Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Elephant Talk

Posted by codemorse

From Bloomberg:

President George W. Bush's hopes of attracting a new generation of voters to the Republican Party may be fading, as younger Americans are far more critical of his job performance than the broader population.

A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll of Americans age 18 to 24 found Bush's approval rating was 20 percent, with 53 percent disapproving and 28 percent with no opinion. That compares to a 40 percent approval rating among Americans of all ages in a separate Bloomberg/Times poll.

....Bush's 2004 re-election strategy also may have damaged his party's standing with younger voters by stressing things intended to drive religious voters concerned about social issues to the ballot box, such as opposition to gay marriage.

``The very cultural issues the president wants to use to rally his party's base are exactly the issues that are alienating younger voters,'' said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. ``Across a broad swath of social issues, younger Americans see the administration as being out of line with what they believe.''

The war in Iraq is also a major factor driving down public opinion among young voters, said Hans Riemer, political director at Rock the Vote, a group that works to get young people involved in civic life.

``Young people take it very personally,'' he said. ``They feel like it's their generation that's been asked to sacrifice.''

One poll participant, K.C. Chojnacki, an 18-year-old starting her first year in college, expressed those concerns in a follow-up interview. ``I disapprove mostly because I don't agree with the war,'' said Chojnacki, who is from Andover, Minnesota. ``We're going to have to deal with the repercussions, like having to pay for it.''

....David Kirby, executive director of the Washington-based America's Future Foundation, which says it exists to groom young libertarian and conservative leaders, said the president's low approval rating reflects disillusionment with politics, not Bush or the Republican Party.

``It's overly simplistic to say people hate Bush, people hate the war,'' Kirby said. While ``Republicans could do a better job'' winning over young Americans, Kirby said, ``Democrats aren't offering ideological vision for the future that's exciting to young people.''

Well, I can't disagree with him there. The Dems offer excitement the way puritans offer sex - begrudgingly, if at all.

But there's something aggravating about the tactic of turning every criticism into a case of "everyone's in trouble, therefore there is no problem/we won't address that problem". Let's concentrate on the meat of the poll, and not negate the exercise by shrugging our shoulders and relegating the entire thing to "problems we won't concern ourselves with, given their ubiquity".

I would like to point out, for the sake of our conservative readers, that the stated concern of K.C. Chojnacki over the war centers clearly around an issue that isn't subject to much partisan rigamarole. Namely, the war's cost.

That's an incredibly "conservative" view of things, and it's a view that Republicans could harness, if they were able to steer away from the path they've set before them - one that sees us spending MASSIVELY abroad at the expense of our own domestic concerns.

The article above also notes just how out of step the Republican party, and Bush in particular, has been in courting young voters via "social issues," or, as they're more often known, "family values." Sure, it's fun and easy to appeal to base prejudice, but it's ultimately going to bite you in the ass, as Republicans discovered in the wake of the civil rights movement.

It's going to be very interesting to see party affliiations shift as these issues shovee themselves insistently forward in future elections. Young whippersnappers don't like being told that their gay friends are evil. They don't like the idea of the government abandoning them to "private" social security accounts after having supported their parents, and their parent's parents, with the current, supposed "ponzi scheme" of social security.

And by and large, they really don't like Bush.

This is the great challenge of both parties: how to lure young voters? What polls like this one make fairly clear is that current tactics are not the way to go about doing so.


At 9:53 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Actually, if I were a cynic (and I don't think that I am), I would ignore the youth vote entirely.

For one, there is nothing cohesive about the demographic, but for age, and the resultant life expectancy.

Additionally, this sort of anti-war youth paradigm is more apt from our parents' generation. In fact, before the war in Iraq, it garnered more support from people aged 18-30 who grew up with 9/11 as the defining historical moment than from our parents' generation with Vietman and Watergate as the cultural schema setting exemplars.

In some ways, our generation (and by that, I mean people currently 20-35 years old) are more inclined towards social conservativism, including increased religious afiliation. I note, however, that these purported shifts decidedly do not apply toward gay rights and gay marriage, since our generation appears to be substantially in favor of "gay rights."

Our generation is also generally intelligent enough to read the writing on the wall with regard to social security. Back in 1950, as the baby boom was just getting started, each retiree's benefit was divided among 16 workers. Today, that number has dropped to 3.3 workers per retiree, and by 2025, it will reach--and remain at--about two workers per retiree. Each married couple will have to pay, in addition to their own family's expenses, Social Security retirement benefits for one retiree. In short, our generation can do the math, and we're smart enough to know that changes need to be made.

But regarding our friend K.C., I'm reminded of how stupid I was in my first year of college: "In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience." -Oscar Wilde

At 10:31 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

What's stupid about noting the cost of the war, exactly?

Regarding the "anti-war youth paradigm":

It's significant to note that the support the war garnered was in response to false information and the implication that Saddam Hussein and 9/11 were connected. Certainly the shift in support is reminiscent of the Vietnam war in the immediate resistance mounted prior to the war (see: rallies in Washington, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, etc.) and the growing disallusionment following the lack of results.

As far as social conservatism goes, I'm not sure in what sense you're using the word? In what sense is our generation substantially socially conservative, except in the broader, "I don't want my daughter flashing her tits on DVD" sense?

Our generation is smart enough to realize that Bush's plan for social security privatization was flawed, at best. Whether other options exist is not apparent, because like everything else he does, he's pursued reform single-mindedly, without heed toward more moderate suggestions.

There's very little actual conservatism in Bush's brand of conservatism. Were a leader to stand up and advocate for long-standing conservative ideals (fiscal responsibility, small government, individual liberty free from obligation to the community save for one's own desire to help), he'd be at least 100 degrees from the current conservative stance.


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