The Impending Death of the Republican Party Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

 

ObamaYoungIt is a time of great change in American politics. Long-established voting patterns have been disrupted. Messages that resonated with the previous generation fall flat on the ears of the young. One political party is losing the under-35 vote so severely that their ability to win future presidential elections is in doubt. Strategists scramble to find ways to make their party appeal to these young voters, who have been raised in an era so very different from that of their parents. The year is 1989.

It is said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but that it does rhyme. In the case of parties losing the youth vote and then fretting about their future, the same word has been rhymed with itself, as if the song of history was written by Kanye West. Before conservatives begin passing out the Kool-Aid or making evidence-free demands about how the Republican Party must change to appeal to young voters, it would benefit us to gain some historical context.

Our journey begins with a New York Times op-ed written in 1988 by a pre-midlife crisis E.J. Dionne.

It is said that the future belongs to the young, which gives the Republican Party a lot to look forward to.

Whoever wins the 1988 Presidential election, the Republican Party has made major strides in this election year and in the previous seven years, not only holding but expanding its advantage among young people, largely because of the appeal that Ronald Reagan, the nation’s oldest President, holds for the young.

Let us first enjoy a quick laugh at Dionne’s inability to get through his opening paragraph without a “Reagan is old” crack. Let us then get to the meat of this 27-year-old article which, if you only switch a few nouns, could have been written today.

Younger voters are poised to vote heavily for Vice President Bush, and their long-term inclinations represent the party’s best hope of escaping the minority status it has held since the New Deal.

In the latest Times/CBS News Poll, voters under 30 favored Mr. Bush by 64 percent to 28 percent. Mr. Bush did far better with these voters than with any other age group in the electorate.

Dionne went on to argue that these voters were really closet socialists; a prediction that did not withstand the test of time. Yet the piece is instructive in understanding the Republican Party’s current struggles with young voters.

Academics and political consultants who have studied the youth vote have many explanations for their movement toward the Republicans, but the most powerful is the simplest: Young Americans have known only Mr. Reagan and Mr. Carter as President, and Mr. Reagan is the overwhelming favorite. Similarly, many people who first voted in the Depression still see politics in terms of the Democratic President Roosevelt and the Republican President Hoover.

This diagnosis is as correct today as it was 1988. Most people do not parse the parties issue-by-issue in an effort to find out which one best fits their political preferences.  They look around and see how good or bad things are at present, and assign credit or blame to whoever owns the White House.  This preference then has a tendency to hold on for life.

The chart below was created by Pew Research and breaks down the 2012 electorate by age.  Specifically, it groups voters by the year they turned 18 and tracks their voting preferences in comparison to the average of the electorate.  The pattern is abundantly clear.

presidentiallegacies

FDR created a large group of young voters who went on to prefer the Democrats — even today.  Truman and Eisenhower bred mostly Republicans. Kennedy made Democrats, while Johnson minted Republicans. Nixon spawned Democrats, while Carter and Reagan produced Republicans.

The voting habits of millennials are not difficult to understand. Bill Clinton presided over a booming economy, and the earliest millennials (my classmates) became largely locked in as future Democrat voters. The last few years of the Bush Administration featured an economic downturn paired with unpopular wars.

Plans to court these voters are doomed to fall flat, as it can be seen that nothing in the intervening 70 years caused voters who were alive for the New Deal to question the viability of the liberal project. This generation of young people will favor the Democrats until the day they die. The GOP changing their stance on abortion, same-sex marriage, or any number of other positions will likely have no significant effect on these voter’s preferences.

But what of the future? American political history suggests that either a successful Republican president or a failure-prone Democrat will create the next generation of Republicans. That failure-prone Democrat may have been Barrack Obama, as the youngest millennials (18-20) probably went for Romney in 2012.  If Scott Walker (or pick your non-Trump candidate) were to be elected, and repeal the worst of Obama’s regulations on businesses, the economic improvements would likely lead to this trend’s continuation. A Hillary Clinton Administration would feature her unique ability to make people dislike her the more she is in the news, also almost assuredly creating a new crop of Republicans.

The Republican Party has problems, but they are hardly new or particularly insurmountable when judged in proper context.  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

There are 35 comments.

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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Just so. The question we now need to answer is which candidate will breed the most Republican voters going forward. I suppose we should also ask if congressional Republicans can be coaxed to get with the program of shoveling the piles of government off the path of prosperity.

    • #1
  2. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Interesting theory.  And you are right, there are a lot of people beyond a certain age who will never be convinced that FDR wasn’t an economic genius who saved this country from Hoover’s depression.

    • #2
  3. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    The King Prawn: The question we now need to answer is which candidate will breed the most Republican voters going forward.

    /Literalism:ON – That might be Trump, given how often he has been married.

    /Literalism:OFF

    Both of my grandmothers voted Dem lifelong because of the New Deal.  Lots of my high school classmates vote Dem because Clinton was “cool” and Bush I and Bush II were “too moralistic”.  Obama’s nannyism, though, has ticked off millions of today’s school children – and while they’re too young to vote next year they will be voting in 2020.  “Remember the school lunches!” may well be a battlecry in the near future.

    • #3
  4. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    We need to develop brand loyalty. Begin by targeting those too young to vote and pound the brand into Their lil’ heads with cool ads, so when They’re old enough there’s only one political brand They’ll remember.

    Let’s take a page from the best in the business: BEER

    We get a Republican dog named Spuds Republican. Have Him(Her) surfing and playing on the beach with a bunch of chicks in bikinis.

    How about a bunch of sport stars chanting,“Less taxes!” “More Freedom!”

    Again, lots of chicks in bikinis and sports stars.

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I wss tempted about five years ago to devote a few evenings to Sam Tanenhaus’ The Death of Conservatism. Thankfully, I was probably waylayed at a nearby tavern.

    • #5
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    What is the point of pundits if not to over-react every election cycle?

    • #6
  7. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Nominating Rubio is the key to the youth vote.  He’s the youngest candidate in the field and he looks even younger than he is.  He also projects optimism and vision for the future.  He stands in stark contrast to the stuck in the 20th century Hillary Clinton and her tired old progressive policies.  Millennials would rather vote for a peer than their grandma.

    • #7
  8. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Well old folks still run Congress, how about we raise the voting age to 30 or 40.  The new 29, in knowledge maturity and mental wattage is the old 12.

    • #8
  9. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Frozen Chosen:Nominating Rubio is the key to the youth vote. He’s the youngest candidate in the field and he looks even younger than he is. He also projects optimism and vision for the future. He stands in stark contrast to the stuck in the 20th century Hillary Clinton and her tired old progressive policies. Millennials would rather vote for a peer than their grandma.

    After watching the debate, I had the same thought.  There is something almost Kennedyesque about him in the sense of being young and vital, having a telegenic family, and being forward looking and optimistic.  That would be a stark contrast to the grasping, tired decrepitude of Clinton.

    • #9
  10. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    I agree that Rubio is a good choice, but I think that we’d find that if Rubio does attract an unusually high percentage of millennials, he would also be attracting an unusually high percentage of all voters.

    • #10
  11. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Whiskey Sam:

    Frozen Chosen:Nominating Rubio is the key to the youth vote. He’s the youngest candidate in the field and he looks even younger than he is. He also projects optimism and vision for the future. He stands in stark contrast to the stuck in the 20th century Hillary Clinton and her tired old progressive policies. Millennials would rather vote for a peer than their grandma.

    After watching the debate, I had the same thought. There is something almost Kennedyesque about him in the sense of being young and vital, having a telegenic family, and being forward looking and optimistic. That would be a stark contrast to the grasping, tired decrepitude of Clinton.

    It’s also hard to see a line of attack against Rubio that will persuade the LIVs.  He’s not rich, isn’t part of a dynasty, hasn’t really attacked any group and is not a white guy.  The Dems will try to demonize him of course but I’m not sure anything will stick.

    And he can get Carly to attack Hillary while he stays above the fray with his positive vision.  Campaign gold I tell ya!

    • #11
  12. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    Contra what EJ Dionne said prior to the 1988 election, Bush only got 53% of the youth vote:

    http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/polls/us-elections/how-groups-voted/how-groups-voted-1988/

    By 1992, that would be only 33%.

    Otherwise, Frank Soto is quite correct about the patterns he presented. It’s just a matter of where we are on the historical pattern/timeline. And Franco’s post on comedians facing…certain PC issues gives off some hints.

    • #12
  13. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Brad2971:Contra what EJ Dionne said prior to the 1988 election, Bush only got 53% of the youth vote:

    http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/polls/us-elections/how-groups-voted/how-groups-voted-1988/

    By 1992, that would be only 33%.

    Otherwise, Frank Soto is quite correct about the patterns he presented. It’s just a matter of where we are on the historical pattern/timeline. And Franco’s post on comedians facing…certain PC issues gives off some hints.

    That was a pre-election poll.  Of course it didn’t turn out to match the exact number.  It is quoted because it is identical in tone to the same types of articles that are written today citing current polling in the lead up to elections.

    • #13
  14. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    And BTW, in 2012, Romney got 45% of the age 30-44 group (birth years 1968-1982). I would sumbit that the eventual GOP nominee only needs to win a majority of  this group (which in 2016 will have birth years from 1972-1986), while winning the 45-64 and 65 and over age groups, to win the Presidency.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Frozen Chosen:Nominating Rubio is the key to the youth vote. He’s the youngest candidate in the field and he looks even younger than he is. He also projects optimism and vision for the future. He stands in stark contrast to the stuck in the 20th century Hillary Clinton and her tired old progressive policies. Millennials would rather vote for a peer than their grandma.

    Just what we need. Another Kennedy.

    • #15
  16. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto: The Republican Party has problems, but they are hardly new or particularly insurmountable when judged in proper context. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

    And which exciting candidate will champion this thrilling vision?

    • #16
  17. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Nominating Rubio may indeed be the key to the youth vote.  Perhaps they missed the import of his amnesty head-fake which, despite some hopeful comments, he does not repudiate.

    And if he should prove the victor, what then?  A Republican victory crowned with amnesty?  Open borders?  Fairness for all and a bureaucracy to enforce it?

    I can understand why the youth may go for Rubio.  They believe him.

    • #17
  18. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Ball Diamond Ball:Nominating Rubio may indeed be the key to the youth vote. Perhaps they missed the import of his amnesty head-fake which, despite some hopeful comments, he does not repudiate.

    And if he should prove the victor, what then? A Republican victory crowned with amnesty? Open borders? Fairness for all and a bureaucracy to enforce it?

    I can understand why the youth may go for Rubio. They believe him.

    I’m sure Hillary will be really tough on the border, just like Obama has been.  Our country is in free fall, my friend.  Obama has done great damage and will do more before he’s through.  Hillary will pick up right where he left off and there won’t be anything left.

    We can’t let the perfect keep us from the good because the perfect will never happen. If you don’t think that any of the 17 GOP candidates (with the possible exception of Trump) would be light years better than Hillary then you just aren’t paying attention.

    • #18
  19. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    The Reticulator:

    Frozen Chosen:Nominating Rubio is the key to the youth vote. He’s the youngest candidate in the field and he looks even younger than he is. He also projects optimism and vision for the future. He stands in stark contrast to the stuck in the 20th century Hillary Clinton and her tired old progressive policies. Millennials would rather vote for a peer than their grandma.

    Just what we need. Another Kennedy.

    We need a Republican president.  Figure out which one is most electable and actively support them.

    • #19
  20. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Ball Diamond Ball:Nominating Rubio may indeed be the key to the youth vote. Perhaps they missed the import of his amnesty head-fake which, despite some hopeful comments, he does not repudiate.

    And if he should prove the victor, what then? A Republican victory crowned with amnesty? Open borders? Fairness for all and a bureaucracy to enforce it?

    I can understand why the youth may go for Rubio. They believe him.

    He did repudiate it.  He publicly stated that the final deal was a bad one, which is why he was dropping his support.

    • #20
  21. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    Frozen Chosen: We need a Republican president. Figure out which one is most electable and actively support them.

    No, we don’t NEED a Republican president. The Republican Party and its supporters have to get the rest of the public to WANT a Republican president. And the attempt has started…just like the other attempts have started over the last 20-24 years.

    “Our country is in free fall, my friend.  Obama has done great damage and will do more before he’s through.”

    BTW, you’d be amazed at how much the heavily Republican Great Plains (of which I’m its native son) disagrees with this statement.

    • #21
  22. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    Frozen Chosen: We can’t let the perfect keep us from the good because the perfect will never happen. If you don’t think that any of the 17 GOP candidates (with the possible exception of Trump) would be light years better than Hillary then you just aren’t paying attention.

    I don’t think it’s impossible to overstate how sick and tired “the base” is of statements like this. Especially when even your average low-information Kardashian break-the-internet voter understands “perfect” SELLS.

    • #22
  23. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Brad2971:

    Frozen Chosen: We need a Republican president. Figure out which one is most electable and actively support them.

    No, we don’t NEED a Republican president. The Republican Party and its supporters have to get the rest of the public to WANT a Republican president. And the attempt has started…just like the other attempts have started over the last 20-24 years.

    “Our country is in free fall, my friend. Obama has done great damage and will do more before he’s through.”

    BTW, you’d be amazed at how much the heavily Republican Great Plains (of which I’m its native son) disagrees with this statement.

    Not sure what you mean here; are you saying that folks in the great plains think the country is in great shape?  That Obama hasn’t done great damage?  I can’t imagine that’s your point.

    • #23
  24. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    Frozen Chosen: Not sure what you mean here; are you saying that folks in the great plains think the country is in great shape? That Obama hasn’t done great damage? I can’t imagine that’s your point.

    I will humbly submit to you two things:

    1. The Great Plains, up until about the last 9-12 months or so, has been propping up this nation’s economy. This is due to getting good prices for the commodities the Great Plains produces in abundance (which, in North Dakota and West Texas, very much include oil).

    2. The so-called Great Moderation of the 1980s thru mid 2000s was built on the backs of the same Great Plains (along with the Rust Belt) which had to suffer its way through economic repression as a result of the rest of nation benefiting from cheap commodities. This caused a large number of my generation (I’m 44) to seek employment opportunities outside of our native homeland (I’m a Denver resident right now).

    So, while in balance Obama has been awful economic-wise overall, that doesn’t mean there were some surprise beneficiaries.

    • #24
  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto:

    Ball Diamond Ball:Nominating Rubio may indeed be the key to the youth vote. Perhaps they missed the import of his amnesty head-fake which, despite some hopeful comments, he does not repudiate.

    And if he should prove the victor, what then? A Republican victory crowned with amnesty? Open borders? Fairness for all and a bureaucracy to enforce it?

    I can understand why the youth may go for Rubio. They believe him.

    He did repudiate it. He publicly stated that the final deal was a bad one, which is why he was dropping his support.

    Nope.  Rubio the lying coward “dropped his support” saying that it had become clear to him that comprehensive immigration reform was “politically impossible in Congress.”  That’s right, we’re too stupid to know what’s good for us.

    Rubio has always supported and continues to support amnesty.  Principled conservative opposition has forced him into an “enforcement first” stance, which he resents.

    Rubio is now defined by his carefully-guarded radioactive pro-amnesty stance, which he intends to present as some sort of strength later in the primaries as the winning Mexican brain short-circuit device to convert them all to voting Republican.

    Frank Soto, were you unaware that Rubio still supports amnesty, and has this been illuminating — or were you hoping nobody would notice you conflating a bill with a stance?

    http://hotair.com/archives/2015/06/30/marco-rubio-why-yes-i-do-still-support-a-path-to-citizenship-for-illegals/

    • #25
  26. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    He did repudiate it. He publicly stated that the final deal was a bad one, which is why he was dropping his support.

    Nope. Rubio the lying coward “dropped his support” saying that it had become clear to him that comprehensive immigration reform was “politically impossible in Congress.” That’s right, we’re too stupid to know what’s good for us.

    Oh boy is this going to be fun.  His actual words were that he would not vote for the legislation in its current form as it would not effectively secure the border.

    But sure, substitute your own words at your leisure.

    Rubio has always supported and continues to support amnesty. Principled conservative opposition has forced him into an “enforcement first” stance, which he resents.

    Enforcement first was always part of his demands.  His support dropped after he became convinced that he could get not get the gang of 8 bill to do this.  Reading the conservative media pieces from the time, they offer no evidence to contradict this, they merely insist that they know his heart and that he doesn’t mean what he says.

    Frank Soto, were you unaware that Rubio still supports amnesty, and has this been illuminating — or were you hoping nobody would notice you conflating a bill with a stance?

    Are you unaware that after implementing a fence, a visa check out system, and nation wide e-verify, you still have 11 million illegals in the country?

    Are you further aware that they are having kids who will be Americans whether you like it or not?  You are trying to close the gate now that the horse is out.

    The key are the enforcement measures that stop the next wave of illegals, not pretending that you can retroactively stop the previous one.

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto:

    Are you unaware that after implementing a fence, a visa check out system, and nation wide e-verify, you still have 11 million illegals in the country?

    Are you further aware that they are having kids who will be Americans whether you like it or not? You are trying to close the gate now that the horse is out.

    The key are the enforcement measures that stop the next wave of illegals, not pretending that you can retroactively stop the previous one.

    Truly “comprehensive” reform would include identification, enforcement, and incentives to fix that stuff.  Like breathtaking penalties for knowingly hiring, representing, or supporting illegal aliens.  You sound like McCain with his “can’t deport — ’em ain’t got enough buses”, when we certainly had the required number of buses to bring them all in — zero.

    • #27
  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto: Are you further aware that they are having kids who will be Americans whether you like it or not?  You are trying to close the gate now that the horse is out.

    Those of us who have wanted the gate closed all along cannot help but appreciate the irony of this mendacious argument.

    • #28
  29. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Frank Soto: Are you further aware that they are having kids who will be Americans whether you like it or not? You are trying to close the gate now that the horse is out.

    Those of us who have wanted the gate closed all along cannot help but appreciate the irony of this mendacious argument.

    I wanted the gate closed all along as well.  Try again.

    • #29
  30. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Frank Soto: But sure, substitute your own words at your leisure.

    Not my words.  Check the link.

    At any rate, you claim that Rubio is now anti-amnesty.  Got a link?  And I don’t accept “I don’t like amnesty but we better get ahead of executive amnesty with an unassailable legislative amnesty so Obama doesn’t get all the credit” as anti-amnesty.  That’s pro-amnesty.

    • #30
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