Can the New Republicans Live up to the Hype?

James Di Palma-Grisi, Columnist

The Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells of the Tea Party are dogmatic and simplistic candidates parroting the same talking points that, by even the admission of Alan Greenspan, will not work in our current economic climate.

So what will happen once these people (or, perhaps except in the cases of Angle and O’Donnell) are elected? We see what happened to Scott Brown — he compromised his conservative principles to do something popular with liberal Massachusetts voters, and his support dropped sharply.

Seeing this example (and being from areas far less liberal than Massachusetts, in most cases), the other Tea Party candidates probably will not take this route. Instead, they either will stick to their conservative principles (and become regular Republicans) or will take a free-wheeling, anti-lobbyist approach and find themselves without funding or backing at all.

That is to say, while they are conservative, they may or may not represent the elite interests that funded their campaigns and organizations. If they don’t, they will be marginalized candidates in the next election cycle, and if they do, they will lose the credibility they had with their constituency. Crucially, the latter only will happen if the voters find out where the money is coming from—something that will be quite clear once the votes on key provisions in bills, or the attachment of earmarks, are made public.

In Congress, in other words, there can be no hiding behind opaque organizations—the Tea Party will be on record, and their ideological purity will be brought into question the same way Scott Brown’s integrity was called into question when he voted liberal on the financial reform bill.

But, stopping Obama’s agenda may be the real purpose behind the Tea Party, and it can almost certainly accomplish that feat.

Now the question for us: what will we do about it? Does Generation Y have a stake in the President’s agenda, or does it have more of an interest in hearing that it’s capable of doing great things?

Gen Y certainly has lost interest, for the most part, in the elections by having turned out in disappointingly low numbers in the 2010 Midterm Election. It has, instead, turned back to pop music and all the other things youthful. Suffice to say it is no longer as politically active as it once was, and is by several metrics horribly narcissistic.

So there is a danger here. This generation could be manipulated rightward by the same promises of power and purity that Candidate Obama offered them in 2008. All that is needed is a potent and communicative leader. Being the Right, there is not much there for young people, and finding a youthful leader would be as easy as finding a natural head of hair at the Republican National Convention–it is the party of the elderly and the established, those who think the world is just fine as it is.

Whether this danger is benign or not remains to be seen. That is to say, whether Gen Y is pulled rightward in large numbers, numbers large enough to impact an election or as an afterthought (which seems likely if they continue to only turnout as much as they did in 2010) has not been determined yet. But surely this is not the only point of entry for Gen Y–there must be strings to pull other than narcissism. Such is the task of political analysts and campaign managers.

Forget 2010, the 2012 White House Is a Democratic One

Matthew McDermott, Columnist

Following the common political ebb and flow in this country, perceptions affect electoral outcomes, but more importantly, these perceptions can change. Whether the issue may be war, education, abortion or the economy, elections are a soap box for voter discontent. It’s the reason single party power in our Federal Government is rare, and it’s the reason Midterm Elections are usually dismal for the majority. It’s the reason the Obama Administration marched into office with a massive electoral victory, and why 22 months later, the Democratic Party is fast approaching its greatest national loss in over a decade. But the very nature of our political system is the very reason Republicans should not expect even short-term successes after their November landslide.

Growing (and if I may say, rather trite) discussion within the political world has been the Democratic Party’s plummeting poll numbers amongst young voters. Bringing this chatter to the forefront was a recent New York Times’ article expressing that the youth vote this year is “up for grabs.” Polling this year by the Pew Research Center shows that Democrats hold a 20-point lead (57-37 percent) over the Republican Party among 18-29 year-olds. While still a massive party advantage, this is down from the 32-point lead (62-30 percent) just two years ago. Was November 2008 merely a blip amongst youth in what otherwise remains an evenly divided country? Doubtful.

Eric Waters wrote a refreshing piece last week on the staggering unemployment of youth in America today. While the national unemployment rate hovers just below 10 percent, among 20-24 year-olds unemployment increases to 15.1 and among teenagers triples to 26.1 percent. It’s only rational to expect these numbers to have a pronounced impact on the Midterm Election, as they have in previous elections. Honestly, I’d quote James Carville, if not for the groan I’d give myself. It’s conventional wisdom to repeat, but it wouldn’t have to be repeated so often if partisans kept in mind historical trends: the economy drives the polls, and when the country is facing economic hardship, the party in power always feel the brunt of criticism.

The outcome in eight weeks will have nothing to do with the President’s ability to resonate with the public and everything to do with the prolonged economic recession. While this administration has taken large strides on issues positively impacting our generation–from easing the student loan process to health care–these measures become irrelevant when students are faced with an inability to find a job. In polling done by Gallup during the last week of August, a whopping 99 percent of responders cited the economy as at least moderately important to their vote for Congress this year. Of that, 62 percent said the economy was “extremely important.” This was followed closely by “jobs,” extremely important to 60 percent of voters.

Republicans should learn from their own history. At this point in 1982, President Reagan had nearly identical approval ratings as President Obama, in both overall job approval and his handling of the economy. That same year Republicans lost 26 seats in the House, only to have Reagan win one of the largest electoral victories in history two years later. Bill Clinton, having a similar approval rating of 46 percent, was in a similar position. And furthermore, in an interesting note passed along at The Monkey Cage, using CBO’s projected real GDP growth for 2012, President Obama should expect a popular vote win margin in the next Presidential election of eight percent, give or take seven. In layman’s terms, that suggests an 85-90 percent chance of reelection in 2012, regardless of the expected electoral trouncing this November. Essentially the outcome in November will be the same outcome predicted by reasonable political scientists for over a year–dismal for the Democratic party–but suggestive of nothing more than voter economic discontent.

More concerning for the Republican Party—beyond the evolving demographic changes in this country—is the fact that this country continues to become more socially liberal over time. Obviously, young people are out of work, out of money, and furious–and rightfully so. But most shocking in the Pew Center poll is that Republicans continue to have abysmal success in recruiting these economically strapped voters. Only 24 percent of youth identify as Republican, an insignificant change from the 22 percent in 2008.  Their report notes:

While the Republican Party picked up support from Millennials during 2009, this age group continues to favor the Democratic Party more than do other generations. And the underlying political values of this new generation continue to be significantly more liberal than those of other generations on many measures.

Latest polling indicates that 29 percent of youth identify as liberal, while 28 percent identify as conservative. Comparatively, only 18 percent of Baby Boomers identify as liberal compared to 43 percent conservative.  Beyond social stances on gay marriage and immigration, the same Pew research highlights that youth today have an intrinsically greater support for government and lower support for aggressive defense policies.

So should Democrats prepare their box of tissues for November 2nd? Honestly, I’d take a large sedative Tuesday afternoon and sleep before the polls close. But what the youth must realize–and I think they do realize much more so than older generations–is that long-term Democratic and liberal roots continue to solidify among 18-29 year-olds. America’s young people have not become much more conservative in the last 24 months; they’ve simply turned their attention to their bank accounts and forgotten the ballot box. Current economic hardships eventually will wither, and the Republican Party will be left unable to measure up on non-economic policy platforms.