Republicans have an election problem. They keep losing them, and even when they win, the margins are narrow enough that the party is stuck with a coalition of malcontents that don’t fall in line with the leadership most of the time. But that almost understates the problem.
When it comes to younger voters, what was a slight edge for the Democratic Party turns into a blue-hued massacre. In the 2018 midterm elections, 67% of voters aged 18-29 went for the Democrats. In the 2020 presidential election, 60% of that demographic went to President Biden, and in the 2022 midterms where the “red wave” turned into a red trickle, 63% of the youngest voters went for Democrats.
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While I’m not much of a believer in the idea that the young voters will save us — my own demographic, Gen X, is disturbingly favorable for MAGA candidates despite the fact we should know better — I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the Republican/conservative brand is toxic with the youth and even worse for those who haven’t hit voting age yet.
The right clearly believes this is the product of a massive brainwashing campaign. Recently failed Wisconsin governor and never-was presidential candidate Scott Walker, head of the right-wing Young America’s Foundation argued that “radical indoctrination” by the left created this GOP nightmare. This is not an outlier argument for the right. They truly believe that the left-wing views of younger Americans are a product of a dedicated leftist machine.
They think that the Borg-like Boogeyman creature they caricature as “the left” has burrowed its way into young minds, via high school and college teachers and professors who are purportedly preaching Karl Marx like biblical heretics, pop culture icons like Cardi B who are imparting life lessons about wet genitals, and TikTok videos that are supposedly making everyday teens decide to become transgender. As always, the Left of the right’s fevered nightmares are impressive and terrifying.
Of course, this is all nonsense.
What is really happening in America is that young Americans are lashing out at the nightmares built by years of conservative policy and rhetoric, because those toxic ideas are making their lives worse.
This is a generation that has grown up with the concept of mass shooting drills in their schools. From an early age they’ve been taught lessons in survival that involve hiding behind school desks and barricading classroom doors so they can possibly survive a massacre instigated by an adult or one of their fellow students wielding a weapon like an AR-15. When these same, understandably terrified young people meekly ask for someone to work on this problem, noting solutions that have worked in many countries, they are told that the sacred right to unlimited guns “shall not be infringed.” It might lead to a little resentment for the conservative establishment who bows before the corrupt ghouls who run organizations like the NRA.
This is a generation of Americans who were on the frontlines of a global pandemic, who saw a conservative movement reject basic science when it came to vaccination. The right wing movement took up arms over the suggestion that people use masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and they pushed quack medical cures while real scientific experts offered vaccines that ultimately proved vital to bringing the world back to normal.
These are young Americans entering the workforce with even dimmer prospects for home ownership than the already rocky situation facing many millenials and GenXers, in part because the people who keep scamming us at the banks always evade prosecution. Even the Democratic Party gave in to conservative impulses to leave the markets alone following the mortgage crisis, and big business repaid us by screwing the public over again and again and again. It might make a young person slightly cynical about capitalism and “free markets.”
Young Americans have seen the conservative establishment openly embrace bigotry on a massive scale. The right doesn’t think twice about cheering on cops who kill Black people, calling for Muslims to be banned from travel, describing transgender people as “groomer” pedophiles, referring to Mexicans as “rapists,” promoting antisemitism or giving bigots a free pass by referring to the pandemic as “the China virus.” Many of these young people are in these groups marginalized by mainstream modern conservatism, or their closest friends and families are the ones being affected. That’s a heavy list of thoughts to put aside and vote for the Republican Party and Donald Trump, among others.
Conservative ideas and the hate and nonsense that power them are a direct burden on younger people. To reject these destructive notions, it only makes sense that they go to the left. In our two party system, the Democratic Party and all its flaws becomes the beneficiary of this movement.
The right could have a moment of self-examination. They could reflect on what they have built and consider moving away from their hardline, becoming less bigoted and exploitative of prejudicial fears and pseudoscientific bullshit. They could offer an alternative path to liberalism with real policy.
What is truly happening is that the right — as always — is doubling down on hate and bigotry, even though the public at large is rejecting it. For their young voter problem, they have just decided to replay what they have done to Black voters since America’s founding: Prevent them from voting. They actively work to remove polling places from colleges and universities and enact policies like voter ID designed to suppress turnout. They use gerrymandered districts to lessen the impact of young voters when they do turn out, and they go full Jim Crow by trying to remove Black legislators who reflect the will of these voters.
Liberals cannot rest on their laurels here. Younger voters must be constantly courted, their ideas listened to and implemented. It’s not enough to whip them up into a voting frenzy, then when in power, shrug and say “the rules” prevent implementing needed changes to make all of our lives better. Democrats have to pull their heads out of their rears and do what young voters tell them to do, and throw out the party’s inherently conservative approach to getting things done.
But conservatism made young voters go “woke.” They built up a world that has rewarded the worst, that creates threats to young lives, that widens the gap of income inequality and empowers bigots and mass shooters.
Young people are just doing what is necessary to enable their survival, and in this instance it is a wholesale rejection of conservatism. We didn’t build that. The right did.
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I was in the hospital over the weekend (nothing too serious) and I really missed the little guy. I think he missed me too and we’re making up for it.
Powerful and so true. One tiny correction - Scott Walker is Wisconsin’s problem, not my Minnesota’s problem.
It’s amazing how much farther right the Republicans are lurching every election since 2008. I really hope we can do it in 2024 and really start fixing the problems. Fucking Kyrsten Sinema and the fucking filibuster.
I hope you feel better!!
Please don’t blame Minnesota for the union busting right-wing self-diddling automaton Lil’ Scotty Wanker. That’s Wisconsin’s fault.