American Gerontocracy

Generational Warfare In Our Time

Why Vote Against Your Wallet?

We’ve looked at the demographics of American gerontocracy. Of course, the demographics are complicated by voting pattern among younger voters – particularly their tendency to vote Democratic.

Why are these voters so willing to overlook their economic interests when voting?

Clearly, in the specific case of Barack Obama a lot has to do with his charisma and the personality cult that has developed around him. But even beyond the rather scary and disconcerting “Obamaton” phenomenon, younger voters still tend to vote disproportionately for Democrats.

The obvious conclusion is that other, non-economic issues are of greater importance to younger voters, and the Democratic party reflects these interests more effectively than the Republican party. Here’s an excellent article on the issues that are driving the young away from the Republican party.

In 1984 and 1988, first Ronald Reagan and then George H.W. Bush won first-time voters and under-29 voters by big margins: 20 points in 1984. The twentysomethings of the 1980s remain the most Republican cohort in the electorate to this day.

But since 1990, the GOP has lost its connection to the young, and the problem gets worse with every passing election. Today’s twentysomethings are the most anti-Republican age group in the electorate.

Ultimately, I think you can boil the GOP’s failure with younger voters down to a few key elements:

Life experience. Here’s a good article on how younger American experience has been shaped by issues where outcomes have favored Democrats.

One reason is generational change. Almost all voters in 1992 and a large majority in 2000 had vivid memories of the 1970s, when we had both economic stagnation and double-digit inflation — stagflation — and thanks to government price controls, motorists had to wait an hour in line to fill up their gas tanks. Those experiences put the advocates of bigger government on the defensive.

This year, half the voters are too young to have been behind the wheel in a gas line or to have been paying rapidly rising monthly bills with a paycheck eroded by inflation. They have lived all their adult lives — all their lives, in the case of the millennial generation, born since 1980 — in an era when we have had low-inflation economic growth 95 percent of the time.

Social values and the association of the Republican party with evangelical, “fly-over country” Christianity. Public education has convinced many young voters that organized religion is the opiate of the masses. The GOP has complicated its position in this area by taking on untenable policy positions on issues like stem cell research and has branded itself as the party of intolerance by virtue of its positions on homosexuality and abortion.

The war in Iraq. I’ll dig into this more later.

A misunderstanding of economics and history. This isn’t limited to younger voters, of course. But younger voters have been disproportionately shaped by increasingly liberal agenda-driven public education as well as disinformation from liberal media outlets like MTV.

The cool factor. Republicans have failed to develop credibly cool candidates that share common values, perspectives, and experience with younger voters, but present a Republican viewpoint on the issues.

The Republican part needs to do a better job of broadening its appeal and reaching out to younger voters. If it doesn’t, it is jeopardizing its own existence. Ultimately, it comes down to doing a better job at communication and education — coupled with a willingness to demonstrate a greater inclusiveness on important social issues.

With respect to this last point, the Republican party has an ace in the hole — its position on federalism and proper balance between the federal government and state power. Republicans should be arguing that social issues are state issues — what is good for social policy New York isn’t necessarily good for Wyoming. There is an appeal here that can be made to the democratic instincts of younger voters. Rather than tell these voters that say, stem cell research is morally repugnant and demanding federal action on the matter, why not argue that issues like this are only appropriately addressed at the state level, where American diversity is better able to express itself democratically?

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April 19, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. “This year, half the voters are too young to have been behind the wheel in a gas line or to have been paying rapidly rising monthly bills with a paycheck eroded by inflation.”

    I think you’ll find my good man, that your inflation rate has been quite higher recently. The Fed has inflated the money supply at I think 18% recently, which is rather significant, seeing as interest rates aren’t very high.

    In the 70’s and 80’s, the inflation rate wasn’t CPI, it was whatever they were actually inflating M3 money supply at, these days, CPI has been changed massively via Hedonics.

    I think your economy would be vastly different if it were’nt for the massive inflation going on by the Fed. The Aneamic recovery so far is only due to a bandaid, of worse things to come.

    Comment by Raymond | May 28, 2008 | Reply


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