By James Taranto -
Americans elect a president every four years, and part of the postelection ritual seems to involve the victorious side's convincing itself that future elections are superfluous--that their party has achieved what is supposed to be impossible in a democracy, a "permanent majority." Such proclamations were especially numerous and effusive after Barack Obama's 2008 victory.
You might think that 2010 would diminish such overconfidence in 2012, especially since Obama's campaign this year was uglier and his margin of victory narrower than in 2008. Then again, if an incumbent can get himself re-elected in this economy, maybe the other party really is in trouble. Thus New York magazine's Jonathan Chait can keep a straight face when he asks "How doomed are conservatives?" and answers "Pretty doomed."
Chait makes a demographic argument, but it's not the usual one about the electorate's becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Rather, he argues: "The Republicans' long-term dilemma" is "mainly a generational one." He bases this on findings from a Pew Research Center study:
Among the 2012 electorate, more voters identified themselves as conservative (35 percent) than liberal (25 percent), and more said the government is already doing too much that should be left to the private sector (51 percent) than asserted that the government ought to be doing more to solve problems (44 percent). But this is not the case with younger voters. By a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, voters under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems. More remarkably, 33 percent of voters under 30 identified themselves as liberal, as against 26 percent who called themselves conservative.
What all this suggests is that we may soon see a political landscape that will appear from the perspective of today and virtually all of American history as unrecognizably liberal.
Hang on here. Didn't Winston Churchill say if you're not liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you're not conservative at 40, you have no brain? Probably not, but if the quote is apocryphal, isn't the folk wisdom behind it true?
Not according to Chait: "As another Pew survey showed, generational patterns to tend [sic] to be sticky. It's not the case that voters start out liberal and move rightward. Americans form a voting pattern early in their life and tend to hold to it." ...More HERE