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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

The GOP's Lost Youth


Who the president is when we first come of voting age — and whether we see that president as a successful leader — strongly influences our future voting allegiances.

Take the case of Ronald Reagan, who when he first won the White House in 1980 by defeating President Jimmy Carter and third-party candidate Rep. John Anderson was at the age of 69 the oldest president ever elected. That year, Reagan and Carter split the 18-to-29-year-old vote, with Anderson, the maverick, taking 11 percent.

Four years later in 1984, when President Reagan, the sunny optimist, ran for re-election, Americans overwhelmingly believed they were better off than they had been four years earlier. Nowhere was this voter approval of the then-73-year-old incumbent more dramatic than among the nation's youngest voters, some more than half a century the Gipper's junior, who backed him over Democrat Walter Mondale by 61 percent to 39 percent.

In 1988, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush could be said to have been running for "Ronald Reagan's third term." Older voters who had been Reagan's strongest supporters in both 1980 and 1984 almost evenly divided between Bush and the Democratic nominee, Gov. Michael Dukakis. Bush in winning ran significantly stronger among the presumably more liberal, youngest voters than he did among the measurably more conservative seniors.

Fast-forward to 2012, and those formerly young Reagan voters are now almost all found in the 50-64 age cohort. Let it be noted that, while Barack Obama did become the first U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower, some six decades before, to twice win a majority of the popular vote, Republican Mitt Romney carried 50-to-64-year-old voters by 52 percent to 47 percent. Early voting habits die hard.

But that was then, and this is now.

The last three elections have been among young voters for the Republicans an unrelieved disaster. Even though Democrat John Kerry lost the 2004 contest to President George W. Bush, Kerry won young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 by a solid 54 percent to 45 percent.

In 2008, the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden demolished the GOP team of John McCain and Sarah Palin, 66 percent to 32 percent.

The U.S. economy was certainly not booming in 2012, and too many young Americans have been struggling to jump-start their careers, but the Democratic incumbent still won a smashing landslide 60 percent among voters under the age of 30. And continuing their learned Democratic loyalties or habit, voters between the ages of 30 and 39 soundly endorsed Obama over Romney by 55 percent to 42 percent.

We all know that Republican nominees, of late, have run weakly among the growing number — now totaling 26 percent of the electorate — of Hispanic, Asian and African-American voters. In fact, in 2012, the Romney-Ryan team won less than 13 percent of this constituency. Since the election, many Republicans seem to grasp that they must support immigration reform as a first step, before they have a chance of once again becoming competitive among Hispanic and Asian voters.

But the Grand Old Party's "Lost Youth" voters cannot be addressed by any federal legislation. Unsmiling Republicans are too often seen to be on search-and-destroy missions, looking for heretics rather than seeking converts. Democrats are now younger, and Republicans are aging.

It remains true in 2013 that the typical Democrat is probably moving from her own room to her own apartment and one day hoping to have a home of her own, while the typical Republican is moving from his own home to the retirement home, on his way to the nursing home or the funeral home.

The GOP must do something soon to bridge that dangerous generational divide.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... I think growing up under the shadow of the Bomb, living with the unreasoning and unreasonable fear of communism, and the civil rights movement had a lot to do with forming my political preferences which were in many senses set before I was ten... It was actually the Catholic Church that gave me my first lesson on Communism, a fact that impressed my father no end when I actually knew something of its players over the dinner table... I remember Ike as president, though I confused his picture with that of Krushev... I remember the debate between Nixon and Kennedy, and thought Mr. Nixon had won, though I did not actually gather too much of it, but did get that Kennedy was Catholic, and realize now that my mother, at least was struck by the star quality of that young, articulate, and handsome man...
I remember seeing Sputnic coming accross Southern Canada and Northern Michigan in the early nightfall, reflecting the light of the setting sun, and then we went to bed in the trailer we called home... Perhaps the greatest event in my early life time was the television experience of the civil rights movement... The clubs, and police dogs, and water hoses turned on black people by white people struck me as it struck them: as inhuman... I can remember when German Shepards were as big as a horse is now; but then my own mother was as big and as dangerous as Andre the Giant ever was...There was no kid in my neighborhood who did not fear their mother more than the God of Abraham, and we even feared other kid's mothers... We were careful enough to do our damage so close to a house, or so far that it was not seen...My point was, before the digression, that from the perspective of a kid who has syllogistic knowledge, who can see a cow is a cow, and a horse is a horse, and a dog is a dog, can also see that a person is a person, and it is the fine point of culture to teach that what is obvious is not true, that in the case of black people, their humanity was uncertain, and by no means proven...
I think in that moment of time when a big dog could seem the most terrible monster of modern days; that from those slavering snapping jaws so loaded with teeth, my distrust of authority and fear of tyranny sprang forth with an identity...
Sir... I want revolution even though revolution would wipe me out...The democrats have formed a slight majority among a minority that has no respect for the majority because it is not lathered by the same soap of idealism... The fight for the modern world is being fought between these two, and the middle ages will not be over until in some great victory democratic sensationalism beats out the idealism that dragged people through the dark ages...
I have an imagination, and what would imagination be worth without ideas... I went to Saturn with my brother in an old car once, with no more powerful fuel than imagination which it turned out was our greatest toy... We made the world we lived in once with our imagination, transported ourselves to places and through time with a wish; but we never lost the power as some clearly have to see the world beyond our imagination of fact, with sense...
America is not what it was and never was what we once believed... If we can drone with a clear conscience, we will be droned...If we can see so many with their rights denied in silence, others will see us so...It does not matter what excuse we use to murder our fellow human beings; it is all justification as all that is unjustifiable is altogether justified by those who know it is wrong...
We wave the flag of our fathers, and know the ideals that made us great because they were great ideals, but like the landscape of my youth, are barren, cold and hard... This America we have imagined is not real, not ours, and has slipped like a dream upon waking from our fingers... The battle between democrats and republicans is not cosmic, but simply between the reality of a moral society, and the theories, abstractions, and principals of an imagined ideal world...The poor have to live in the world they've got, even if they desire one better... The fairy tale world of the right will never fly no matter how much pixie dust settles upon it...But the most dangerous baggage, and the one most difficult to abandon, is the stuff that dreams are made of...
I want the religious right for one moment in their lives to live as the poor must live, and know what the poor must know, and never again trust in the kindness of strangers... I want to see them go for their support to their government looking for a piece of the commonwealth that has long since been privatized... I want them to try to fill their dish today with promises of a better tomorrow, and not cry when they look and find it empty...I want revolution to grow in their hearts when they realize their ideals have not created the dreamscape they have for so long imagined...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Feb 8, 2013 9:57 AM
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