On Young Voters And The GOP

Republicans - GOP - Young Voters

At least some people in the Republican Party seem to have woken up to the demographic timebomb ticking away under their feet, and have started to lament, if not yet analyse, the fact that the vast majority of young people in America today would sooner give up their loud music and Pac-Man video games (or whatever it is that young people do for fun these days) than vote for a GOP candidate in a presidential election.

There is an article worth reading on this topic by Jeff Jacoby in today’s Boston Globe, entitled “As Dems rack up debt, youth should flock to GOP”.

Mitt Romney is apparently the latest Republican to develop a sense of outrage that no one outside of the grey haired brigade would be seen dead voting for him:

‘I don’t mean to be flip with this,’’ said Mitt Romney during a Q&A with students at the University of Chicago last week. “But I don’t see how a young American can vote for a Democrat.’’ He cheerfully apologized to anyone who might find such a comment “offensive,’’ but went on to explain why he was in earnest.

The Democratic Party “is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation, mounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for,’’ Romney said. While Democrats are perpetrating “the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind,’’ Republicans are “consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down and creating economic growth and opportunity so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you.’’

At which point the needle on my “Are You For Real?” machine jolted as far toward the “You Must Be Kidding” end of the spectrum as it could go before the whole machine exploded in a shower of sparks.

The author himself does a good job of pouring cold water on any Republican claims to the mantle of fiscal restraint:

But that debt wasn’t piled up without plenty of Republican help. During George W. Bush’s presidency, annual federal spending skyrocketed from $1.8 trillion to $3.4 trillion, and $4.9 trillion was added to the national debt. Bush left the White House, in fact, as the biggest spender since LBJ . Granted, the profligacy of Barack Obama has outstripped even Bush’s bacchanal: CBS reports that Obama has added more to the national debt in just three years and two months than Bush did in his entire eight years. Still, younger voters can hardly be blamed if they haven’t noticed that Republicans are “consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down.’’

Therefore I do not intend to say anything more about the glaring, shameless hypocrisy of the Republicans – the party that gifted America two unfunded wars, large tax breaks not balanced by spending cuts and the joke that is Medicare Part D – laying any claim whatsoever to competency in handling the nation’s finances. Except that I will say that much of the “profligacy of Barack Obama” mentioned by the author was the result of a fiscal stimulus implemented (despite its imperfections) at a time when the US economy was in freefall, and without which the tepid recovery currently being experienced would likely be nothing but a sweet dream.

Mitt Romney and those others in the Republican Party who scratch their heads wondering why young people don’t like them miss the point entirely when they sulk that young people should embrace their economic policies. Though their fiscal policies may perhaps benefit young people in certain ways (and even this is arguable), there is no evidence based on past behaviour that they will actually have the political courage to implement them if voted into office. Old people (the beneficiaries of the “wealth transfers” that Romney claims to lament) actually vote in large numbers. Younger people don’t. The policy priorities of our political candidates duly reflect this fact.

Besides, it is not the GOP’s economic policies that are the main problem. The problem is the fact that in a bad economy, the opposition party is spending more time talking about abortion, contraception, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, repealing ObamaCare, questioning the president’s eligibility to hold office, and reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a host of other socially regressive policy positions which are anathema to a majority of young people today than they are about how to reduce unemployment and help a population ill-equipped to perform the more highly-skilled, non-manufacturing jobs of tomorrow.

Rick Santorum in particular often complains that the media focuses on his socially conservative policy positions and not his economic plan, but he can hardly expect young voters to thrust him into office on the back of his inspired ideas on the economy (spoiler – they are not that great) when they are more worried that he will cut off their unemployment insurance, or close down the Planned Parenthood centre where they go for medical care, or start a war with Iran.

It is no coincidence that the one Republican presidential candidate who actually walks the fiscal conservatism walk and who doesn’t continually bleat on about social issues and the culture wars – Ron Paul – vastly outperforms his rivals with young voters, in primary after primary.

Newsflash to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich:

Even if you had a cogent economic policy (which, by the way, none of you do) you will never appeal to young people by just tweaking your fiscal message a little bit. You had a choice when you started your presidential campaigns, and in your desperation to secure the party base you chose to fearmonger and rant about “taking back America”, and fret about turning into a socialist state, and speak about the importance of individal freedom in one breath while promising to impose your religious values on the whole country in the next.

Many young people would like an alternative to President Barack Obama, but you offer them nothing by way of a contrasting, conservative vision for the country that they could ever find acceptable. You offer them nothing. You offer racial minorities nothing. You offer women nothing. You offer the working poor and the unemployed nothing. And all of these constituencies will dutifully line up to vote for Barack Obama, and you will lose the presidential election on November 6th.

It could be otherwise, if only you offered the American people a genuine acceptable choice when they cast their votes.

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