Trump may cost the GOP a generation of voters

People always remember their first presidential vote — their first participation in the largest decision of American democracy.

In high school, I was a rather awkward, nerdish history buff. (My wife would dispute the verb tense.) I was also something of a lefty, particularly compared with my conservative religious upbringing. I debated on behalf of Jimmy Carter in the mock election at my Christian high school during the 1980 election, making me a political minority of one.

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But my political identification had begun to shift by 1984, and I cast my first presidential vote for Ronald Reagan. For me, exposure to economics had an ideologically sobering effect. (A young liberal can’t be too careful in his or her reading.) In addition, Walter Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, had turned conservative religious people into a rhetorical skeet target. And Reagan himself — who had demonstrated personal courage and a capacity to govern — seemed to embody something hopeful and decent about the country.

I was not alone. In 1984, voters ages 18 to 24 supported Reagan over Mondale by 61 percent to 39 percent. “The oldest president in U.S. history and the youngest members of the nation’s electorate,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1986 , “have forged one of the strongest bonds in American politics.” The first serious political memories of my generation were of an appealing, creative, electorally dominant (at the national level) GOP.

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