(Above) President Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania in May. Republicans have not found a meaningful way to address their party’s generation gap. Credit: Eric Thayer for The New York Times
Over the years, I have relied on a few journalists to help me navigate my way through the forces and events that resemble a fog in everyday life. David Brooks is one of them. His mind reminds me of a Swiss Army knife. I also admire his non-negotiable values and convictions in unique combination with highly developed integrative thinking skills.
Here is a brief excerpt from a recent column for The New York Times in which he addresses several issues of special interest to me. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
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This is most immediately evident in the way Democrats are sorting themselves in their early primary preferences. A Democratic voter’s race, sex or education level doesn’t predict which candidate he or she is leaning toward, but age does.
In one early New Hampshire poll, Joe Biden won 39 percent of the vote of those over 55, but just 22 percent of those under 35, trailing Bernie Sanders. Similarly, in an early Iowa poll, Biden won 41 percent of the oldster vote, but just 17 percent of the young adult vote, placing third, behind Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
As Ronald Brownstein pointed out in The Atlantic, older Democrats prefer a more moderate candidate who they think can win. Younger Democrats prefer a more progressive candidate who they think can bring systemic change.
The generation gap is even more powerful when it comes to Republicans. To put it bluntly, young adults hate them.
In 2018, voters under 30 supported Democratic House candidates over Republican ones by an astounding 67 percent to 32 percent. A 2018 Pew survey found that 59 percent of millennial voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, while only 32 percent identify as Republicans or lean Republican.
The difference is ideological. According to Pew, 57 percent of millennials call themselves consistently liberal or mostly liberal. Only 12 percent call themselves consistently conservative or mostly conservative. This is the most important statistic in American politics right now.
Recent surveys of Generation Z voters (those born after 1996) find that, if anything, they are even more liberal than millennials.
In 2002, John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira wrote a book called “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which predicted electoral doom for the G.O.P. based on demographic data. That prediction turned out to be wrong, or at least wildly premature.
The authors did not foresee how older white voters would swing over to the Republican side and the way many assimilated Hispanics would vote like non-Hispanic whites. The failure of that book’s predictions has scared people off from making demographic forecasts.
But it’s hard to look at the generational data and not see long-term disaster for Republicans. Some people think generations get more conservative as they age, but that is not borne out by the evidence. Moreover, today’s generation gap is not based just on temporary intellectual postures. It is based on concrete, lived experience that is never going to go away.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.
David Brooks became a New York Times Op-Ed columnist in September 2003. He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and he is currently a commentator on “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.” He is the author of Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense, both published by Simon & Schuster. His most recent book is The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, published by Random House in March 2011.