Young Fogeys no more! Republican Party's Millennials become the unlikely players in a
potential revolution

Ronald Reagan is out and Teddy Roosevelt is in as young GOPers such as Charles Hernick advocate “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”

By Rachel Ray, Washington
15 Feb 2016

The old saying used to go that Republicans are 40-years-old at birth.
But today’s GOP Millennials, aged 18 to 34, are showing a stunning change from the "young fogey" stereotype.

According to research from the non-partisan Pew Research Center in Washington, today’s young Republicans are “less conservative when it comes to values related to the environment, role of government, the social safety net and the marketplace”.

They believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society rather than discouraged and that far from being burdens, immigrants strengthen the US with hard work and talent. Half of GOP Millennials do not believe that stricter environmental regulations would hurt the US economy and half believe that business corporations make too much profit.

And In the face of this potential revolution, bright, energetic Charles Hernick fairly bubbles with optimism talking about his attempt to unseat the incumbent in Virginia-8, the US’s sixth wealthiest congressional district. Virginia-8 covers the federal-employee saturated Washington suburbs of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, and Fairfax.

W.H.F. Lee, son of Civil War General Robert E. Lee, was once its congressman. And Mr Hernick’s opponent today is no lightweight – a former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein under President Barack Obama.

But Mr Hernick feels compelled to stand. Voters he talks to are craving action and passionate leadership, he says, after an eight-year legislative stalemate on Mr Obama’s watch. And he is ready to lead the charge.

Mr Hernick says his life was booted into action by the famous words of the 26th American President, Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Currently a consultant with an environmental firm that represents both government and private clients, Mr Hernick started working at age 16 cleaning hotel rooms for spending money in his native Minneapolis-St. Paul. His mother, a native of Ecuador, spoke no English when she moved to the US. Mr Hernick has spent many childhood summers in Ecuador getting to know his South American cousins. He is fluent in Spanish and leads his firm’s international practice.

The portrait of a young Democrat, you say? Well, no. Mr Hernick feels completely comfortable with core Republican Party values.

"When it comes to the philosophy of the party – free markets, the Constitution, personal responsibility, and the role of faith in people's lives – these are things I understand and believe in," he says.

Mr Hernick also believes that US immigration policy needs to be reformed and law-abiding immigrants should be able to stay in the US. He admits to fears about Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico, becoming his party’s presidential nominee.

"Building a wall is crazy. Trump is a particularly divisive figure. His rhetoric at the global stage could be very problematic for security and economic issues. He is not pro environment and not pro trade. But voters are very smart and I have lots of confidence in the system," Mr Hernick explained.

Climate change is man-made with carbon dioxide emissions being the biggest part of the problem, according to this ecologist. He is a strong supporter of gun ownership but does not own a gun himself. And he advocates taking away ownership rights in prescribed circumstances.

"That the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon is very clear in the Constitution. But the right to own guns could be taken away from you. Other rights are taken away from people. We desperately need a dialogue on mental health but we need to be careful about whether arms could be taken from people who are described as mentally ill. People will always own guns," he said.

The would-be congressman advocates an open dialogue in the US on mental health issues to get to the psychological root causes of mass shootings. Mr Hernick says the federal government should be following the states’ lead on legalising marijuana. He is a supporter of marriage equality. Still working full time for the firm he has been with for eight years, Mr Hernick says financially he cannot afford to quit. But he has a lot of holiday time saved up for his current "Hernick for Congress" campaign.

And for now, that is how it will have to be. He is doing what he can with what he has.