This year, the youth vote will finally make a difference.
Every four years, it seems, especially among Democrats, the idea that the youth vote will rise up and make a difference gets bandied about excitedly and then … well, not much happens. Young people were supposed to put Al Gore over the top in 2000; four years later, they were supposed to deliver the Democratic nomination to Howard Dean. This year, the youth excitement has attached itself to Barack Obama. But unlike in the past, there’s reason to expect that this enthusiasm might produce real results.
In past cycles, anecdotal evidence of increased youth involvement—the media’s fixation on “Rock the Vote,” say, or on Howard Dean’s Internet supporters—never translated to the polls: no tidal wave of young voters ever materialized. But for Obama, one has. Take Iowa: In 2000, Democratic caucus voters younger than 30 made up about 9 percent of the electorate. In the 2008 Democratic caucus, they made up nearly a quarter. If Obama can replicate that turnout in a general election, he’ll have a very good shot at becoming president.
The “Reagan coalition” is dead.
We’ll see. But it sure looks as if the Reagan coalition—the combination of economic, foreign-policy, religious, and cultural conservatives that helped carry Ronald Reagan and every subsequent Republican president to victory—is on its last legs. Tensions within the movement over the Iraq War, the influence of evangelicals, the wisdom of supply-side economics, and other issues are severely compressing the arteries of the modern conservative movement. George Allen, the senator from Virginia who was a front-runner for the Republican nomination, sought to claim the coalition’s support, but his famous “macaca” comment, immortalized on YouTube, cost him reelection to the Senate and snuffed his presidential hopes. Mitt Romney was the next to campaign as “the Reagan candidate,” during the 2008 Republican primaries, but to no avail.