The always excellent Ron Brownstein has two important pieces about big picture politics: one about Obama solidifying the youth vote, and another about how business is cutting deals with the Obama administration on energy and health care. This post will be about the youth vote. Here’s some key points:
The enormous advantage among young people for Obama in particular and Democrats in general matters for two reasons. The more immediate is that this generation, which is generally defined as the 93 million people born between 1983 and 2002, will comprise a rapidly increasing share of voters through the next decade. Hais and his co-author, Morley Winograd, also an NDN fellow, have calculated that in 2008, 41% of Millennials were eligible to vote, and they constituted 17% of the electorate. They project that by 2012, 61% of the Millennials will be eligible, and they’ll comprise 24% of the electorate; by 2016, the numbers will reach 80% and 30%. By 2020, virtually all of them will be eligible and they could constitute as much as 36% of all voters. If Obama maintains anything near his current strength among Millennials, they will produce a substantially larger vote surplus for him in 2012 than they did in 2008-leaving Republicans a larger deficit to overcome with older voters.
Obama’s strength among young people has a second, even more significant, implication: if Republicans cannot reverse it reasonably soon, it could harden into a lasting preference for Democrats in this huge
Winograd and Hais believe Republicans can’t do much to detach young voters from Obama if the president is seen as succeeding. In Millennial Makeover, they argue that many of this generation’s formative experiences-their diversity, their tolerance of difference, and the patterns of parenting that inclined them to find collective “win-win” solutions-already inclined them toward Democratic beliefs.
As if on cue, a younger commenter writes:
As a member of the younger generation and a (former) Republican voter (now a registered Libertarian), I can give a few reasons why us younger folks don’t care much for Republicans:
1. We don’t care if people are gay. If my neighbors had been gay when I was growing up, it wouldn’t have had any impact on me, nor would it have been any of my business. The anti-gay rhetoric comes across as bigotry to our ears.
2. We chaffe at the ‘whiteness’ of the Republican party. Whether or not this is true in the hearts of Republicans, they simply don’t come across in public as caring for non-whites, nor do they seem to make an effor to reach out to non-whites. Reach out to minorities, and voters will reach out to you.
3. Kids my age don’t understand economics because it isn’t taught in schools, parents don’t teach it, and colleges only marginally teach it. Therefore, we don’t have a clue how trillion dollar deficits will impact us down the road.
4. They put up fossils as candidates.
More and more, I think that hating on gays, immigrants, and non-French’s mustard is a killer for Republicans. People under 30 just don’t want to be associated with that, for the most part, even if they agree with some of the Republican economic kookiness. Jon Hunstman is certainly smart to move to a more liberal position on gay marriage. But I think this may go even deeper than that.
In 2004, one Democratic candidate really energized younger voters: Howard Dean. The Democratic made him chair of the DNC. IN 2008, one Republican candidate really energized younger voters: Ron Paul. The Republican party treats him like a pariah. Yes, Paul is an anti-Semite whose economic ideas, if implemented, would lead to a second Great Depression or worse. But he’s certainly no crazier than most House Republicans. There’s got to be some way for the Republican party to tap into the energy and fundraising prowess of the Paultards.
Much has been made of the fact for the past week, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh dominated the air waves. This has been described (correctly) as a public relations fiasco for Republicans. Newt’s a relic from another era and the average Rush listener is in his 60s. What’s easy to forget is that when Rush first came on the scene, he was seen as a bit hip and edgy with his Pretenders’ theme song and what not. There was a whole rock n’ roll Republican thing going there for a while, with Bill Bennett’s supposed date with Janis Joplin and Lee Atwater’s blues stylings. It was a far cry from “Let the Eagle Soar.”
What I wonder is if there are a few sensible yet extreme (by current standards) positions Republicans could stake out to make themselves look less fossilized. The Democrats aren’t showing much interest in legalizing marijuana for example. Could Republicans support legalizing marijuana without pissing off social conservatives too much? There are probably hosts of other issues along these lines as well. I wonder if people like Haley Barbour are thinking about this sort of thing.