CBS News has a great story up about McCain’s lack of appeal to youth voters.

The article starts with observations of McCain’s lack of comfort with technology, the thing that binds most Millennials together.  But then it digs deeper into the dissonance that exists between McCain’s stances on issues and the increasingly liberal views on the Millennial Generation.

Of course, when it comes to the youth vote in this election, any Republican nominee would begin the race at a significant disadvantage. Young people are clearly skewing to the left this election year, identifying more with the Democratic Party and embracing more liberal positions on so-called wedge issues by sizeable majorities. They’ve supported more lenient approaches to dealing with illegal immigrants, agreed that all citizens should have healthcare (even if the government has to provide it to those who can’t afford it) and supported either same-sex marriage or civil unions for homosexual couples. Meanwhile, John McCain has wavered on immigration, his healthcare plan has been described as “total laissez-faire liberty” and he opposes both same-sex marriage and allowing gay couples to adopt.

I think that many Millennials would forgive John McCain for refining his positions on issues, as Millennials are pragmatic by nature and, in the end, want the best solution, not the purest ideology.  But McCain’s problem is that he has switched his positions on issues clumsily, such as immigration, Bush’s tax cuts, and whether or not he’s able to understand the U.S. economy.  That would theoretically undermine his ability, in many Millennials’ eyes, to offer any expertise at digging this country out of its rut.

So then McCain and the Republicans, understanding this, are forced into a decision.  Do they hand the massive Millennial Generation over to the Democrats for good by discouraging their participation in this election, or do they start trying to build a relationship with young people with the remaining time left in order to strengthen it down the road?  While they’d be wise to do the latter, it doesn’t look good.

Between February 1 and July 31, Obama held thirty-two campaign events in college towns; McCain held three. The McCain campaign has yet to publicly announce an official youth outreach or youth vote campaign director. On the other hand, Obama has hired former Rock the Vote political director Hans Reimer. Not surprisingly, young Republicans have complained about the McCain campaign’s poor efforts at the grassroots level and failure to make use of existing networks. “They definitely haven’t reached out to the younger generation as strongly as I hoped they would,” an organizer for the Young Republicans in South Carolina recently told a local newspaper. “It’s a big mistake. You’ve got to create something that people want to be a part of. I’m just not getting that feeling this go-round.” A young conservative political strategist named David All concurred, remarking to the Washington Post that “Republicans are sort of talking down to Gen-Nexters, not bringing them in.”

One more thing I found to be interesting.

“Let me just start by saying that it would not be unheard of for a Republican candidate to win the youth vote,” says Justin York, a grassroots youth organizer for McCain in Florida and an incoming junior at the University of Central Florida (UCF). York points out that Ronald Reagan, nearly McCain’s age in 1984, won the majority of youth voters in his reelection bid and George H.W. Bush, at the age of 64, also captured the majority of youth voters four years later. And if York’s organizing efforts in Florida pay off, perhaps McCain can repeat their successes.

Not so fast, Justin.  The problem with York’s first statement is that he’s living in the 1980s.  With today’s youth, it would be unheard of for a Republican to win the youth vote.  Ronald Reagan did enjoy success with Generation X.  But Generation X is certainly different than the engaged, institutional, liberal Millennials.  Justin also seems to be ignoring the 1990s.  In 1992, the youth vote soared, but Bill Clinton was favored by the youth by a 44 percent to 34 percent (Bush) to 22 percent (Perot) margin.  In 1996, Clinton again was favored, this time over Dole, by a 53 percent to 34 percent margin.  Granted, many 1992 voters did not vote at all in 1996, but even so, the Republicans clearly did not enjoy any appreciation from that demographic.

McCain and the Republicans are treating (and hoping) the Millennials are like Generation X, a generation that, at worst for the Republicans, splits their vote somewhat evenly between the GOP and the Democrats, and is ambivalent about politics.  But fortunately for the Democratic Party and our democracy, Millennials are different.  They are engaged, they are liberal, and come November 4th, all signs point to them turning out and voting for Democrats in large numbers.

Advertisements