Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sorta poltical: "But demographics are on our side"

I know, I know. Just yesterday morning  I was saying that I couldn't get worked up about politics 'cause it's summer.

Well, today's exception is to congratulate Kevin Drum, who writes for Mother Jones, for realizing there is something must be wrong with one of the favourite arguments of the left.

Here is the set up:
A lot of smart people say that demographic trends are steadily moving in favor of Democrats, and they make a good case. The young have turned sharply against Republicans over the past decade, and brand loyalty means their anti-Republican voting behavior is likely to persist over their entire lives.
And here is the punch line:
And yet, real-world events belie these trends. Republicans continue to be just as competitive in national elections as ever. It's easy, of course, to chalk this up to events: 9/11 moved the electorate in a pro-Republican direction, while continuing economic stagnation has more recently moved them in an anti-incumbent—and therefore anti-Democratic—direction. But either the demographic argument is wrong, or else it's been continuing apace, a growing tide held back by chance events. If the latter is true, Democrats should very soon start blowing Republicans out of the water in a very regular and very spectacular kind of way.

That sounds great, but I confess that I don't see much sign of it. What am I missing?
Let me put you out of your misery Mr. Drum, the problem is that the demographic argument is just wrong.

Let me give you an example of a political struggle you don't have a personal stake in as that may make it easier to see. If the demographic argument was right, Quebec would long ago have become an independent country. Youth support for independence in Quebec was even higher than youth support for the Democrats is in the USA for decades beginning in the early 1970s. If that had held, eighty percent of voters up to age sixty should be solidly for independence today. In fact, support for Quebec independence is lower today than it has been any time in recent decades.

If you look at it closely, one of the things that should hit you about the youth vote is how much of it isn't. Isn't a vote I mean. Youth just don't show up to vote much. I could try and convince you that that the issues youth care most about are just abstract issues for them but I don't need to. Anyone who can't even bother to show up to vote just doesn't care that much. The same guy who can't bother making it to the polling station might well wear a button decrying racism, or stand in the street banging a drum for ten hours to end economic inequality, or go to a concert to support efforts to do something about global warming, but all those things are more of a pose, a stance than a decision he has any personal stake in.

And Kevin Drum should know this. Look at his word choice above: "and brand loyalty means...". Brand loyalty? Is that meant to be serious?

Very little hangs on your political opinions when you're young. You don't pay taxes, you don't own property, you don't have a career, you don't have children of your own about to enter the school system.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child ....
Youth grows up and changes. Voting patterns aren't like tattoos, it's relatively easy to change them. Even the voter who votes Democrat all his or her life will do so for vastly different reasons as an adult.

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