Monday, October 16, 2006

Future Values Voters of America

Sunday’s NY Times had an article about the demographic nature of party affiliation, not by income or ethnicity, but simply by age. They associated the assorted ages in the survey with the Presidential administration in which these voters came of age, using age 20 as the key year. Those who came of age in the Eisenhower and Reagan-Bush years were the most Republican group. The most surprising number was the current generation – rather than going along with the party affiliation of the President, this is the most Democratic generation ever, by a margin of 52-37%, which also makes them the least Republican generation ever. Much credit for this was given to the Iraq war and Michael Barone, who believes the Iraq War is causing a transitory blip in the numbers, pooh-poohs the concept of an emerging party shift. I disagree. Now my disagreement could be based on my belief that the Iraq war is not all that transitory an event, but it’s not. I base it on MTV.
Remember Pedro Zamora? If you saw The Real World – San Francisco on MTV you would. He was a Cuban-American gay AIDS activist, who brought home the disease to an audience of young people in a way no lecture could, although much of his time was spent lecturing to young people (as well as Congress) about AIDS. On the series, we met him and his lover (who was black – in case this wasn’t provocative enough.) One of the others in the cast was a young woman with a strong religious background who was horrified at the thought of gays, but gradually she came to realize that they were people and deserved the right to be happy. Zamora died not long after the series was done. Virtually every edition of The Real World since has included at least one gay person. Now MTV is not in the business of leading their audience – no network is. They reflect their audience and the generation to which they have spoken and the subsequent ones to which they speak are pro-gay rights, pro-choice, pro-open sexuality (see any music video), and basically color blind, in the racial sense. Why would we be surprised that the majority of this generation is repelled by a political party which is anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-sex, and thinks the biggest issues they have to deal with are Janet Jackson’s breast, video games, and internet poker? Yes, the war plays a part, just as taxes play a part in the religious right’s affiliation with the Republicans, but it’s not the big reason – it’s the values, stupid. And the religious right knows this – that’s why they want constitutional amendments to bar gay marriage and abortion; they fear the emerging majority that will simply change the laws to allow more freedom. These young people have little faith in government helping them – Lord knows, given the state of government as they have grown up, they would be crazy to think it could. They do want it to leave them alone. In a sense, they may be the most libertarian generation ever.
In the article, some question whether the Democratic party is positioned to take advantage of any shift, since it doesn’t seem to be attached to policy issues. But those people are looking at policy in a traditional sense – taxes, trade, defense, etc. This is a generation that has grown up with an astonishing range of choice. From cable TV to the internet, they can watch and do what they want when they want and they like it that way. To these young people, only one party can give them the individual freedom they believe in and it’s not the party in thrall to the religious right. They belong to the Democrats, but only if the party is smart enough to embrace freedom, not run from it. Every time a Clinton or Leiberman speaks out about music or video games, these young people roll their eyes and think all politicians are the same (and lame). We have to cultivate them and not fear their values, they are the future of American politics and the best hope for not just the party, but the free, democratic society we all crave.


Blogger samG said...

Interesting line of thought; sort of a Freidmanesque, World is Flat kind of evolution. At first glance, I can't find any flaws in the analysis.

1:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home