In asking ourselves why Obama is doing so well among the young, I found this 1999 Ted Halstead Atlantic article prescient:
Three quarters of Generation X agree with the statement "Our generation has an important voice, but no one seems to hear it." Whatever this voice may be, it does not fit comfortably within existing partisan camps. "The old left-right paradigm is not working anymore," according to the novelist Douglas Coupland, who coined the term "Generation X." Neil Howe and William Strauss, who have written extensively on generational issues, have argued in these pages that from the Generation X perspective "America's greatest need these days is to clear out the underbrush of name-calling and ideology so that simple things can work again."
If Xers have any ideology, it is surely pragmatism. In an attempt to be more specific Coupland has claimed, "Coming down the pipe are an extraordinarily large number of fiscal conservatives who are socially left." The underlying assumption here is that the Xer political world view stems simplistically from a combination of the 1960s social revolution and the 1980s economic revolution. This kind of thinking has led some to describe young adults as a generation of libertarians, who basically want government out of their bedrooms and out of their pocketbooks. As it turns out, however, the political views of most Xers are more complex and more interesting than that.
Is Obama fiscally conservative? Not in the way I'd prefer. He'll spend too much. But for those of us conservatives who still believe - sorry, NRO - that the government should balance its books and not promise any more than it can realistically provide, Obama is far more fiscally conservative than Bush Republicans. He is at least cognizant that money doesn't grow on trees. McCain helps narrow the choice - he's one of the few fiscal conservatives who walks the walk. But McCain is just generationally off for the Obama generation, I suspect. I love the guy, but I'm the old guard now.
(Photo: an Obama rally last year in Washington Square Park, New York City. By Emmanuel Dunand/Getty.)