The GOP really wants to attract young voters, but instead of changing its political agendas, it's settling for a simpler approach: selfies. At last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), politicians learned what the little black dot at the top of their iPhone does as Republicans embraced the selfie. You might say that letting young Republicans who already support them take a photo will do very little for their appeal among young folks.
The CPAC Twitter account posted a winner of the #CPACSelfie contest each day of the conference, most of which were millennials taking selfies with prominent Republican politicians, like potential presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. Weirdly, many of the "selfies" weren't even selfies, but just normal pictures. Here's a little tip: a picture of yourself taken by someone else does not a selfie make.
Republicans roundly criticized Obama for using a selfie stick and making funny faces in a BuzzFeed video promoting Obamacare, but now they've embraced the front-facing camera themselves. The GOP does seem to always be a late bloomer when it comes to technology; Democrats are still ahead of Republicans in online fundraising.
A Harvard poll on political preferences of 18-29-year-old Americans published in October showed that many young voters are politically up for grabs, swinging away from Democrats, and could be crucial swing votes across the country. However, the GOP needs to do more than act technologically-inclined to gain these votes. Millennials care about more than how cool a presidential candidate acts — we care about the issues.
The conference also created a second hashtag, #CPACbestdressed, in order to highlight attendees' outfits. It did include some photos of men to avoid being overly sexist, but the gendered implications still shine through. The young women pictured are dressed professionally and appropriately, while the men are wearing patriotic or silly outfits.
The most troubling example is a photo of radio host Dana Loesch while she participates in a panel discussion on stage. Centering the discussion around Loesch's shoes rather than her arguments demeans her intelligence and worth, proven by the all the comments on the Twitter photo about her legs.
If the GOP wants to attract millennials, it should rethink some its views on social issues — like gay marriage and women's reproductive rights. Everyone loves a good selfie, but they won't change the reputation of an entire political party.