama for America staffers "literally grabbing people by the collar" and registering them to vote. There's a misconception, he said, that young liberals are "invading" higher education. They're just better at organizing and advocating their message. If you're a conservative millennial, he said, you need to start doing more on that front.
2. Stop playing video games.
One way young people should not spend their time, however, is playing so many video games. Sasse cited research that said 18-to-24-year-old men play an average of 5.5 hours of video games a day.
"Our forefathers would have had questions" about whether that is "what a life lived well looks like," Sasse said.
Then, in qualifying, he dated himself.
"I’m not disparaging one month wasted your sophomore year in college on a Tetris addiction," he said. But he said it shouldn't be 5.5 hours every day.
3. Learn more history!
Sasse sounded like he wanted to make the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville — best known for his work "Democracy in America" — required reading.
"We have to know history if we're going to pass on freedom to the next generation," Sasse said.
4. Pick better soundbites.
Conservatives are losing "The Soundbite War," Kirk said. And young people are the perfect group to pick that up!
One person he met on a college campus suggested something simple: "Big Government Sucks!" It's now become the face of a campaign of Turning Point USA, his organization. And the hashtag is all over the place among the CPAC crowd.
"Young people are starting to be able to experience the fruits of the free market," he said.
5. Don't think you have to fit a stereotype.
Love is an atypical Republican: young, a woman, and black. She said she faces skeptics all the time.
She lost her election in 2012. She won in 2014. But she said she doesn't believe either result was due to her race or gender.
"I was not elected based on my color or gender — but my exceptional policy I have done in Utah," Love said.
Young conservatives should get out of their comfort zones. She said she was advised against going to speak at a university in Minnesota because "these people love Barack Obama, and they're going to hate me and eat me alive."
One woman asked her: How can you be a Republican? In her response, she invoked Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I refuse to fit this mold that society says I need to fit into," she said. "Imagine if people like Martin Luther King decided to take that government said he was a second-class citizen. We wouldn't be here today."
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.