I learned on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” today that the number of Americans between ages 18 and 30 is now 80 million—more than 1/3 of all current voting-age adults. As they get older, they are, statistics demonstrate that they are more likely to vote regularly than they are now.
And there are approximately 75 million Americans under 18.
In short, within 20 years, when most of the current plus-65 Americans are, statistically speaking, likelier than not to be dead, the millennials, and those younger than millennials, will make up somewhere in the ballpark of 60 percent (probably more) of all voters. And if Republicans don’t reverse the tide, and these current young people continue to skew progressive on social issues, Republicans will never be able to win a national election without getting upwards of two-thirds of the plus-50 vote. Considering that the 50-to-65 crowd, 20 years from now, will be comprised of the moderate-leaning 30-to-45 crowd of today—which first began voting during the Bill Clinton presidency—good luck to the GOP in getting two-thirds or more of that demographic.
Republicans can do this simple math just as easily as I can. They must know that if they don’t change, they are politically dead. Oh, they may win an election here and there, but it’ll be an increasingly rare occurrence—a death rattle. Yet, rather than making real changes, their actions seem to indicate an attempt to mitigate their decline rather than reverse it. One wonders if they are not just trying to stay alive long enough so that they can ensure their laws will survive after they are extinct.
Viewed in this light, it would seem the Republicans are fighting a rearguard, guerrilla-type political war. They are buying time to get their laws on the books (certainly at the state level, even if they can’t do so at the federal level). If they can get their laws on the books (backed by the numerous lifetime appointees to the federal benches they’ve made since 1981), no matter how badly they lose at the polls, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the eventual Democratic majorities to overturn them—at least, not for a very long time. For example: look at the union-busting measures recently enacted by Michigan Republicans. It is hard to see how they will not suffer at the polls for their actions—but if their chief concern is getting their laws on the books while they still can, then their course of action makes sense.
One would think that if Republicans were truly interested in future political viability, they’d start aligning at least some of their positions, particularly on social issues, with the millennials, who will be the dominant force in U.S. politics by 2030 (if not sooner). But the Republicans aren’t realigning on any of the issues. They are merely incessantly yammering about better messaging, but their problem is not primarily a messaging problem. The messaging difficulties merely are a symptom. Yes, their messaging is bad, but that’s largely because they’re selling a product that fewer and fewer people want to buy. If they think putting a fresh coat of paint on a crumbling house is going to change their fortunes, they are in for a rude awakening.
I am beginning to consider the possibility that the Republican Party is not, primarily, trying to survive. Perhaps not surprisingly for a party increasingly dominated by deeply religious people, it might simply be trying to ensure itself an afterlife.