Haley Barbour

In a July 18, 2016 file photo, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour speaks during first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

It's difficult to think of two more different visionaries in the Republican Party than Haley Barbour and Kristen Soltis Anderson.

Barbour is the somewhat rumpled face of the Regulars, former governor of Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and longtime party insider on Capitol Hill.

Anderson, a millennial pollster who wowed Tuesday’s annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, is the sleek new face of party thinkers trying to work their way out of a demographic trap — the same one that Barbour pointed out after the 2012 election.

The problem: Vast numbers of millennial voters, the youngest born in 1996, are now of age and leaning left, as much as 20 points or more toward Democrats in various elections, including midterms for Congress.

Their numbers are larger now than Baby Boomers, though their turnout is not yet as high as that of their elders with MAGA caps on. But their leanings were starkly outlined by Anderson to the rows of Republican suits at LABI.

Anderson said it is not that millennials nationwide are solely interested in social issues like gay rights, and thus almost the polar opposite of the president wielding his phone like a Twitter club. She outlined, in much data drawn from the Pew Research Center and other sources, the differing perspectives of young people whose lives — and thus political attitudes — were shaped by 9/11, the stock market crash, the war in Iraq.

They turned out in large numbers to propel Barack Obama to the presidency and, despite the turnout of older voters by Trump that eked out an Electoral College victory in 2016, the long-term party problem remains that noted by Barbour and others in a famous “autopsy” report in 2013 in the wake of the 2012 election.

While Anderson thought little of some of the autopsy prescriptions, she agreed that its emphasis on diversity and attitudes of the younger voter was right on, to use a pre-millennials phrase.

As political analyst Charlie Cook earlier pointed out in a speech to the Council of a Better Louisiana late last year, the autopsy was roundly ignored. The party didn’t want to hear it. And year after year, more millennials and increasingly the younger Gen Z after them have wildly different views on race relations, climate change and gay rights, but also other issues.

Younger voters are more risk-averse than their elders, Anderson said, as the precarious nature of the economy in recent decades might lead one to believe.

While Anderson did not address state issues directly, her talk had some implications for Louisiana’s 2019 election. The notion of reversing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ expansion of Medicaid health insurance for the working poor is probably a non-starter, as that flies in the face of young voters’ concern about risks to their own health care. Child care is also an issue.

There are implications for school choice advocates, too. While millennials may like the sense of empowerment of that conservative cause, they are more reluctant to embrace specific steps that would upset traditional arrangements, Anderson said of her own study of the issue.

Louisiana is, of course, a more conservative state than the nation as a whole. But the sheer size of the millennial cohort, and the data Anderson compiled showing that their views are not becoming noticeably more conservative as they get older, made her presentation timely.

And if you don’t want to hear from a millennial pollster, look up the autopsy. Its larger strategic point remains relevant today.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.

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