Monday, June 11, 2012

Politics and Age

America is at the crossroads. We've heard it time and again how this or that election is somehow the "most critical" . Such hyperbole is generally used to create an emotional response on behalf of the electorate in order to get them to the polls. But something is in fact changing in America. There has not been such a broad and deep divide between people, and the role of the government since the decade preceding the Civil War. However, this series has examined a number of key topics such as gay marriage, race, and religion and its affect on current and perhaps future party affiliation. Continuing with our series on future trend of politics in America, I'm going to look at the age and party affiliation in this article, but first, let's define some terms.

The "Greatest Generation" are those born after 1929. They are our seniors today. Theirs was the generation of the Great Depression , WWII and the Korean War. Many served in senior positions during the early years of the Vietnam War. "Baby Boomers" are those born between 1946 and 1964., a span of 18 years. The first wave (Peace or Woodstock) was born between 1946 and 1955. The second wave (Protest) was born between 1956 and 1964. "Generation X" (GenX) was born between 1965 and 1979. They were first generation "technies". "Generation Y" (GenY or Millennials) were born between 1980 and 2005.

According to a Gallup Poll from 2009, Democrats do well across all age groups. Their greatest strength seems to be among the second Boomer wave and among those 20 and younger. Republicans, on the other hand, seem to do well among those in their 30s and 40s and among seniors. Independents, interestingly, do well among the younger and middle age groups, but begin to decline in number by age 40. Seniors are slightly more likely to be Republican than Democrat, except among the senior most, those in their 70's and 80's, where the trend is reversed in favor of Democrats.

As for a possible explanation, the younger groups are concerned about the costs of higher education, finding a job, and getting established in life. Therefore, they are looking more to government assistance which has been a Democratic issue since FDR. Among Boomers (which includes yours truly), it's about government's role in society. Boomers, who grew up with the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the murders of MLK, RFK and Kent State, the Chicago Police Riots, and Watergate, are less trustful of government, especially the corporate/government connection. They tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal or moderate. They are most concerned with retirement, IRAs, Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs.

On the other hand, you have the GenXers who came of age during the Reagan Years (think Alex P Keaton of Family Ties or Wallstreet's Gordon Gecko), a gorowing economy, small but successful military operations, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact, and, later, of Communism itself in Russia. They later experienced George Bush (41) and a moderate Democrat in the person of Bill Clinton. This was the "go-go" generation of overpaid MBAs on Wallstreet; Newt's Republican Revolution, dotcoms, and an unrealistic real estate boom. Greed was good, for some. Bush's Operation Desert Storm made the world safe for oil producer states like Kuwait. Moderates were driven from the Republican Party and the birth of the Independents was born.

GenYs came started to come of age during Clinton and witnessed George Bush (43) in all his bumbling glory. GenYs did get a sense of patriotism not felt since their grandparent's generation when, on 9/11, America was attacked by cowards and provoked into the invasion of Afghanistan, and later, the ill advised invasion of Iraq while the economy began to tank. This, in turn, resulted in GenYs coming out in droves to support the other party as wars and depressions always do. It is also this same generation which is most disillusioned by their choice of president. However, while they appear to have lost their attraction to Obama, they haven't lost their attraction to the Democratic Party. It has often been said that the current generation is a reflection of their grandparent's generation. In this instance, it appears to be a fair comparison. We witnessed the rise of the Tea Party, the Occupy Movements, the hacker group Anonymous, the faltering of corporate capitalism, the rise of Chinese and Indian economies, and the greatest fundamental division among the American People since just before the Civil War. Perhaps an harbinger of things to come.

If the numbers are any guide, the future for the Republican Party, if it continues on its present course, is one of irrelevance, and finally, political oblivion. Whites, the GOP core, are declining. GOP influence among women, a key voting bloc, continues to decline. In a June 12th Gallup Poll, 41% of women leaned Democrat regardless of age compared to 27% who leaned Republican, which reaffirmed an earlier May 6, 2009 poll. While for the Democrats, its current coalition is doomed to be rearranged into something less familiar. Blacks, long the core of the Democratic Party, are no longer its key minority base. They have been replaced by Hispanics, and perhaps soon by Asians. Hispanics, on the other hand, tend to be socially moderate to conservative, which may cause the Democrats to move closer to the center on at least social issues.

So, what does all this mean? Simply that across the board, in terms of age, the Democrats hold the strongest positions. Especially important are the aging Boomers and the raising GenYs which will box in the more Republican leaning GenXers. When compared to my last two articles (Politics and Race and Politics and Religion), the future isn't very bright for the Grand Old Party, at least as it now stands. Trends across the board favor the Democrats and Independents. If things continue as they are, I could foresee a future where moderately conservative or libertarian Indies have largely replaced the GOP while small conclaves of the Republican Party exist here and there while a center left Democrat Party becomes the defacto party of America.

Obama may lose. I'll be surprised of he doesn't. But his defeat will not signal a victory for Romney or the Republicans, but merely the majority's rejection of Obama's policies. Romney will represent a short breathing space for a return to a Democratic White House. Meanwhile, public apathy toward Congress will worsen to outright contempt, especially among the conservative and predominately white minority (currently Congress has an 84% disapproval rating). It's at that point that things may be interesting.

Suggested Reading:

Gen Dems: The Party's Advantage Among Young Voters Widens

Democrats Do best Among Generation Y and Baby Boomers

GOP face Political ID Deficit Among All Age Groups

Republcians Face Steep Uphill Climb Among Women

Two Corpmen I Knew (

Politics of Race (

Politics of Religion (

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