Back during the 2008 campaign, much was said about how then-candidate Obama was scooping up the youth vote. But a recent story in the New York Times suggests that young people are abandoning the Democrats and are now up for grabs.
“Though many students are liberals on social issues, the economic reality of a weak job market has taken a toll on their loyalties: far fewer 18- to 29-year-olds now identify themselves as Democrats compared with 2008.
“‘Is the recession, which is hitting young people very hard, doing lasting or permanent damage to what looked like a good Democratic advantage with this age group?’ asked Scott Keeter, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan group. ‘The jury is still out.’
“How and whether millions of college students vote will help determine if Republicans win enough seats to retake the House or Senate, overturning the balance of power on Capitol Hill, and with it, Mr. Obama’s agenda. If students tune out and stay home it will also carry a profound message for American society about a generation that seemed so ready, so recently, to grab national politics by the lapels and shake.”
Whether the young people were a generation of inspired idealists or, as Jason Mattera tartly described them, “Obama Zombies” all blissed out on the moonshine that the One was selling, it seems that stark reality has mugged them. It is bad enough that jobs after graduation are few and far between. But a lot of parents are having to pinch pennies, which means maybe not being able to complete college in any case, or having to settle for a less-fashionable institution of higher learning closer to home.
This generation will not be the first whose mindless idealism ran headlong into reality. In 1968, young people who were not tuning out and dropping out or slogging through the elephant grass being shot at in Vietnam flocked to Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy, Four years later, though, the youth vote went to Richard Nixon. That was partly because George McGovern was frankly nutters, but also because Nixon, at least in 1972, represented calmness and sanity, good qualities that young people can appreciate when career and family loom in the near future.
If the trend continues, one wonders which Republican will benefit from the awakening from sleep of the Obama Zombies. It won’t be someone who tries, painfully for an older person, to be hipper. It’ll be someone who can articulate a future that includes being able to have a job and start a family, someone who can sell the idea of individual responsibility rather than top-down control, someone, in effect, who can talk straight and not BS.
Who would that be? The hockey mom from Alaska? The affable corporate CEO from Massachusetts? The college professor from Georgia? Someone else? One can hardly wait to see.
Sources: Fewer Young Voters See Themselves as Democrats, Kirk Johnson, New York Times, September 3rd, 2010
Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation, Jason Mattera, Threshold Editions, 2010