MANCHESTER — A conservative youth advocacy group that is part of the Koch brothers political and issues advocacy network is working to expand its influence in the Granite State – and it has attracted a potential top GOP presidential contender to help get its message out.
Generation Opportunity, a 501c-4 organization that has been operating in New Hampshire for about three years, Thursday night is holding an informal gathering at the Sam Adams Pub in Manchester featuring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Ahead of the event, 30-year-old “GenOpp” national president Evan Feinberg (pictured on our front page) told the New Hampshire Journal that the nationwide organization wants to “free our generation and our skills and talents to solve the large problems facing our country right now.”
“There are a number of politicians who are reaching out to and connecting with young people,” Feinberg said. “but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has done it more effectively than Senator Paul right now. He’s talking about the issues young people care about in a compelling way. It’s not partisan and not even ideological. Its connecting with them in a practical way on the issues they care about.”
New Hampshire’s GenOpp organization, under the direction of Nick Pappas, has grown to be a national leader, Feinberg said.
“We believe freedom drives progress, and the whole mantra here in New Hampshire – live free or die – resonates with young people across the country,” said Feinberg. “They really believe that the opportunity to express themselves, live free, and make their own choices is critical to their own success, and to improving their communities and the country.”
GenOpp’s web site lays out conservative/libertarian, limited-government options on a host of issues, from health care, the national debt and “cronyism” to unemployment, higher education and the justice system. The group, for instance, opposes mandatory sentencing and believes the federal government should not use its influence to force states to maintain a drinking age of 21-years-old.
“The belief that choices create opportunity is nearly universally believed by our generation,” said Feinberg. “And so as politicians argue and grow the size and scope of government, and get more involved in our daily lives, young American don’t see the value in that. And in New Hampshire that mentality goes throughout the whole populace.
“Study after study shows we are the most civically-engaged generation in America,” Feinberg said. “In 2012 there were more voters between the ages of 18 and 29 years of age than those over 65.”
He said young people are especially interested in the economy, job creation, noting that “a third of all young people have been forced to move back in with their parents. The health care plan being rolled out across the country is particularly hurtful to young people in New Hampshire, who are losing their choice of doctors, hospitals and being forced to pay three times as much in order to pay for the older generation’s health care.
“Our generation is getting crushed right now, and rightfully so we are looking to engage and create a freer future.”
In New Hampshire, Pappas has written opinion pieces on topics such as opposing new regulations that will hurt the craft beer industry; in opposition to a minimum wage; and in opposition to what he calls a “taxpayer bailout” of a student debt refinancing plan championed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Pappas has organized “Back to School/Back to Debt” conferences on college campuses.
“Our goal has been to grow an active organization with a great volunteer base here in the state, and we’ve successful in doing that,” Pappas said.
Feinberg said GenOpp learned, ironically, from the Obama campaign in 2012 that a successful movement – just like a successful campaign – can be built on “the power of social organizing.”
He said the group is trying to build a “digital activism capability that allows volunteers who are interested in seeing a better future for young people in New Hampshire to have digital tools at their disposal to share with their friends.”
With direct applications, participants can see state-by-state comparisons of unemployment rates and policies and can “share with each other and their elected officials a message about youth unemployment, for example.”
“Activism around an issue online is really the future of grassroots activism,” Feinberg said. “A lot of people talk about land lines and door knocks and things like that, but the way young people want to contact their elected officials is going to be a Facebook post or a Tweet at them or an email, not a call to the front desk of their congressional offices.
“We think what we have is out-innovating in a lot of ways what the Obama campaign did in 2012 in terms of digital organizing.”
Feinberg said that GenOpp, while welcoming all interested young people, has a clear point of view of how more opportunities will be created for young Americans.
“We believe that is going to happen through less government and more freedom. We think there are immense benefits of a free society to young people. That’s everything from economic well-being to the right to express ourselves and pursue our own hopes and dreams rather than those of politicians and bureaucrats.”