22 May 2018

A GOP generation gap?

Jonah Goldberg, age 49, reports a recent survey showing a profound generational divide within the Republican party. It finds that 82% of pro-Republican respondents ages 18-24 want someone to challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential primaries, while 74% of respondents over age 65 want Trump renominated without opposition. Goldberg, no fan of  Trump himself, attributes this to a belated youth rebellion among conservatives, driven by a more accommodating attitude toward diversity, if not political correctness. As Goldberg puts it, "Young people understand that some of the things old people see as 'political correctness' [reflect] an attempt to craft decent manners in the increasingly diverse and egalitarian society that young people live in." Going further, Goldberg echoes essayist Ben Shapiro's argument that young Republicans "care about character and values" more than their elders now do. Older Republicans, Goldberg implies, have been corrupted by their hatred of political correctness and all it represents and are now more interested in crushing their electoral or demographic enemies than in principled government. In short, younger Republicans are less tribal than their elders, though this may not be true with young rightists as a whole. I have to wonder whether the survey's "Republican and Republican-leaning" categories exclude the alt-right, which was still a youth movement the last time I checked. If alt-rightists don't identify as Republican but will support Trump, the generation gap may not be as significant as Goldberg hopes. I also wonder whether age, rather than income, education  or geography, is the ultimate determinant of rabid Trumpers. Many NeverTrumpers,  after all, are older Republicans, and many others in the same age bracket would be shocked to learn that they've abandoned character and values. While something may be missing in that survey, Goldberg isn't wrong to observe that the demographic bomb will keep ticking for the GOP unless Republicans can reach out to unfamiliar demographics in ways the most reactionary oldsters and the most contemptuous youth may despise. Whether they can could depend less on Republicans' good manners than on whether others can see Republican values as anything more than the mores clung to by a bitter, moribund tribe.

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