Democratic party identification is falling fast among young progressive voters

I’ve written in a number of places (links below) about how criminal it was that Obama, having created as candidate an army of newly invigorated voters, then dashed their hopes as president, repeatedly and relentlessly.

After the election, OFA (his youth-organizing and mobilizing entity) was folded into the Democratic party, and became a party tool, not at all a force for hopeful change. His “base” was repeatedly ignored, or worse.

The sense of betrayal in some quarters has been monumental. Paul Krugman, Cornel West, James Galbraith and a host of others among the bigs — and about a million of us smalls — were left crying in our beer watching cave after cave after cave. It’s been an endless parade of miserable. Only progressive gays, who actually fought back, achieved a genuine victory.

How could this not affect the youth, so hopeful (yes, not sarcasm), so motivated? Not since John Kennedy launched the 1960s, and everything that meant to the country, have the nation’s youth been so mobilized.

Not any more. Rick Perlstein (my emphasis):

You could call [my friend] a progressive. Just don’t call him a Democrat. As intense as his alienation from the Republican Party is his disinclination to state any party identity at all. He says, “I feel more attached to a politics of hope and optimism than I do to the Democratic Party”.

He’s not alone. It’s more and more the case that young people who identify with Democrats on the issues shy from labeling themselves Democrats. In 2008, members of the “Millennial” generation — demographers’ term for kids born between 1981 and 1993 — identified as Democrats rather than Republicans by 60 to 32 percent. Now, those figures are 47 and 43 percent.

The turn away from party identification has been a long-term American trend: According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans don’t consider themselves members of a political party, compared to 36 percent in 2002 and 33 percent in 1988. But that trend has been all the more accelerated among young people — and even more so among young progressives. … It’s especially interesting that the démarche of Democratic identity seem[s] most pronounced among the kids most committed to the values of equality and justice that some consider the Democratic Party’s historic calling card.

He lost them the minute he made them, Mr. Chill, I Got This did — by throwing them away the second his “hamburger today” showed up. (Yes, children of 2008; it will never be Tuesday for you.)

And what was his “hamburger today”? His personal ambition, his family’s entrance into the privileged class, and his “legacy.” The ambition is obvious. About the entrance into privileges, I wrote last year:

I think it’s under-estimated how much it matters to men like Obama that they get their families to the next level of society — how much it matters that they enter the aristocratic elite and bring their children with them.

Think of Bill Clinton — he comes from a back-water town, and through really hard work (and exceptional talent) gets his daughter into Sidwell Friends School, where the elite are prepared to be the elite. Next thing he knows, she marries well and works at a big-time hedge fund and venture capitalism shop. The family is secure; they’ll be yachting with princes (so to speak) for a long time to come.

Obama’s on that path. … But will he be loved himself in his retirement? … [Not by] anyone with half a mind who knows what an FDR-opportunity, in a world-historical JFK-moment, was thrown away … Will the youth who were shagged in 2008 ever vote again in such numbers, with such enthusiasm and (yes) hopefulness?

About that legacy, here’s Galbraith:

[When Obama’s] term ends he won’t be able simply to go home. He’ll need a big house in a gated suburb, with high walls and rich friends. … [But] it won’t save him. For if and when he ventures out, for the rest of his life, the eyes of all those, whose hopes he once raised will follow him. The old, the poor, the jobless, the homeless: their eyes will follow him wherever he goes.

About the nation’s youth, Perlstein closes:

I can’t really blame someone born in 1991 for not buying the idea that the Democrats were once a party that often took political risks for social justice and can be again. Why should they believe me? They’ve never seen it in their lifetimes.

Perlstein recognizes the horns of the dilemma for Dems — to fight or not to fight; to be civil, or to win.

About the last, regular readers know where I stand — play to win or find a different game.

And do it now, while the multiple crisis clocks — the wealth transfer, the death of U.S. manufacturing, the poisoning of food and environment, the loss of liberty to the National Spook State, and this one — are actually still ticking.

Tea-Party the Democrats. You heard it here, folks. The only other choice is the street, and that gets messy.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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