You hear it all the time. The Democratic theory of dominance rests on simple demographics. Young people are Democrats. Minorities are Democrats. Old, white people are Republicans. As young people grow up, old folks pass from the scene, and America becomes more diverse, the GOP as we know it will come to an end.
Unless, of course, people change. I know it’s only one survey, but check out the fascinating results of this Reuters/Ipsos mega-poll:
The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall. And they increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy.
Although nearly two of three young voters polled said they do not like Republican President Donald Trump, their distaste for him does not necessarily extend to all Republicans or translate directly into votes for Democratic congressional candidates.
Writing in The Guardian, Cas Mudde notes that much of the slippage is with white Millennials:
Today, as many white millennials support the Democrats as the Republicans (each 39%). Just two years ago, Democrats still had a 14% lead over Republicans among white millennials. The trends are even more pronounced among white male millennials. Today, this group favors the Republicans over the Democrats by a staggering 11%. In 2016, Democrats led white male millennials by 12%.
I can’t help but wonder if identity politics plays a role in this shift. Yes, there are folks who center their identity around their race/class in all the worst ways. And, yes, some of this shift is undoubtedly rooted in the improving economy. But I also think that when “whiteness” is used as an epithet — and when white young people are relentlessly told that every single racial group should engage in race-motivated bloc voting except for white folks — you have to spend a lot of time drinking the Kool-Aid at places like Brown, Yale, and Berkeley for that to make any sense at all.
Then, when you raise the idea that perhaps sweeping statements about “white privilege” — along with rhetoric from a generation of activists who seem to long for the day when white people lose their influence in American life — are deeply alienating and don’t connect with the lived experience of millions of Americans, you’re often lumped with outright racists (at worst) or called deeply, dangerously ignorant (at best). The message that’s sent to white Americans is essentially that there’s something suspect about you because of your race, and the only way to start cleansing that stain is to vote with the party that’s chock-full of activists who seem to despise you.
I’m sorry, but that’s not a compelling message — especially to young white men. And before anyone says, “There’s nothing new here. This is the same old white supremacy.” Remember, this poll seems to be measuring a shift from the Democratic party to the GOP. Did these folks go from woke to broke in two short years? Did the inner racist suddenly burst forth? There are some racists in those numbers, but it’s absurd to think that racism explains all or most of this change. Instead, I’d say it’s harder to win people to your side when you express open indifference (and sometimes disdain) for the hopes and struggles that define their lives.