Following Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election and other setbacks to their hopes for gaining ground in the Senate and House of Representatives, the Republican party has commissioned studies to see how to gain ground with young, female, and minority voters. The results should not be that surprising, since the party’s problems with these demographics were fairly obvious.
But even so, the recent analysis by young Republicans of the attitudes of people under 30 (which president Obama carried by margins of 34% in 2008 and 23% in 2012) was pretty stinging. Their focus groups found that the most common responses when asked about the Republican party were “closed-minded, racist, rigid, and old-fashioned,” while for the Democrats it was “tolerant, diverse, and open-minded.” That is pretty harsh.
One thing that surprised me is that the single largest source of news for the youth demographic was Facebook (58%), followed by local TV news (56%), Yahoo News (44%), and CNN (40%). I watch none of these so it is likely that I am completely out of touch with the next generation’s views.
The trouble for the Republican party is that they have been practicing a form of scorched-Earth politics for some time now and there is little left to burn to the ground. It seems like almost any misstep by the Obama administration, however small, is the cue for a major outpouring of outrage, and their followers have become trained to see politics like a high-energy reality show. As a result, the public faces of their party are those who can provide a continuous stream of anger and resentment, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump. The Republican party establishment faces the problem that they have cultivated an audience that loves the clowns and they cannot now get them off the stage.
On the other hand, the public faces of the Democrats are Barack Obama, the Clintons, and Nancy Pelosi. The key difference between the two groups is that the Republican faces are not members of the party establishment and have their own agendas that may or may not jive with that of the party, while the Democrats are the establishment. This makes it easier for the Democrats to control the message.
The major downside for the Democrats is that apart from Obama, there are no youngish people who are currently in prominent leadership roles in their party, while the Republicans have many. But the Republicans have squandered this advantage by having their entire cadre of young potential leaders (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum) be captive of the clowns.