Former Gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong launched The Iowa Dream Project today as a means to reach out of Generation X and Millennials. He said in a discussion that I had with him yesterday that he wants to see the next generation “engaged and involved.” He noted that in 2006, in an off presidential year, only 27% of registered voters under the age of 35 actually did so. No more Generation Xers (age 30-45) actually went to the polls in 2008 than 2006. Fong noted that there was just an increase in absentee ballots.
He as chair of The Iowa Dream Project wants to organize and activate the next generation of conservatives in Iowa. This project is filed as a 503(c)4. Their website was launched early this morning, and they also have Facebook and Twitter. He said they want to provide web-based tools to translate the civic debate to social media outlets that President Barack Obama used effectively in reaching out to younger voters.
He said part of the problem in reaching out to young voters and to help bring them to the polls is that “we don’t know how to find them.” That’s why organizing online will be key.
Fong then stated, “organizing is useless without a message. In 2008, Obama organized (young voters) around himself.” Drawing them to “hope and change.” Fong stated, “Conservatives need to understand that the next generation is conservative in many respects, we just need to message to them…. take conservative themes and then re-message them.”
He gave the example of Iowa’s budget, when the question of reducing the budget by laying off state workers was posed in a recent poll, young voters rejected it. When it was introduced as merging services in order to reduce the budget and trim spending they were in favor of it (which would still have to lay off workers). He said that the messaging of conservative themes are targeting 55-year-olds who is the typical primary voter. But while conservatives can’t solely focus on young voters, Fong said, “if we don’t talk with them they will become disengaged.” He said through The Iowa Dream Project they will “ask leaders of the next generation to talk with their peers.”
The three issues that The Iowa Dream Center is focusing on are: Education, Jobs, and Community Development. All of these are issues that impact the current brain drain that Iowa faces once our young people graduate high school and college.
Among The Iowa Dream Project’s goals is to increase voter turnout in 2010 by 5% among young voters. With young independents get back to a 50%/50% between Republican-leaning and Democrat-leaning voters. He said, “if we do this in the general election we will see a 2% wing toward conservatives,” and that would be enough to win back the Iowa House. While this is a non-partisan organization and not affiliated with the Republican party (he said he looks forward to the day Democrats push conservative values) this is “a movement of and for and by the next generation of conservative leaders.”