The Real Reason Why Millennials Don't Vote Republican
It's October 2014, which means the political world is tying itself in knots over a series of elections to which most of us aren't paying attention: the 2014 Midterms.
This year's elections are being treated as a trial run for many with presidential aspirations. Both Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton launched new books this year, and others are making appearances in swing states and stumping for their friends.
All of which is meaningless to us in Gen-Y, right? Wrong. Marxists often say there is no war but the class war. For Gen-Y, the axiom might be, “There are no politics but generation politics.”
The future in which we will live is being decided for us in these elections that seemingly no one cares about. The issues that directly affect Gen-Y and Millennials, from war to student loans, are being polled, stumped and voted on by an electorate that trends older and less diverse in midterms.
It's one of the reasons Republicans are feeling so good about taking control of the Senate this year. That, and the demonstrable incompetence of the Democratic apparatus and Obama administration that has gotten so bad, people now wish they had instead voted for Mitt Romney two years ago.
Millennials overwhelmingly supported Obama in both elections, not just embracing him, but also rejecting the GOP.
The Democrats are winning the generation war; they have the talking points and the voting pattern in recent history to drive home the narrative that they care about us, while Republicans do not.
Republicans are trying — don't get me wrong — but creating hashtags that consistently backfire in a transparent effort to be “cool” won't cut it. The GOP simply doesn't understand the worldview of Gen-Y.
A useful parallel might be drawn with the African American community's voting patterns. In many ways, they trend conservative, or within “traditional values,” and yet, overwhelmingly vote Democrat or “progressive value.” Why? Narrative history.
Abraham Lincoln being a Republican isn't relevant when you consider Reaganomics the flashpoint for urban decay and the neoconservative “law and order” ethos, the foundation of the social and structural issues affecting your community.
Factual history is, of, course more nuanced, but narratives aren't, and narratives are what matter. Narratives, or stories that explain and drive cultural understanding, are the key to politics. Right now, the narrative is that the Republican Party is not relevant to life in the 21st century and to the concerns of Gen-Y.
This is where context and analysis comes into play, though. The Republicans have become (one could argue, unfairly) the scapegoat for a system that works on bipartisan consensus on an overwhelming number of issues.
George Bush's “neocon” foreign policy that you hate? Obama's “liberal interventionism” is largely the same, if not worse in some ways (see: drone kill list). Hillary's will be largely the same, if not more aggressive than Obama's.
The bank bailouts that were unfair and prompted the backlash that created both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party? Passed the Senate 74-25.
All is not lost for the GOP, though. The Democrats went through a similar phase in the 1970s and 1980s. After Watergate, the country said no more Republicans, and Jimmy Carter became the standard bearer for a new, more progressive Democratic Party.
In the process, they alienated large segments of the electorate, and the 1970s and 1980s saw the neoconservatives arise on the East and Ronald Reagan on the West. The man who saved the Democrats was Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, a man with no ties to the policies of the failed Carter Administration.
Clinton was the face of the “New Democrats,” a Third Way coalition of more conservative Democrats that updated their platform to deal with the realities of the day, not of 30 years ago. I suspect the GOP will take a similar route and find success when it sheds the leftovers of the Bush Era and embraces more contemporary concerns.
Republican pollsters have misunderstood polls consistently over the past few years because they don't understand this narrative progression. Mitt Romney might have been a “competent” president; he might have been on paper a “better” choice to deal with economic turmoil, but people don't care.
Republicans seem to still think voters judge on platform and merit, and they simply do not. Maybe at some level they do, but at the national level, people vote for brands. And right now, the Democrat brand is more popular than the Republican brand.
Much like Coke vs. Pepsi, the differences between the Democrats and Republicans are often in packaging and talking points, not substance or platform.
One side latches on to the gaffes of the other side, and on it goes, until nobody can remember at which side he or she is supposed to be mad. That is how the system remains in place, and those running this system aren't Millennials, they're folks that grew up fearing the Soviet Union, protested Vietnam and who thought pagers and Walkmen were revolutionary pieces of technology.
Elections between two parties are often a choice between the lesser of two evils. That mentality should not cut it with Gen-Y, though. We've grown accustomed to having options and individualizing our preferences with personal agency. Simply put, we believe in ourselves.
We like ourselves, and we like our consumption choices. Democrats have figured this out to some extent, and have a substantial head start in both our votes and the narratives that drive those votes by placing the Republicans as the “old” party — an idea reinforced by Republicans too often.
Millennials love 90s nostalgia, but we owe it to ourselves to not let our rose-colored listicles influence our voting patterns. We have issues we care about, issues that directly affect us, and now, in our 20s and 30s, we can and should be the driving force of politics.
We need to recognize this and start holding politicians accountable. We put so much time and effort into caring about traveling abroad and cooking bacon — why not care about something that actually matters?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.
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