Matt Yglesias draws much comfort from some data showing that college kids lean Democratic. That’s fine. But he erects something of a strawman by saying that “There’s been a campaign under way for several years now to convince the world that young people in general, and college students in particular, are a bunch of Bush-loving rightwingers.” I’m sure some folks have been involved in what Yglesias calls “myth-making” but on the whole I think he misses the real effort and the real argument. The twofold argument I’ve been hearing from conservatives in recent years (inlcuding from me) is that the left’s generations-long myth making about the inherently progressive nature of “the youth” is a bunch of bunk. And Yglesias’ preferred numbers demonstrate that ably. Kerry leads Bush among college kids by 48-38 and does even better among likely voters. Okay. But more than a third of college kids don’t like Kerry. And, I’ll not only bet you those numbers will improve in Bush’s favor as they are “soft” but I’ll also bet that most of these numbers are personality driven rather than ideology driven.
Second, the trend conservatives have been noting is that the students are to the right of the professors — which I think is undoubtedly true. I would also bet that they are even further to the right of the administrators. The fact that support for Nader is declining among college students further illustrates that the liberal babyboomers’ solopsistic B.S. about college kids being inherently radical is so much wishful thinking.
I’d also add that college kids are increasingly libertarian these days. Whether that holds over time remains to be seen since collegiate libertarianism is often (but not always) based in a desire to be cool and rebellious against the right and the left. But, it’s certainly true that a libertarian, principled or otherwise, could go either way between Bush and Kerry
Look, I have a long track-record of disdain for “youth” oriented politics of all kinds, but if Yglesias is basically putting a cheery spin on both a trend and a revelation that does not help the left. Sure, it’s a myth that college kids are all Burkeans today. But I don’t know anyone who ever said they were. I do know lots of people who’ve said and believe that being young is synonymous with being liberal, or “progressive”. And that’s bunk, and largely always has been.