If I said a year ago that a pro-life Trump-supporter would be Gen Z’s first member of Congress, you would think I was crazy. But with 25-year-old Madison Cawthron’s win in the Republican primary in a heavily Republican Congressional District, he will be the first Gen Z-er in Congress.
Cawthorn speaks of his own personal story of overcoming adversity, after a car crash paralyzed him from the waist down. Gen Zers are able to sympathize with him succeeding in spite of a personal tragedy. However, one thing many Gen Z-ers might not relate to as much are Cawthorn’s political beliefs. Unlike Cawthorn, who is a Trump supporter, over 70% of Gen-Zers do not approve of President Trump. Furthermore, while 54% of Gen Z-ers believe climate change is caused by human activity, Cawthorn is a climate change skeptic.
However, Cawthorn still represents a significant portion of Gen Z. Nearly a quarter of Gen-Z identifies themselves as Republicans. As Gen Z becomes a larger part of the American electorate, this quarter could have a major impact on directing the future of the party. So, by looking at the different policies through the eyes of the younger generation of Republicans, we can see how the party might change its views on certain issues.
How Gen Z Republicans are Different
On a philosophical level, Republican Gen Z-ers want a more active government in solving problems. 52% of Gen-Z Republicans want the government to play a bigger role in solving problems compared to only 23% of Baby Boomer Republicans and 12% of Silent Generation Republicans. Given this, its possible that Gen Z Republicans may change the trajectory of the party and push for a larger government.
In addition, there are other issues on which Gen Z Republicans have a different stance. For example, on the issue of race, 43% of Gen-Z Republicans say that black people are treated as lesser than white people, compared to 20% of both Baby Boomer and Silent Generation Republicans. Furthermore, Gen Z Republicans are also more likely to say that climate change is caused by humans compared to older generations.
One reason why Gen-Z Republicans might have these views is because of the different world that our generation grew up in. On the issue of race, due to the widespread use of phone cameras, Gen-Z has been able to witness through video African Americans being unfairly treated everywhere, from the grocery store to the street. Gen Z also grew up with a different education system, one that teaches more about human impact on the climate. They see that it can be a major economic and security issue for our generation. So, they see the need for the government to play a bigger role in addressing this major problem.
Because of these differences, when younger Republicans start to have more influence on the policies of the Republican party, the party might have to adopt some of these viewpoints. Furthermore, due to Gen Z overall having more nuanced views particularly on race and gender, Republicans will eventually be forced to cater to these views in order to appeal to younger voters.
Younger Republicans Politicians are Already Proposing Different Policies
Certain young Republican politicians have already shown how they are different from their older counterparts. For instance, Congressman Matthew Gaetz, a Millennial who regularly goes on Fox News to defend President Trump, proposed the “Green Real Deal”. This resolution acknowledged that climate change is a threat to national security and urges the government to promote the reduction of CO2 emissions. With older Republicans who might not even acknowledge that climate change exists, Gatez’s resolution marks a potential generational shift within the Republican party on climate change.
Madison Cawthorn also has differing views on certain issues compared to senior members of his party. Most notably, Cawthorn supports the removal of Confederate Statues as these confederate generals should not be honored since they were “on the wrong side of history”. Unlike older Republicans who still see these statues as a symbol of their heritage, Cawthorn represents Gen Z’s different attitudes on issues of race. He also represents Gen Z’s different attitudes on same-sex marriage through his support of it, while many older Republicans still do not.
Furthermore, Cawthorn has some suggestions on ways in which the Republican party can change its own messaging in order to appeal more to Gen Z-ers. He wants the party to have more positive messaging on issues such as immigration and healthcare. He says that current Republican messaging doesn’t “make people feel good about them or explain to people why this does good.”
Younger Republicans definitely have their own views on certain issues, such as climate change and race. Because of their positions, younger Republicans in Congress have already shown the divide between them and the more traditional members of their party. As Gen Z transitions into members of society with the power to vote, young Republicans are more likely to influence the party’s policies and strategies.
Alex Dray is a Senior at Ransom Everglades in Miami, Florida. He is involved in his school’s Speech and Debate, cross-country, and track teams. He also serves as a representative for his grade on Student Government. When away from school, you could find Alex biking with his friends or volunteering for a political campaign. His passion to find out ways to improve the world drives him in what he does. He recognizes that previous generations have created many problems that Gen Z is going to have to deal with and solve. For that reason, Gen Z Identity lab interests him— it is a place where Gen Z can discuss the problems they see and propose solutions.