by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The challenges of chasing younger voters are admittedly formidable. Let’s start with the obvious: They’re socialists and libertines. Politically speaking, the only cause that has really excited them was the LGBT-rights movement, which is an absolute non-starter with religious traditionalists. (No, don’t even think about sacrificing the religious conservatives. They’re the only non-progressive sub-culture in America that is sizable, vibrant, and fecund. We need them, too.)
Setting aside those (admittedly large) stumbling blocks, we can find some non-trivial reasons for youthful voters and principled conservatives to make common cause. Both groups feel disenfranchised at present. After laboring mightily to stop their respective parties from nominating a corrupt and polarizing figure, they both came up short. Expedience can at times be a powerful motivator for political cooperation. No one wants to be left entirely without a political outlet.
More substantively, there is this: Young voters seem reluctant to dash into the tribal conflicts that increasingly consume their elders. Of course, this is not universally true. Too many have been drawn into anti-Trump demonstrations. Still, as Boomers rally around bitterly partisan purveyors of identity politics, give Millennials credit: Their preferred candidate may be a pie-in-the-sky ideologue, but at least his eyes are on the horizon and not the gutter.
That speaks to another important feature of the Sanders campaign, which more than a few conservatives have missed. We’ve lamented the lack of cultural memory that leaves young Americans self-identifying as socialists. We’ve scoffed at their economic ignorance, their hunger for freebies, and the general incoherence of their political views. Make no mistake: They are confused. From Occupy Wall Street to the campus-protest movement, Millennials’ highest-profile efforts at social diagnosis have been wildly unsuccessful.
What do young people want nowadays? Is it really all about better sex and more free stuff? Let’s given them the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and imagine that their smorgasbord of conflicting views masks a desperate, flailing scramble for something more meaningful. Perhaps what they really want is a future.