Posted by Brad @ 10:40 pm on April 14th 2007

The Republican Demographic Sag

More evidence that the Rove Era of Republican slash and burn political tactics may have bought the GOP two, even three election cycles, but that the long term damage it’s done to the Republican brand may be far, far more crippling than their five years of total dominance was worth. More people under 30 identify as Democrats than as Republicans…by a thirty point spread.

Despite what Joe Scarborough or other culture warriors might attest, Republicans have never been a majority in this country. They’ve always hovered around 30% of voters, below Democrats (and at many times independents) by anywhere from 5 to 15 points. What’s made them effective of course is their discipline and savvy in getting a lot done with less. But, the Republican revolution of 1994 all the way to the “golden years” of total GOP control from 2000-2006 was in large part made possible on the back of a long period where Republicanism gained a lot of ground among the youth, where it was “cool” to be right-wing (although that’s stretching the relative nature of the word “cool” there about as far as it can go). Alex P. Keaton conservatives who grew up under Reagan, who had the seeds of Goldwater planted in them from birth on. Youth, of course, have always tended towards liberalism (there’s no shortage of maxims for this), but the Republican movement went a long ways towards reaching parity, and certainly gained a lot of ground.

Almost all of that has been nearly if not entirely undone in a few short years. Despite its promise of having your cake and eating it to, Bush Republicanism has redefined the brand in such a way that there’s no longer anything chic or inviting about it, particularly to younger voters. I don’t work with kids (Rojas can comment), but I came of age politically around the time of the Republican revolution (but right before it), and I knew an awful lot of young Republican foot soldiers. You just don’t see as much of them any more.

The damage is probably (certainly?) not irreversible, though it’s hard to see where that sense of ID comes from in the contemporary currents of Republicanism. And, it’ll probably always be true that people become more conservative as they get older. But the margins matter, in a two party system, and the difference between being a 31% party in a 31-35 world, compared to being 30% in a 30-42 one, is the difference between possible political utility, and being lost in the darkness for a long, long time.

1 Comment »

  1. Well…the kids I work with are at a Catholic school in one of the more politically conservative counties in one of the most politically conservative states in the US. So I would suppose that my example is highly atypical.

    I will say, though, that I’ve observed anecdotal evidence that even in this stronghold, things are swinging away from the Republicans.

    My students identify primarily as politically apathetic; to the extent that they engage in activity at all, it’s for pro-life causes. Even here, the anti-homosexual angle with which the Republicans identify is pretty close to a complete no-sell; the pro-gay factors in the entertainment culture have more or less defeated Catholic dogma entirely.

    And when these students leave the cloister and go off to college, even within the first year, they tend to self-identify as liberals (in the case of those who were conservatives because that’s all they’d been exposed to) or as libertarians (in the case of those who had sincere, thought-out beliefs in conservative principles before leaving). The ones who stay conservative are (with exceptions) generally not the smartest ones in the batch.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/14/2007 @ 11:31 pm

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