University Politics

Saffren: Young people prefer secularity, progress of human rights to socially conservative values

Young people are tired of the evangelical circus that has polluted the Republican Party since the heyday of Pat Robertson and the religious right in the 1970s.

In his speech in Gifford Auditorium last Thursday, Mike Huckabee tried to link radical evangelism with social equality.

“Dr. King held a Bible in one hand and the Declaration of Independence in the other and declared both Holy Scriptures share a message,” Huckabee said.

The former Arkansas governor was referring to the grossly hypocritical axiom that all men, or “God’s children,” as we like to fancy ourselves, are created equal. I guess God had too many kids.

Huckabee went on to say that, in spite of supposed universal equality, gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to wed and women shouldn’t be allowed to choose. The ex-pastor cited his biblical beliefs.

“Barack Obama did the same thing four years ago, why can’t I?” Huckabee said, referring to Obama’s once-denominational belief in the institution of marriage.

Since 2008, Obama and the Democrats have reversed their discourse. It was a pure political move, but undeniably savvy amid a rising groundswell of sociopolitical activism.

Welcome to Generation Y, where real human rights matter more than figments of evangelism. The GOP is still playing rhetorical catch-up.

Among millennials, secularity is hip. In a December 2012 research poll by the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans ages 18-29 said, “religion is not very important.” Twenty-five percent classified themselves as atheist or agnostic. Both are all-time highs.

In a December poll by Gallup, 70 percent of these young voters supported marital equality. Sixty-eight percent supported the legality of abortion.

Obama and the Democrats back both reforms.

Not coincidentally, the president won 68 percent of the 18-29 bloc in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012.

The demographic was roughly one-fifth of voters in both elections.

At the same time, the peril of the Republican Party is greatly exaggerated. It’s a media maelstrom to reassure the public that in a democracy, even the most established oligarchs could lose their throne.

In reality, Republicans and Democrats are working together to suppress dissenting parties, just as they always have. In the not-so-distant future, the GOP will win another presidential election. Hegemony will persevere.

Fortunately for the Republicans, in spite of the social renaissance, the economy is still the most significant and voluminous issue across the age spectrum. By taking on a socially moderate image, GOP leaders could frame politics as a crusade for conservative economics, an ideology many young people support.

At Syracuse University, the College Republicans eschew social rhetoric for economic rhetoric. They have about 30 official members. The College Democrats count roughly the same number.

But, in spite of virulent efforts by Republican spokespeople, conservatism is not dogmatic enough on its own anymore to repudiate the importance of social reforms.

In the golden era of conservatism in the 1980s, laissez-faire policies and national pride did successfully de-emphasize social reforms.

The civil rights movement was more than a decade old, allowing the economy and Cold War to take center stage. In his presidential campaigns, President Ronald Reagan hollowly promised a religious renaissance, just to satisfy his God-fearing constituency.

Now, much like in the 1960s, young people care about politics because they are weary of militarism and channeling their energy toward its antithesis: human rights.

Just like civil rights, same-sex marriage and legal abortion would grant real benefits to real people. When citizens get behind these reforms, they are hard to suppress in the name of something figurative.

It boils down to a simple question young people are now asking in public: What do stalwarts like Mike Huckabee gain by speaking out against the freedoms of other citizens?

For their party, nothing at all.

Jarrad Saffren is a junior political science and television, radio and film major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at



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