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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America recoil in horror as an avowed neo-Nazi opens fire in a Pittsburgh-area synagogue, killing eleven people and wounding others because he thought all Jews needed to die. They also discuss the liberal insistence that this is the year young voters really show up at the polls, but early voting does not suggest that’s happening. And they roll their eyes as Twitter considers scrapping the “like” button to stop hateful messages from going viral. They also react in very different ways following the Bears’ win over the Jets on Sunday.
It 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.
For a number of years, Republicans have been told that demographic shifts will ensure their party is reduced to a permanent minority status. Democrats have consoled themselves through many electoral losses by sobbing gently into the pages of The Emerging Democratic Majority, and similar tomes. A mixture of more minority voters, and a generation of young people who find the Republicans to be out of touch, has been scheduled to doom the GOP in national elections.
Or will it? In what will surely come as a surprise to Democrats, young people do not remain young forever. Time marches forever onward. A new crop of barbarians arise each year, and their voting preferences aren’t as straight forward as Democrats would prefer.