In analyzing the polls and concluding that 2014 will belong to the GOP, the chattering class appears to think that millennials are becoming convinced by Republican characterizations of President Barack Obama as an ineffective leader who has failed on the economy.
But they’re missing the point.
Republicans are winning, but on tactics—not ideas. The vicious, soulless and relentless war on hope and change has replaced straightforward conservative arguments for low taxes and smaller social welfare programs. Discouraging millennials and African Americans from voting is the major strategy in the Republican electoral playbook.
The GOP’s failure to compromise with Obama on everything that could improve the economy, infrastructure and education—and thereby improve prospects for the younger generation—has resulted in government shutdowns, debates over the debt ceiling, filibusters of commonsense gun control legislation, the defeat of a minimum wage bill and the stalemate over immigration reform.
It has also produced a tepid economic recovery that has left millions of Obama voters feeling that there is no recovery at all.
This is no coincidence. Republican leaders and their operatives have been betting on this very outcome. They intend to make Obama’s presidency a cautionary tale. Their aim is not only to win back political power in Congress and the White House but also to ensure that the generation of young black and brown Americans inspired by his ascendancy won’t aspire to similar heights.
With the mainstream media asleep at the wheel, recycling Republican talking points and not looking deeper to see the reasons for youth malaise, the GOP is clearly accomplishing its goal.
But Obama and Democrats aren’t ceding the midterms quite yet.
Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says, “We are working aggressively to increase turnout among African-American and Latino millennials in this midterm, particularly with an early field effort. Our field team of diverse young men and women not only reflects their communities, but they’re also working to get young people engaged in the critical issues that affect their lives.”
The Harvard IOP survey showed that the president’s own approval rating among young people jumped to 47 percent, up from 41 percent last November. Young voters also agreed with Democrats on issues such as raising the minimum wage, closing the gender gap in pay and addressing income inequality. But the constant rancor in our political discourse—driven by Republican opposition to this first African-American president—has left millennials distrusting the political process.