Joe Scarborough was shocked, shocked to hear yesterday that Democrats have no room for pro-life views from former DNC chair and governor Howard Dean, but … didn’t we already know this? Scarborough told Dean that former governor Steven Beshear — whom the DNC tapped to give a forgettable response to Donald Trump’s speech last week — harkened back to an era where Democrats used to win by sharing the values of voters in their regions, including pro-life and pro-gun positions. Dean responds by claiming ownership of the next generation (via Matt Vespa):
“No. Because the young generation isn’t that way. I think the old left/right is an anachronism. It exists in Washington. It exists in the media. Young people don’t think that way. They are not ideological. They are extremely interested in social justice, so we are never going back to maybe making compromises on abortion, and gay rights is another one,” he said.
First off, Democrats have kept making the “we have the young people” argument all through the last six-plus years after they have lost election after election and state after state. It would be easier to take that argument seriously if they could demonstrate where it has helped — or for that matter, if they didn’t cling to their septuagenarian leadership despite those losses. The election of Barack Obama was supposed to realign the political environment in favor of “the young generation,” but Democrats don’t trust them with leadership — and it’s not all that tough to imagine that they’ve noticed it.
Next, it’s amusing to hear Dean speak of “the old left/right” as an “anachronism” when Democrats have run their election strategies in every cycle over the last eight years based on that model. Hillary Clinton didn’t even bother to appeal to moderates and centrists in the last election; instead, she embraced progressivism to the extent of attacking the Hyde Amendment and pledging federal funding for abortions. Did that help with the “young generation”? Hillary won 18-29YOs 55/36, about the same proportion as Barack Obama did (60/37) while campaigning more to the middle four years earlier. More to the point, Democrats lost ground at every level of politics while staking out ground on the far left of the left/right “anachronism” and counting on “the young generation” to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.
One word of caution about relying on the younger set of voters. It’s true that those among them that vote tend to vote Democratic and support progressive causes, but a relatively low percentage of them vote at all. Many of them won’t get engaged in politics until later, when issues begin to hit home for them. One of those issues is abortion, and polling shows repeatedly that the “young generation” is more pro-life than previous generations. Having previous generations lock those voters out of the Democratic Party because they don’t see killing unborn children on the same level as equal rights for gays and lesbians, or as “social justice” at all, is a big, big problem for Democrats down the road, as Scarborough suggests.
Younger voters may not identify as much with ideology, as Dean says, but it’s clear that Democratic leadership does. And that may be why Democrats have become a party of coastal enclaves and Academia.