The Ripon Forum

Volume 52, No. 1

February 2018

In this edition

By on February 16, 2018

The Ripon Forum kicks off its 52nd year of publication with an examination of the American electorate as we begin 2018. Clearly, a lot has changed since this journal first appeared.  The nation is stronger and more prosperous, and the world as a whole is more peaceful and free.

And yet those who lived through and remember the 1960s no doubt find the political environment of today to be somewhat familiar.  Institutions are under attack.  Authority figures are mistrusted.  And challenges are arising both at home and abroad that pose a clear and present threat to our security.

Turbulence is certainly a watchword in Washington these days.  And chaos is a constant refrain among those in the mainstream media.  But the real question — and perhaps the most important consideration for both political parties as they look toward the mid-term elections later this year — is, “What do the American people think?”

Are their lives getting better, or are things getting worse?  Do they think the bottom has fallen out here in our nation’s capital as many in the media would have us believe?  Or is this the change they were looking for when they went to the polls in 2016?  What do voters think of the tax plan that was signed into law in December?  And what other issues are they most concerned about as they prepare to head to the polls?

To answer these and other questions, The Ripon Society asked veteran strategists David Winston and Myra Miller to gauge the state of the electorate as we start the year.  Among the pair’s findings: while the performance of the stock market is important, personal outcomes are key.  In other words, it doesn’t matter how high Apple gets if the cost of living is going through the roof.  Their analysis of the survey — and the advice they provide for policymakers — is worth a read.

Also worth a read is our examination of another part of the electorate that could hold sway at the polls this fall.  Generation Z — the name given to those Americans who were born after 1995 — now comprise 25% of the population in our country.  They outnumber Baby Boomers and Millennials combined.  Recent studies indicate their political influence is not only growing, but is already being felt.  According to Professor Jeffrey Brauer, the GOP has an opportunity to win their support because of their political leanings.  “78% of Generation Z identifies as liberal to moderate on social issues,” Brauer writes, “and 83% identifies as moderate to conservative on fiscal issues.”  In other words, members of Gen Z are classic centrist Republicans — something any member of The Ripon Society should be interested in, and something Brauer shines a light on in an essay.

Also shining a light on these young Americans is author and media expert Jack Myers, who looks at something any newsmaker should be interested in — namely, how a generation born and raised in the digital age gets their news.  Myers’ answer is not a promising one for any elected official accustomed to 30 second soundbites on the evening news.  “When asked to identify their two primary sources of news,” he writes of Gen Z, “the majority of this cohort name Instagram (29%), YouTube (22%), and Facebook (15%).”  Myers offers this cautionary note, as well:  “A warning for those politicians and their aides who embrace politics as usual: Gen Z has the strongest ‘BS’ filter of any generation. In other words, they can see right through the spin.”  We round out our coverage of Generation Z by going to the source, so to speak.  Kyle Chance, a senior at Miami University of Ohio and former intern at the Ripon Society, interviews six of his classmates — three Republicans and three Democrats — to find out first hand, “What Generation Z Thinks of Washington.”  Their words should be required reading for anyone who says younger Americans are out of touch and disengaged.

In addition to examining the American electorate and Generation Z, this edition of the Forum also features a “Red Ink Reality Check” by one of the leading voices for fiscal sanity in Washington, Maya MacGuineas, who provides an update on America’s exploding national debt and explains why this crisis is only going to get worse.  In our debate feature, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney squares off against government watchdog Tom Schatz in a discussion about lifting the ban on earmarks.  Professors Russell Mills and Nicole Kalaf-Hughes also share their own original research on the issue, while Miquel Howe of the Bush Institute shares his own take on the immigration issue and how the Army succeeds in “Creating One Out of Many.”  Finally, in our latest Ripon Profile, Governor Pete Ricketts discusses his first job, his accomplishment so far as the chief executive of Nebraska, and some of the challenges facing the people of his state.

We hope you enjoy this first edition of The Ripon Forum in 2018, we appreciate your readership, and we welcome any thoughts or comments you may have.

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

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