November 5, 2008
Over at the Corner, Andy McCarthy writes:
“Preliminary indicationsare that the youth vote (ages 18-29) was way up: an increase of somewhere over 2.2 million (maybe way over) from 2004 (a year in which it was very high), and as much as 13% over 2000. The Left’s dominance of the academy is now having a material impact on electoral politics. As we think about the future of conservatism, we ignore that at our peril.”
Listen — I’m glad that he’s at least concerned about the youth numbers. But since I live among the people he’s talking about (and since I voted, and that’s apparently all he’s citing as a cause for concern — cite the scary statistics when you want to scare, Andy), let me say: the 2-1 Obama advantage among young voters was not caused by a crazy professoriate strapping us to brainwashing machines.
This was about Iraq — the people fighting and dying over there are close to our age, are our friends or relatives or could just as easily be. And the Bush Administration hasn’t been able to honestly and/or consistently tell us why we’re there, and McCain wasn’t able to say for how long.
This was about health care — within a couple of years, we’ll all be off of either college or parental health care plans, and there’s a worry about what comes next. McCain’s plan, quite simply, was not articulated to younger voters. Unless you made a concerted effort to figure out what, exactly, he was promoting, you had no clue, but felt pretty certain it was the status quo.
This was about the economy — we have to find careers soon. Very soon, in some cases. And McCain scared us. Other than tax cuts — which mostly won’t be going to us — we don’t know what his plans are for the new economics of the world. Obama: well, at least he seems to understand the questions, even if we’re not sure how good his answers will be.
This was about the Culture Wars — we’re tired of them. So Prop. 8 in California may have passed, but the youth vote is in favor of gay marriage. And McCain may have had nothing to do with Prop. 8, but it’s pretty reminiscent of 2004, when Bush tied himself up very much in the gay marriage debate. Gay people, you see, are our friends, and we tend to think (more than the rest of the nation) that they deserve the same marriage rights. And Ayers and Wright and Britney and Paris? Looked an awful lot like Swift-Boating gone awry. We were born/learning to walk when Willie Horton showed up, started school with Monica, came of age in 2000 and 2004. And our collective reaction after two decades, to quote a wise man, is, “I’m too old for this shit.”
This was about Sarah Palin — a friend of mine got excited when the VPILF winked at him during her debate, but she came across to young voters — and I, like McCarthy, am talking collegiate youngsters in particular here — as either a beauty contestant or utterly inarticulate. Or both, and if we want to have a beer with you, we’ll have a beer with you, but these are not qualities we’re looking for in leaders.
This was about George Bush — see all of the above. But Palin reminded us of him: that same inarticulateness, a folksiness which we couldn’t tell the sincerity of, the same disdain for the media and questions.
I’m not saying that I agree with all of that reasoning. And of course I’m generalizing to a degree. But those numbers don’t have nearly as much to do with who has tenure than with the current state–and image–of the Republican Party. Barack Obama comes across like he’s inviting us to a conversation. John McCain comes across like our grandfather still talking after 4 hours in a restaurant booth about how when he was a boy, you could leave your door unlocked at night, but things these days…
So before you go blaming my professors — not one of whom I can name who’s done more than make a crack or two about Bush or engaged in election-day kidding — start figuring out how to connect with younger voters. It’s like what Forster said — Only connect. And whatever effort was made this time around failed miserably.