Michael Medved on why the GOP shouldn't panic
Demographics favor Democrats. The young will be liberals forever. A new liberal majority is the reality in American politics.
Not so fast, says Michael Medved:
In response to the disappointing results of November's elections, I have argued that conservatives should take heart from the undeniable aging of the electorate, which will tilt future contests toward Republicans. 2012 exit polls showed Mitt Romney sweeping voters 65 and older in a 12-point landslide, and among all those above age 30 (81 percent of the voting public) the Republican nominee prevailed by a solid margin. President Obama won the overall vote solely on the strength of his crushing 60-to-36 advantage with the 18-to-30 crowd. If official projections prove accurate, low birthrates and rising life expectancy will produce a much higher percentage of elderly Americans in the electorate, conferring a significant edge for conservative candidates in future close elections.
But Democrats hope that young Obama enthusiasts will maintain their overwhelmingly liberal orientation even as they grow older and their life circumstances change. In a provocative piece for New York magazine that calls conservatives "doomed," Jonathan Chait argues that the president's support from young voters in the last two election cycles went "beyond the usual reasons-social issues like gay marriage and feminism, immigration policy or Obama's personal appeal-and suggest a deeper attachment to liberalism. The proclivities of younger voters may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics." He goes on to cite a Pew survey suggesting that "Americans form a voting pattern early in their life and tend to hold to it."
That conclusion, however, contradicts the evidence of 40 years of exit polls. In 11 presidential elections since 1972, voters over 65 have voted more Republican than voters under 30 in every contest but one (1988, for some reason). In none of the 11 elections did young voters tilt more Republican than the overall electorate; their levels of support for Democratic candidates in each campaign topped those of the general electorate by an average of five points.
Medved asks, "Does ideology shape life experience, or does life experience determine ideology?" Winston Churchill has been quoted saying, "Anyone below the age of 30 who isn't a liberal has no heart. Anyone over the age of 30 who isn't a conservative has no brains." Of course, not all young people who are liberals in their 20's end up being conservative. But there is evidence that many young people become less liberal once they get married and have the responsibilities of adulthood. Things they didn't care much about when they were younger - values, culture, taxes - become very important once they have children of their own.
Medved may be overstating the case, but he makes a good point; there is no reason for the GOP to abandon positions on social issues in order to cater to some perceived bias by youth.