One of the things that many people have noticed since the release of Mount Vernon statement on Wednesday is the sharp contrast between the youth of the creators (my link) of the Sharon statement and the notable absence of students and young people from the latest gathering. Christopher Buckley quotes Sam Tanenhaus on this point, “The new/old submission seems more like Geriatrics Against Obama.” Fifty years ago, one could have written, as Nile Gardiner does today, that “conservatism is the future” with some reason for believing the claim to be true, and in the decades that followed there was a significant conservative political coalition that seemed to be growing in strength over time. Today it is increasingly difficult to believe anything of the kind.
On average, Millennials’ underlying social and political views put them well to the left of their elders. If you dig into the full report, you will see that the recent Republican resurgence owes almost everything to the dramatic shift among members of the so-called “Silent Generation,” whose voting preferences on the generic ballot have gone from being 49-41 Democrat in 2006 to 48-39 Republican for 2010. There have been small shifts in other age groups toward the Republicans, but by far it is the alienation of voters aged 65-82 that has been most damaging to the Democrats’ political strength*. As we all know, these are the voters who are far more likely to turn out than Millennials, which is why Democratic prospects for this election seem as bad as they do even though the Pew survey says that Democrats lead on the generic ballot in every other age group. Among Boomers, Democrats lead 46-42, and among Gen Xers they barely lead 45-44. In other words, the main reason why the GOP is enjoying any sort of political recovery is that many elderly voters have changed their partisan preferences since the last midterm. Republicans remain behind among all voters younger than 65. That does not seem to herald the future revival of movement conservatism of the sort Gardiner is so embarrassingly praising.