Letters From Millennial Voters

Dec 3 2012 @ 8:39pm

Many more readers add to the previous ones:

I was born in 1983, sent off to college and putative adulthood in September 2001. Republicans’ retrograde social views clearly have a depressing effect on their performance among younger voters, but the issue is far simpler than that: Republicans ran the show for the first eight years of our adult lives and what happened? 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, and the financial meltdown. If this is your only experience of Republican control in Washington, you have to have serious ideological differences with the Democratic Party to convince yourself that it’s a good idea to put those people in charge again.

Another millennial:

Here is what I learned about politics in my formative years: Under a moderate Democrat president, the economy was doing well and we had budget surpluses, while the Republicans threw fits, shut down the government, and impeached him over bullshit.  A Republican won a close election after which he might have been expected to try for a bipartisan approach in the face of a weak mandate, but instead pushed a strident conservative platform that, even before two wars, erased the budget surplus. Republicans got us into a quagmire in Iraq that (no disrespect to you) was obviously a bad idea from the beginning. When another moderate Democrat won election, Republicans engaged in an epic tantrum and behaved like babies for four years, culminating in a disgraceful Presidential field in 2012. For the record, I am not a liberal.  I would describe myself as a moderate libertarian, and my political idols are Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. What has the Republican party done since 1995 to convince me that it has any positive vision for responsible governance, or any solutions to the problems facing the country and the world?  What have they done that measures up to the legacy of our country’s historical leaders?  With the sheer audacity of the volte-faces they have made in the last couple decades on every issue, how can they be trusted with any power?

Another:

When people talk about the GOP as the fiscally responsible party I have to stifle a laugh.

At least since I was born, Republican administrations have led the way into economic downturns and Democratic ones led the way back out.  Now maybe Republicans are terrible at running the economy or maybe the Democrats are just lucky, but either way that trend is not a good sign. 

Then there is the federal debt.  With a little bit of research I find that since Nixon, Republican administrations have always grown the federal debt as percentage of GDP with the worst offenders being Bush II, Reagan, and Bush I.  Democrats, on the other hand, seem to have done rather well with Carter and Clinton, reducing the federal debt as percentage of GDP.  Obama’s first term is going to be the first time a Democrat president since Nixon has grown the federal debt as percentage of GDP.  It seems that the best way to fight the federal debt is to elect a Democrat president.

An optimistic sign from libertarian-leaning Montana:

I just wanted to chime in with some thoughts, because I feel you are succumbing to a bit of a filter bubble. Many young conservatives are shying away from the social-issue touting Tea Party Republicans. Steve Daines ran a 100% economic, 100% positive campaign to win his Montana congressional seat. His campaign shied away from all social issues and instead focused on jobs. His campaign maintained minimal interaction with other Republicans candidates, and when they did they reached out to women and brought in moderates like Chris Christie.

Oh, and the campaign manager was 26-year-old Zach Lahn (who made a bit of a name for himself when he challenged the President to a debate in 2009). In fact, everyone I met managing his campaign was young (under 30) and excited. Daines’s focused, youthful strategy won where traditional Republicans with fiery rhetoric failed. His millennial-driven campaign was a recipe for success, leaving the social issues alone.

This reflects the libertarianization of the conservative youth. Another example of this shift can be seen in Colorado, where marijuana’s support outstripped both Obama’s and Romney’s. While I agree that my generation has shifted to the left on social issues, many maintain a distrust for an activist government that has presided over ballooning student loan debt and sputtering growth.

Another libertarian writes:

As a fellow 1984-born Millennial, I disagree with your reader.  In the past three presidential elections I have voted for both parties and I don’t believe the GOP has totally alienated my generation – yet. I’m a big supporter of gay marriage, but until Obama’s announcement earlier this year, the recent Democratic presidents did not promote that issue.  Hell, Clinton signed DOMA. McCain’s wife and daughter both openly supported gay marriage.  Republicans also served on the litigation team supporting gay marriage in California.  I’ve never seen this as a clear partisan issue; people on both sides of the aisle have spoken up for and against it.  Jon Huntsman recently said basically the same thing as Obama: respect the states and let them decide.

There is a large contingent of the Republican party that is not ‘anti-science’ or ‘anti-technology’ or ‘anti-gay rights’, but right now the evangelical base is dominating the GOP platform.  If this domination continues through the next presidential election cycle, then yes – the GOP will probably lose my generation.

As a sidenote: many Millennials are currently underemployed and unemployed and likely have not felt the full brunt of the tax system in their paycheck and tax refund. Wait until my generation starts owing taxes instead of receiving a sizable refund. That’s something that makes you rethink your political affiliation.

Another reader:

I was born in 1991, so I came of age politically in the twilight of the Bush years instead of in the heart of it. While I largely agree with your reader’s analysis of why people of our generation support Democrats, I have a slight quibble with his assessment of our libertarian-leaning ways.

It is true we are more “live and let live” than the generations that came before us, with our generally pro-gay and pro-pot positions being the two big examples that leap to mind. But we are comfortable with the government having a roll in our lives and the world that is not consistant with libertarianism. We are happy to have the government intervene when there is private sector discrimination, be it on racial, religious, sexuality or gender based. We want the government to have a roll in education through pell grants and student loans. We’d love some government action on climate change. Maybe we don’t want a full blown-activist government, but we are happy to see an active one.

Another backs that up with some data:

People in his generational cohort are not “more libertarian-leaning than anything.”  As this Pew report (pdf) shows, Millennials are more pro-government than all of the three preceding generations.

One more reader:

Reading your blog made me realize that I might be conservative. I want to take lessons from the past as instruction for what we can work on today and take our time when we see things need to change so we can do it well. But the thought that keeps me calling myself a liberal is I have a grand vision for what humanity can be and live comfortably among one another. The grand vision will never come true, or at least it’s incredibly unlikely it ever will. It’s not a pipe dream; it’s the job of every generation to work towards the idealistic goal. Still, we have to be cautious to how we get there and our policies have to be thoughtful and measured.

The others in my generation may have similar thoughts: that the world can be a better place even if it will never be perfect. We won’t ever be able to pay for everyone’s medical care free of charge and make it quick, but at least we can give them some important medical care sooner than what we can do now. And maybe we can’t end discrimination, but we should keep opening up every opportunity for people who want to live happy lives just like us. We won’t return the Earth back a more pristine time before the Industrial Revolution, but we should keep it healthy for as long as we can fix some of it.

Voters in my age group do not embody “liberal” from its heyday. We are more analytical and will go through the data before making a decision. Obama seems to be a good vessel to carry our generation’s politics forward.