If it wasn’t abundantly clear looking at the 2022 midterm election results, Republicans have a young-voter problem.
Both Democrats and Republicans are relatively gerontocratic when it comes to the lawmakers representing them. But Democrats have a large advantage when it comes to actual support from young people. And right-wing organizations targeting youth, like Turning Point USA, market themselves as Generation Z whisperers but don't seem to have much to show for it.
In fact, some of their youth outreach — like Turning Point USA's “urban engagement activism kit” — is evidence of how futile the GOP’s efforts truly are at the moment.
Given that reality, it’s no surprise that GOP elites are devising ways to blunt the impact of the youth vote.
In audio obtained by progressive activist Lauren Windsor and published Wednesday, prominent conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell can be heard complaining to Republican donors about the ease of voting access on college campuses. Neither NBC News nor MSNBC has independently verified the audio.
Mitchell, you may remember, advised former President Donald Trump on his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. She was on Trump's Jan.2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump pressured the state's top election official to "find" enough votes to declare Trump the winner of the presidential election in Georgia.
In the newly released audio, reportedly recorded April 15 at a private GOP donor retreat, Mitchell warns that Georgia Democratic voting rights activist Stacey Abrams “has been in North Carolina." She can be heard saying “statutory changes” (i.e., laws) will be needed to prevent money from “flowing into” three Democratic-leaning counties in the state.
Mitchell, a longtime Republican strategist, calls on her audience to look at the "young people effort" to vote, lamenting that polling places are too close to dormitories, which allows students to simply "roll out of bed, vote and go back to bed."
The Washington Post obtained Mitchell's 50-slide presentation for the donor retreat, which focused on curbing voter access on college campuses and promoted other ways to suppress votes, including curbing same-day voter registration. It's unclear whether she delivered the presentation exactly as it was prepared. She did not respond to the Post's request for comment.
I know some Republicans these days give us ample opportunity to label them as “cartoonishly evil,” but discussing ways to make it harder for young people (which many students are) to take part in the democratic process is almost too on the nose.
Mitchell claims “election integrity task forces” are needed to fight this alleged scourge of … students casting ballots. (And when conservatives say “election integrity,” they almost always mean things that make voting more intimidating or difficult.)
It’s part of a trend. As Neil Vigdor wrote for The New York Times in late March, Republicans nationwide are pushing for laws that are likely to restrict the student vote if and when they're enacted, all while taking measures to suppress other voter groups that often favor Democrats — like Black and Indigenous voters.
Mitchell’s remarks ought to be played for students and other young people across the country. It shows how fearful Republicans are of a political movement led by youths.
Apparently, Republicans are all out of ideas on how to reach young people. Somehow, aligning themselves with antisemitism-spewing Kanye West and Twitter troll-in-chief Elon Musk didn’t work. Court fights meant to keep students saddled with college debt haven't helped either. Nor has overturning federal abortion rights, or using bigoted talking points to target a mega-popular social media platform.
So it’s apparently back to basics for the Republican Party: that is, simply finding ways to restrict voter access.