Can’t Old White Men Just Get Along?

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The numbers are in from the Super Tuesday primaries, and one statistic being heralded by many media outlets (MTV, for example) is that the youth vote is stronger than ever. During the primaries so far this year, the numbers of under-30 voters have turned out in double and triple the numbers than they did in 2004. But the increased fervor and political excitement among young people is very lopsided toward the Democratic candidates, particularly Obama.

This is strikingly clear at the Obama-crazy UCLA these days (and I suspect at most secular college campuses). During a mock campus election last month, only 225 students voted for a Republican candidate. Meanwhile, 1,387 students voted for Obama.

This is unsurprising in many respects, but if we’re looking for reasons why young people prefer the Democratic candidates over the Republicans (and, let’s face it, it’s not because of issues like social security or healthcare), we can perhaps look to the fact that not even hardcore Republicans are all that excited about the Republican candidates. Instead, the cranky old white Republican guard (the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Christian Coalition types) are bickering amongst themselves in angsty confusion.

Take James Dobson—one of the most powerful (or formerly powerful) evangelical/political leaders in America. Frustrated that there isn’t a knock-out candidate on the Republican side, he’s recently taken to publicly bashing the frontrunner, John McCain.

Dobson’s list of grievances with McCain includes the fact that the Senator did not support the anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment, supports some stem cell research, and opposed the Bush tax cuts (evidently tax cuts are considered the “Christian” thing to do). Oh, and McCain supposedly uses “foul and obscene language” … Making him not only an unconservative pseudo-liberal, but a borderline pagan.

Here’s some more of what Dobson said of McCain:

I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has sounded at times more like a member of the other party. …Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does NOT make the medicine go down. I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience… Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life.

Oh Dr. Dobson… You were so wise back in the Dare to Discipline days. What happened? Now you’re advocating not voting? Even though in 2006 you said “it would be a sin” not to vote a for a candidate “who lives by a strong moral code and believes in Jesus Christ”?

Granted, Dobson today did come out and endorse Huckabee. So in the unlikely event (unfortunately) that Huckabee wins the party’s nomination, Dobson would have a reason to vote in November. But chances are the Republican party will push on and nominate McCain, with or without the Dobson-brand Christians.

Alas, I think that Dobson’s babyish tantrum is less a commentary on the state of the Republican party as it is on that fact that people like Dobson are losing their political clout. In this soon-to-be post-Bush era, Americans seem to be desirous of a departure from the wonderful world of WASPs.

As our rapidly changing country pushes forward in the midst of recession and uncertainty, the last thing we need are a bunch of aging white men quibbling over potty mouths and conservative cred. In the globalized, digitized, Darfur-burdened world we now inhabit, there are bigger fish to fry. And that is one reason why the majority of Americans (and almost all young Americans) are voting for Democrats these days.

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12 responses to “Can’t Old White Men Just Get Along?

  1. petertchattaway

    I have to admit, I’m not sure how the popularity of Obama — a man with basically zero foreign policy experience, a man who glibly talks of retreating from Iraq and invading Pakistan while getting chummy with the tyrants and dictators of the Muslim world, a man so ignorant of foreign matters that he actually referred to the leader of the United States’ largest trading partner as “the President of Canada” — can be traced to the fact that we now live in a “globalized” world.

  2. I don’t completely understand it either, but I’ve never been on the Obama bandwagon so I can’t really say. But I suspect there is something about his charisma and non-WASPiness that feels like he would “improve our image abroad”… which is what a lot of world-minded young people want.

  3. The cover of TIME last week was about the resurgence of young voters and how many of them are latching onto Obama. They cited his optimism and ‘hope’ for the future–something that young people latch onto. All the candidates are calling themselves an agent of change, but Obama, with his youthful personality and looks, is the most believable.
    As for the Christian-coalition types, it’s just further evidence that they’re looking for their savior on Capitol Hill (to borrow a phrase from Derek Webb) and hoping to moralize non-Christians–an impossible thing to do. It’s easier to make laws against immorality than it is to go out among the people and show them that the real ‘moralizer’ is Christ.

  4. Clinton and Bush II ran as agents of change, too. But if they got free passes, it was probably because they were elected during a comparatively irrelevant period in history. (The Cold War is over! It’s the End of History! And all that early ’90s stuff.) The stakes are too high now for Obama — who has even less experience in government than Clinton and Bush II did — to get a similar free pass.

  5. I don’t think young people probably care about social security. But health care? heck yeah. In fact, young voters named it their #2 most important issue in a poll last November. (The war in Iraq was #1)

    http://www.youngvoterstrategies.org/index.php?tg=articles&idx=More&topics=37&article=411

    A majority of Americans support universal health care, but not a single republican candidate supported it. They’re just fundamentally out of step with the people.

  6. Exactly what “change” does Obama promise? His voting record is the most liberal of all the candidates. He supports abortion rights and gay marriage; he has promised to “talk” to (i.e. “appease”) our opponents. Nationalized health care, while it always gets a rise out of the populace, is a disaster everywhere it’s been implemented (when has government got anything right?). Furthermore, Obama’s an active member of a church that recently awarded Louis Farrakhan. Change? Sounds like same old / same old.

    If the recent We-are-the-World-like YouTube video lovefests for Obama (see: “Yes We Can”) are any indication, the groundswell of support has more to do with feel-good emotionalism than substantive policy changes. Sorry Brett. I think the resurgence of the youth vote has less to do with Angry Old White Men, than it does with the ripening of the MTV-era of politics. Where is JFK when you need him? Oops. JFK was a white man who, nowadays, would probably be considered a Republican.

  7. bizarre–I came to leave a comment about how I thought you hit the nail on the head.

    and all the comments before me are about how Obama sucks (which, it seems to me, you didn’t address at all in the original post).

    Did I miss something?

  8. I’ll admit that at 41, as a life-long Republican, I’m either losing touch or gaining momentum. In either case, for the first time in my life, I consider myself a moderate.
    I have been a big fan of James Dobson and Focus on the Family and many of the ministry programs they produce are still a wonderfully positive influence on my family. However, I’ve been challenged several times now by others regarding Dobson’s positions and I’ve defended him, but frankly, it’s getting to be embarassing.
    You’re absolutely right, Brett, that Dobson’s tantrum regarding McCain is an indication he’s losing his political clout, and I’m finally willing to admit that’s probably a good thing. The Republican party seems like it could use a good “time out” to get over the tantrums and gain a new perspective.

  9. This will be my second time being able to cast a vote for President, but it will be my first time voting for someone I actually care about. Unless a miracle happens Ron Paul will not get his parties nomination, but in my opinion he’s more conservative than both McCain and Huckabee. Although he’s a Christian he doesn’t use it to gain votes (which I admire). Maybe I’m crazy, maybe he’s crazy, but why haven’t more conservatives put their weight behind him?

  10. For the record, Mr. Duran, Obama does not support gay marriage.

  11. My guess is that the last seven years have served to indicate that presidents with ‘experience’ aren’t necessarily the same as presidents who don’t royally screw up the country.

    And, unrelated, from my peering around the internet and talking among various folks, it appears to me that those people who are most informed politically tend towards Obama-support: it doesn’t seem to be, as is postulated, a feel-good MTV-ish all-image-no-substance movement, but something else.

  12. I think that this election is less about the candidates who are running and more about reacting against Bush, who many, if not most of the country, view as embroiling America in a war and using Christianity as the justification for not only but many other policies seen as divisive. I don’t even know if that’s true, honestly, but it’s what people seem to believe. In a culture where consensus and the lack of conflict are seen as the definition of peace, the idea of Bush stands out as a distinct representation of an older way of thinking. I’m not suggesting he’s made all the right choices or that the war in Iraq was a good idea, but even if it was, the moral philosophy that informed it is definitely out of vogue in our culture today, and no one can argue that it has gone much more poorly than he told us it would.

    Young people are dreamers and visionaries and thus tend towards sentimentality and/or a belief in the ideals of world peace, a brighter future, etc. So, I think that young people are recoiling against Bush, and his party, as much as anything. Thus, given the choice between Barack and Hillary and other democrats, young people are prone to choose the leader they think most likely to bring “change”, and discount the importance of “experience.” Further, in a society where comfort is equated with goodness, and consensus with righteousness, conflict is evil. Therefore, the ideas that Obama espouses of dialoguing our way to peace with enemies are very appealing, even if some of us (myself included) are skeptical about their realism. On top of that, people are in love with the bright future ideology that Obama’s candidacy represents – a black president, anti- war, a Washington outsider, a competent public speaker, someone not from the oil business, etc.

    Personally, I concur with Randomtd that attempting to moralize America thru legislation is ultimately backfiring on the Christians who believed in it. Even most of the Christians I know here in California, who would agree with Dr. Dobson on almost all issues of personal morality, are voting Democrat, b/c they don’t believe in the form Christianity has taken in public office.

    Such is politics. In a few years, all the conservatives will be up in arms over something that the Democrats will do while they’re in power (assuming they win this election), and the pendulum will swing back the other way. In a two-party system, there just isn’t that much room for genuinely staunch or different positions, and in its turn, the Republican party will adapt to the culture to lure voters – as we’re already seeing with McCain, who is in fact decidedly more moderate than previous Republican candidates. Which also points out how much even Republicans are reacting against the sort of conservatism represented by Bush and Dobson.

    Personally, I can’t decide what I think. But I remember Vince Foster, so I’m just voting against Hillary.

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