Every political cycle, the pundit class argues politicians must kowtow to the whims of the coveted under-30 demographic. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it was the baby boomers. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was the Gen-Xers. Now in 2018 we have millennials.
And just like each of those age groups, there was an older generation that scoffed at the idea these easily manipulated know-nothings determine the course of the nation.
History is repeating itself as we speak. All the smart money is saying a message that focuses on the sensibilities and desires of millennials is the prime ingredient needed for success. And by extension, since younger voters tend to be left of center, this message must reflect that.
One of the numerous reasons Doug Jones, 63, was able to defeat Roy Moore, 71, last November (aside from that whole underage-girl thing) was that Jones resonated with the millennial voter.
According to exit polling data, Jones won Alabama voters aged 18-29 by a massive 60 percent to 38 percent margin.
The numbers don’t lie. If you can’t come any closer than 22 points with a significant age group, then your chances of winning are going to diminish significantly.
OK, problem solved — if political hopefuls all mimic Doug Jones, they will own the millennial vote and, therefore, win their respective races, right?
Obviously, that is an over-simplification but don’t expect some talking head not to try to impart that wisdom to us.
The problem with this fashionable wisdom is that getting millennials, or any of the other youth movements of the past 50 years, motivated to get out and vote proves to be very difficult. It takes something genuinely historic such as Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, or something regrettable such as Roy Moore, to get turnout numbers for voters 18-29 years old even in the same orbit as any other voting-age group.
This has always been the case. Even with the rise of the counterculture that gave us Woodstock, Richard Nixon still walloped George McGovern in the next presidential election in 1972.
Yet this is the end-all, be-all. You must get those younger voters on your side.
Let’s give the purveyors of this theory the benefit of the doubt and assume it isn’t advice with ideological motivations. The prize demographic in television rating is the 29-54 age group. It isn’t the biggest audience, but who gets the biggest audience within that age range.
The idea is that those in this age group are in their formative years as consumers, and advertisers seek out this age group in ads thinking they can influence their purchasing behavior at an early age and that will continue through adulthood.
Think of it as the long game. Perhaps the thinking is that every few decades the youth, be it the baby boomers, Generation X or millennials, are the most crucial group to which a politician can cater.
Except that isn’t true. Voters tend to evolve as they get older. Baby boomers were once those magic voters politicians had to bow to to win. Now it is as if the modern Democratic Party is waiting for them all to die off and be replaced by the younger voters and an influx of immigrants. Then it will be Democratic majorities for the next century.
It never works out that way. Everyone gets older. They learn that personal responsibility is a virtue and that the laws of basic math dictate that a society can’t offer a grab bag of freebies for some without some cost to others.
Then in 2035, the next big group politicians and their supporters must learn to understand will be the post-millennials or Generation Z. At that point, this current group of 18-to-30-year-olds will likely have stopped snorting condoms and eating Tide pods and realize utopia isn’t something one can engineer through government policy. Human behavior is better influenced by things like economics and morality and not laws created by a government body.
In the meantime, realize that putting young voters on a pedestal is not only a fool’s errand, but it’s also insane. Even more insane is putting high school kids that can’t even vote on a pedestal, as we’ve seen with the group of teens that survived the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting tragedy. It’s not that they don’t have honorable goals like equality, fairness, ending violence, etc. It is that many in this group often think solving problems is as simple as passing a law.
It is also a way of thinking that discounts older voters. If we’re all equal, then why such an emphasis on millennials over any other age group? Are they like the three-point shot of politics?
No, it is all a ruse. Much of it is probably because this age group is much easier to manipulate than older voters.
“If you want to be cool, you support all liberal policies. If you don’t, you’re a hateful racist, bigoted homophobe and nobody like those guys.”
At least that is what they’re told to think.