Friday, July 11, 2014

A Rising Conservative Majority?

David Leonhardt at The Upshot, a New York Times blog, writes a column in which he speculates that today's teens may be growing increasingly conservative. Here are a few excerpts:

There was a time not so long ago when the young seemed destined to be liberal forever. Americans in their teens and 20s were to the left of their elders on social issues. They worried more about poverty. They voted strongly Democratic....

In the simplest terms, the Democrats control the White House (and, for now, the Senate) at a time when the country is struggling. Economic growth has been disappointing for almost 15 years now. Most Americans think this country is on the wrong track. Our foreign policy often seems messy and complex, at best....

To Americans in their 20s and early 30s — the so-called millennials — many of these problems have their roots in George W. Bush’s presidency. But think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world’s problems.

“We’re in a period in which the federal government is simply not performing,” says Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center, the author of a recent book on generational politics, “and that can’t be good for the Democrats.”

Academic research has found that generations do indeed have ideological identities. People are particularly shaped by events as they first become aware of the world, starting as young as 10 years old, as a new analysis by the political scientists Yair Ghitza and Andrew Gelman notes.

In other words, young people who come of age during the Obama years, Leonhardt fears, are going to be unimpressed with liberalism and its promises of a smoothly running governmental machine and candy for everybody.

As much as I'd like for Leonhardt to be right, I'm not sure he is. The allure of government handouts and the chimeric benefits of cradle to grave security resonates with those who never stop to think about things like who'll pay for it and how it will be paid for. Nor do they give much thought to what government dependency does to the moral fiber of a society. A lot of people just want the goodies and couldn't care less where they come from. That's why conservatives, being more thoughtful, rational, and prudent, will probably always be a minority in this country.