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“Sanders Must Level With His Young Voters”: The Fickleness Of The Youth Vote Has Been The Bane Of Progressive Politics

What happened in the South Carolina primary? Bernie Sanders was asked. “We got decimated, that’s what happened,” he responded.

Here was Sanders at his best. Brutally honest. Averse to spin. Though the independent from Vermont vows to fight on, his lopsided loss in pivotal South Carolina makes his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination increasingly slim.

The question for progressives is: What happens to his passionate followers in the event he leaves the race? Or more to the point: Is there a way to keep his ardent fans ardent about participating in the electoral politics? Will they keep voting when the candidates are less charismatic, when the election’s not in a big-deal presidential year, when the solutions are muddied in the reality of two-party politics?

Sanders’ feat in electrifying younger voters has been extraordinary. And that extends to his success with many young Latinos and African-Americans, whose elders went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

But the fickleness of the youth vote has been the bane of progressive politics. It is why the right wing controls Congress.

In 2008, a political rock star named Barack Obama energized the young electorate with talk of radical transformation. The voters’ idealistic fervor helped sweep him into office and expanded the Democratic majority in Congress.

The economy was in free fall. But in the first two years of his presidency, Obama helped steer America from the precipice of another Great Depression — plus he pushed the passage of the Affordable Care Act, bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It was hard work, not magic, that accomplished these remarkable things.

Many of his younger voters, led to believe in Technicolor miracles, were unimpressed. The 2010 midterms came around, and they stayed home. Not so the older tea party Republicans, who despised much of what Obama stood for.

Here’s the thing about these right-leaning activists: Sometimes they have a candidate they adore. Sometimes they don’t. But they vote. They vote in presidential years and in non-presidential years, when the public isn’t paying much attention. They vote for the state legislators who usually end up creating districts that favor their party’s candidates.

So as older conservatives marched to the polls, many young liberals did a vanishing act. Having represented 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, voters under the age of 30 accounted for only 11 percent in 2010, their poorest performance in two decades.

Democrats suffered devastating losses, and progressive priorities went into the deep freeze.

It’s true that younger Americans tend to move more often, and that complicates the process of registering to vote and finding the polling place. But still. The youth turnout in the 2014 midterm was even more dismal than in 2010 — actually, the lowest in 40 years.

It is the nature of liberal politics to be cerebral, and with that comes the “critique.” Rather than marvel that near-universal coverage happened at all, prominent voices on the left attacked the reforms as a surrender to business interests. They bashed Obama for not slapping more cuffs on the Wall Street operators.

These complaints were not without merit, but politics is always a work in progress. One keeps plugging away.

Sanders is a no-excuses type of guy. He’s in an especially strong position to do some truth-telling to the young electorate that has rallied to his cause. If they think that the economy is rigged against them, they have to vote out the politicians who have done the rigging. They must play the long game.

One politician’s magnetism isn’t going to do it. Just ask President Obama.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 1, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Midterm Elections, Millennnials | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Does Sanders Have A Lock On The Youth Vote?”: It’s Still A Little Early For All Of The Assumptions

The huge story coming out of the Iowa caucuses is that young people voted for Bernie Sanders 84/14. Thus developed the meme that he has a lock on that age group around the country and writers like Nate Silver are attempting to explain the phenomenon. But does the polling bear that out?

The problem with examining the question is that there are very few polls of states that will weigh in after New Hampshire – and even fewer that provide information based on age. So with the caveat that these are merely individual polls and should be taken with a grain of salt, here is a bit of evidence to test the meme.

Based on this NBC/WSJ poll (Feb. 2-3), it looks like the New Hampshire results will closely mirror what happened in Iowa with those under 45.

Sanders 72%
Clinton 27%

One of the states that holds its primary on March 1st (Super Tuesday) is Georgia. Here is how the under 40 vote looks in a poll conducted by Landmark Communications (Feb. 4).

Sanders 13.5%
Clinton 61%

North Carolina holds its primary on March 15th. Here’s what Public Policy Polling (Jan 18-19) found for voters under 45 in that state.

Sanders 31%
Clinton 51%

Perhaps these polls from Georgia and North Carolina haven’t accurately captured the millennial surge in those states. Or perhaps Bernimania will catch on there as the vote gets closer. Or maybe, like other age groups, a more diverse collection of young people will vote differently than the mostly white group that we’ve seen in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s still a little early for all of the assumptions about how Sanders has a lock on the youth vote.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Millennnials, Young Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Damn Millennials Don’t Get Socialism”: Hillary Is The Sausage-Maker, And Bernie Is The Eggman

Once upon a precious old time, socialism actually meant something, distinct from liberalism. A socialist was somebody who wanted the state to own the means of production. The British Labour Party, say, was genuinely socialist. Its socialism had a specific (and since abandoned) source—Clause IV of the 1918 party constitution, which described the new party’s goal thus: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

Back in those days, when by today’s standards most people were poor or close to it, this was actually a pretty popular position. Even the ruling classes tolerated a bit of common ownership. For example, in London between the wars, as in New York, the underground/subway systems were taken public, because what had existed before was a mish-mash of privately owned lines that didn’t coordinate schedules and so on.

After World War II, when Labour swept in with a clear mandate, the party really did set about nationalising-with-an-s all the major public services and industries. Can you imagine?! The coal industry was nationalized, just wrenched right out of the scheming hands of several hundred little (and big) Don Blankenships!

The United States never had a major socialist party. If you don’t believe me, conservative readers, go back and read some of preacher and Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas’s criticisms of Franklin Roosevelt. Aspects of the New Deal were of course quasi-socialistic. But real socialists hated Roosevelt more than they hated the Republicans in a way: Roosevelt saved capitalism. And broadly speaking, socialists also tended to be pacifists (even as they were militant anti-fascists).

Well, to make a long story short, times changed. In America we had deindustrialization, deunionization, Reagan; in Britain, Thatcher won, and a fellow named Arthur Scargill whom you ought to Google if you’re interested did some terrible damage.

Then in 1989, the Soviet Union collapsed. Through the 1990s, there were still a number of countries in the world that called themselves socialist. But that began to dwindle, and over these past 25 years, the memory of the distinction between liberalism and socialism has dwindled along with it. The evanescence of this memory has of course been accelerated by the roughly 89 kajillion hours of American talk radio in which any mildly left-of-center politician or proposal was reprehended as socialistic.

I say all this of course by way of talking about the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and especially the generational divide thereof. Some observers appear to be a little surprised that Sanders, the crotchety old guy, leads Clinton among young people. A Rock the Vote poll of millennials that came out this month shows Sanders leading Clinton by 11 points among voters under 35 I’ve seen others where the spread is higher.

It all makes total sense. If you’re my age, you remember a time when the distinction between liberal and socialist mattered. If you were one or the other and lived in a place populated by many of both, you got into lots of beer-spittled arguments about the merits and demerits of each. And incidentally, you also remember a time when Bernie Sanders was this interesting, basically admirable, but only-in-Vermont mayor, and then later, this interesting, basically admirable, but for the most part inconsequential back-benching member of the House of Representatives.

But say you’re 28 and a liberal. All you know about socialists is that these eye-bulging racist vampires you see on TV keep calling Barack Obama a socialist. And you think, “Hey, I like Obama, so socialist is okay by me!” And remember that in his one big speech in which he defined what socialism means to him, Sanders—probably somewhat disingenuously, given that he chose to be a socialist rather than a liberal back when the differences were stark, but also wholly understandably—basically kinda said socialism to him means the stuff that Roosevelt did and free college and so on.

Besides all that, you have no memory of a time when Sanders was a marginal character on the national stage. For all of your adult lifetime, he’s been a United States Senator! There are important senators and unimportant ones, smart ones and dumb ones, sober ones and drunk ones, but all that doesn’t really matter. Once people have to call you “Senator,” you’re a respectable figure.

So differences in perspective on Sanders between young and old is Grand Canyon-ic in scale, and it is both ideological and personal. By the way, Clinton wallops Sanders in their own older cohort. In one recent poll, Clinton was leading Sanders among voters 50 and older by 40 points, 64-24.

Now of course young voters are responding to Sanders’s positions and his rhetoric, and they’re responding to his thundering assertions that sweeping change is a matter of political will, which older voters (this one included) tend to disbelieve. My point is just that they aren’t put off from jump street by the S-word in the way that older voters who knew the original meaning of the word are more likely to be.

So we had this Des Moines Register poll last week showing that 43 percent of Iowa Democrats thought of themselves as socialists. No age breakdown was released, but I’d bet the generational divide is clear. Oddly enough, “liberal” wasn’t a listed option on the question; just “socialist” or “capitalist.”

Since no one’s talking about the state seizing the means of production today, what’s the remaining difference, you might ask? Fair question. These days, with socialists having dropped the core thing that made socialism socialism, it’s probably mostly a mindset, an emotional-psychological sense of how confrontational and disruptive and anti-establishment people want their leaders to be. The only distinctly socialist (as opposed to liberal) thing about Sanders’s platform is his call for Medicare-for-all, which directly echoes what the socialist Labour Party did in the UK in 1946.

In an ideal world most Democratic voters would prefer that, surely; but how many will see it as preferable to the Clinton position of just slowly, and admittedly much more boringly, building on Obamacare? Art Goldhammer had a terrific column at The American Prospect this week in which he divided us into sausage people and egg people—the sausage people, after Bismarck’s famous quote, know that making change is hard, slow, and messy. The egg people want to break eggs to make omelets, and they want to break them now.

Hillary is the sausage-maker, and Bernie is the eggman. Egg-breaking is a lot more fun, hence its attraction, especially to younger people. But then you have to make the omelet. Sometimes people forget that that part can be really hard.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Millennnials, Socialism | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“An Outdated Reference”: Millennials Don’t Really Remember Ronald Reagan, And That’s A Problem For The Reagan-Loving GOP

In the summer of 2004, when I was 16, Ronald Reagan died. Washington, D.C., was within driving distance of our home, so when my mom proposed we go see the former president lying in state in the Capitol, I was game.

But that experience is about the extent to which he features in my political consciousness. Since then, I’ve become more and more interested in politics and less and less interested in Ronald Reagan. It’s not that I’m anti-Gipper — though I have been known to make a few Zombie Reagan jokes with each passing election cycle. It’s just that fealty to Reagan is not the measuring stick I naturally reach for when evaluating a candidate.

I don’t think this Reagan apathy is unique to me. I’m a decade older than 2016’s first-time voters, who were born in — oh geez — 1998. When I was visiting the Capitol, they were getting ready to graduate from kindergarten. So if Ronald Reagan appears but dimly in my political consciousness, he’s almost on par with Millard Fillmore for them.

At best, Reagan might be a George Washington-type figure for some millennials: He’s got some good quotes and we may have vaguely positive feelings about him, but when it comes to concrete policy decisions, Reagan fades into the background, eclipsed by more recent figures and considerations.

This may be due to the way high school history is taught, with minimal attention given to everything post-Marshall Plan. (I left an Advanced Placement history class with no idea who or what an Iran-Contra was.) But I suspect a more significant factor is simply the passage of time: Reagan left the White House 10 years before this election’s new voters were born. At 18, that’s more than half a lifetime. Add to that the breakneck pace at which the modern news cycle moves and you have a perfect recipe for Reagan’s near irrelevance to the bulk of the younger generation.

No one at Republican headquarters seems to have really absorbed this fact yet, even though the voters who can remember Reagan are not the ones the GOP needs to worry about attracting.

Indeed, for Republican presidential candidates, appeals to Reagan’s legacy are de rigueur. Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz are all eager to cite Reagan as the greatest president in recent history — even when that’s not the question they were asked. Carly Fiorina published an effusive blog post praising Reagan on his birthday during her 2010 Senate campaign; Rick Perry echoes his speeches; Rubio quotes Reagan quoting obscure quotes. Rand Paul mentions Reagan often on topics ranging from taxes to Iran, though he has been willing to call out Reagan’s intemperate fiscal policy.

Jeb Bush, to his credit, said in 2009 that Republicans should abandon the Reagan nostalgia for a more forward-thinking message. But so far his campaign isn’t living up to that hype — Bush has even hired numerous Reagan advisers to his own team. Similarly, Mike Huckabee argued in 2011 that Reagan would not be elected by the modern GOP, only to announce a “Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II Tour” tour for pastors from early primary states. And Rick Santorum pointed out last year that Reagan is an outdated reference, but just two months earlier he’d all but claimed the Reagan mantle for himself.

And that’s the heart of the problem: that there exists such an idea as the “Reagan mantle,” and that it’s desired even by Republicans who seem to get that Reagan may not be the best campaign icon in 2015.

This is bad marketing for an aging party that struggles to appeal to young people, but it’s even worse for policy innovation. As Jim Antle has ably argued at The American Conservative, appeals to the idealized Reagan of the Republican establishment’s memory have led to an excessively hawkish, unthoughtful GOP that values economic freedom while discounting civil liberties (a defining issue for millennials, who aren’t exactly on board with Reagan’s acceleration of the drug war, either).

Of course, political movements need motivational figures, and conservatives are particularly inclined to be inspired by and committed to the past.

But the invocation of Reagan in the Republican Party today is a malleable shorthand for “things we like,” as the real Reagan’s legacy is reduced to a myth of low taxes and aggressive foreign policy. As Richard Gamble writes, it is difficult to “point to any concrete evidence that the Reagan Revolution fundamentally altered the nation’s trajectory toward bloated, centralized, interventionist government,” and keeping Reagan around as a tired symbol of small government makes it similarly difficult to progress toward that goal — or capture the interest of the next generation.

 

By: Bonnie Kristian, The Week, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Millennnials, Ronald Reagan | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Marco Rubio, Gen-X Fraud”: The “John McCain Of The Millennial Set”

On the surface, Marco Rubio is such a perfect 2016 Republican nominee you might think he was created in a lab. He ticks off all the demographic boxes that the GOP has struggled with for the past decade: A young (43) Latino who likes Tupac! He is adept with social media, talks like a person who watches the same dumb TV as you, and is pleasantly self-deprecatory when the occasion calls for it. Pundits and consultants are giddy with the prospect of a “generational choice” between Rubio and the rest of the field—not to mention Hillary Clinton.

Analysts aren’t wrong to suppose that a race against Rubio, in either the primary or the general, will expose a generational fault line. But it’s far from certain that Rubio will be one with the youth vote on his side.

Take away Rubio’s biography and look at his positions and he becomes less the voice of his generation and more Benjamin Button. If I told you about a candidate that was anti-marriage equality, anti-immigration reform (for now), anti-pot decriminalization, pro-government surveillance, and in favor of international intervention but against doing something about climate change, what would you guess the candidate’s age to be? On all of those issues, Rubio’s position is not the one shared by most young people. The Guardian dubbed him the “John McCain of the millennial set,” which isn’t fair to McCain, who at least has averred that climate change exists.

Indeed, with those opinions, the only demographic Rubio can plausibly claim to represent is old white guys. Well,  even old white guys support marriage equality these days—63 percent of all Americans do. But Rubio has the olds on other issues! Americans 65 and older are the only age group with a majority against marijuana decriminalization and the only group who deny anthropogenic climate change; those 50 and older are the only group with a majority that believes the government surveillance “has not gone far enough.”

Advisers have bragged that, unlike other candidates, Rubio would not be “competing for who can be the whitest, oldest rich guy,” a claim which is both obvious and beside the point. Of course, he’s not competing to be a rich old white guy, but he’d be a fool not to be competing for the whitest, oldest rich guys. Staking his nomination on the non-white or youth voters of the Republican Party would be a comically doomed strategy: The GOP primary electorate is 95 percent white. In every state with an early primary (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida), over half of those who cast Republican votes are over the age of 50. (In Florida, 70 percent of primary voters are over 50.)

Indeed, the Rubio team’s assuredness about his youthful appeal may come from the fact that they’re all in Florida. Winning “the youth vote” in Florida amounts to sweeping the retirement communities rather than the nursing homes.

What’s more, Rubio has competition to be one of the non-whitest, youngest guys in the GOP’s crowded field: There is at least one honorary Hispanic (Jeb Bush) and one black candidate (Ben Carson), and several who are close to Rubio in age: Scott Walker (47), Rand Paul (52), Ted Cruz (44).

The redeeming quality of Rubio’s “youth strategy”—why it just might work!—is that it is fundamentally insincere. Which is to say, he’s not competing for the youth vote at all—he’s competing for the old rich white guys who think they know what the youth of the country want.

All those electoral post-mortems have apparently convinced at least a few of the GOP’s decision-makers that they are no longer the most influential demographic in America. But they didn’t finish reading those reports, I guess, because they don’t seem to realize why they aren’t as influential. They think it’s just about age and race, and so we get Republicans in mid-life-crisis mode, without thinking through what issues made young people reject them.

This is the latest in conservative identity politics, a facile assumption that all you need to do to win someone’s vote is to run someone that looks a little like them. But millennials in particular have proven to be demographic-agnostic when it comes to picking their heroes and spokespeople. They’ve made meme-worthy icons of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Betty White. A recent survey found that the business person millennials most admire to be Bill Gates (59), not Mark Zuckerberg. In politics, it was John F. Kennedy, who might considered permanently young, but he surely doesn’t represent the future.

As far attracting young voters, Rubio’s campaign will probably go about as well as most old-people-try-to-guess-what-the-young-people-want strategies go. Marco Rubio is the GOP’s Cousin Oliver, a desperate gimmick by the out-of-touch to spark interest in a moribund brand. That Rubio is a gleeful participant in this exercise makes his distance from the actual dreams and desires of this country’s young people all the more apparent.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox,

April 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Millennnials | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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