Whither the youth vote in 2012?
James Taranto has a good piece in the Wall Street Journal today that highlights a recent debate online about the Obama coalition and whether it can hang together to bring him victory next year.
The "Government Party" which is made up of minorities, college educated adults, single women, and the intellectual class will all probably give Obama less support than in 2008. But it is the youth vote, that went 2-1 for Obama in the last election, that may tell the tale and give the GOP nominee the presidency:
If you're too young to remember and want to see it dramatized, tune in to an old episode of "All in the Family," a contemporaneous sitcom in which Mike "Meathead" Stivic, the liberal college student played by Rob Reiner (born in 1947 and now a portly sexagenarian with a bald pate and a white beard) clashes endlessly with "white working-class" father-in-law Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor (born in 1924).
To the extent that Meathead represented a mass political movement, it was one focused on a single issue: ending the draft. Once Nixon signed the law abolishing conscription in 1973, the army of Meatheads dissolved. But liberal baby boomers do maintain an outsize influence on the culture, since they essentially run most media and educational institutions.
That cultural influence played no small part in making Obama so attractive to the young voters of 2008. But because the basis for that attraction was shallow, it is proving evanescent. Young voters today are very much up for grabs. They are all but certain to be more Republican in 2012 than 2008. After that, who knows?
What we do know is that, unlike in 1972, there is a serious and deep generational clash of interests that has not taken full political shape but inevitably will. The federal government spends a vast and quickly expanding amount of money supporting the old through Social Security and Medicare--Ponzi schemes sold as insurance policies, which are unsustainable on their current course.
The old believe that they are due these benefits for having paid into the system, and their position is not without justice. But so is the argument that the young will inevitably make--that it is unfair to tax them to pay for benefits they know they will never see. If you're in middle age, which side of the divide you end up on will depend on how quickly the crisis develops. (The Obama administration, by suppressing the private economy and expanding the entitlement state, has hastened the day of reckoning.)
With the young's concentration on issues like "diversity," it may be that GOP gains among this group will be small. But even more telling will be a fall off in turnout among the 18-29 age group that will lower Obama's margin in some key states. The youth of America have become disillusioned with Obama and the share of their vote could fall from near record levelsin 2008 back to more normal numbers in 2012.