If Republicans are trying to alienate themselves from a generation of voters, they’re doing a bang-up job. Polls shows that young people, and especially young women, are fleeing to the Democratic Party in large numbers. And who can blame them? Too many politicians in the GOP, and their media mouthpieces, have insulted them, smeared them and pawned their futures in exchange for short-term gain.
The treatment of Parkland student David Hogg, 17, is just one obvious and egregious example. For having the audacity to say he believes the United States should have sane gun control laws – in line with every other developed nation on Earth – Hogg has been relentlessly attacked by right-wing media.
If Republicans want to have a prayer of attracting young voters in numbers sufficient to maintain their political control, they will need to show them through policies and behavior that they care about them. At the very least, they and their lieutenants might avoid trashing victims of the violence they’ve helped bring upon the country with their pro-gun policies.
Let’s recall here that Hogg has entered the public consciousness as a result of being caught in a mass shooting during which 17 students and faculty were killed in minutes. He’s a teenager, albeit a mature, charismatic, articulate one, but still, a young person who survived a serious trauma.
No matter, apparently. He’s been the subject of obscene conspiracy theories, among them that he wasn’t actually at the shooting or that he’s a paid “crisis actor.”
Conservative television and radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted disparaging comments about his college admissions status, and the outcry was significant enough that many of her advertisers pulled out of her Fox News show. And last month, Jamie Allman, the host of a nightly show on the Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate in St. Louis, wrote on Twitter that he was “hanging out getting ready” to sexually assault Hogg with “a hot poker.” He has since resigned and his show has been canceled.
Hogg’s classmate, Emma Gonzales, has been similarly smeared. A doctored photo of her tearing up the Constitution went viral (in the real photo, she was tearing apart a gun range paper target). A sitting US congressman, Iowa Republican Steve King -- who has also tried to make English the official language of the United States – mocked her for not speaking Spanish.
Hogg, Gonzales and many of their classmates have received death threats after these right-wing attacks.
While right-wing pundits are viciously attacking young people for having different political opinions, right-wing politicians are undermining these youngsters’ futures. The much-hailed Trump tax cut is expected to raise the federal deficit to $1 trillion by 2020. As this becomes reality, you can expect conservatives to demand cuts to the social safety net, so that today’s young have even less of a parachute.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is hardly worthy of the name, determined as it is to wipe out environmental protections and deny that climate change exists. But it is young people who will ultimately face the slow-rolling devastation of harsh weather, lost homes, dirty air and water, and global conflict– all fueled by humans who chose to continue abusing the Earth, long after we knew better.
It’s young people who are watching their friends and classmates who have never known a home outside of America live in fear of deportation because of many Republicans’ refusal to support Dreamers. And, of course, it’s young women who must spend much of their teens, 20s and into their 30s trying to determine for themselves the number and spacing of their children, even in the face of right-wing attacks on contraception and their right to an abortion.
It is decent young men who recognize that the well-being of their families and communities rests on women’s bodily autonomy, and see that attempts to circumscribe women’s rights threaten a much broader landscape of happiness and stability.
It’s also mainly young women who have the unfortunate experience of fending off sexual harassment, fearing sexual assault and sometimes experiencing both; it’s young women who know their bodies are too often reduced by men to genitals – the ones the Trump bragged about grabbing just because he could.
So is anyone surprised by the new Harvard poll showing that young people plan on flooding into the ballot boxes in November – and that the surge is almost entirely Democratic? Some 37% of Americans under 30 say they will definitely vote in the midterm elections; just 23 percent said the same in 2014.
In California, 100,000 16- and 17-year-olds have preregistered to vote so that they can cast their ballots without issue as soon as they are of legal age. Republicans have other good reason to worry: Nearly 60% of millennial voters are Democrats, and some 70% of millennial women are Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.
And while GOP voters have stayed overwhelmingly white, the Democratic Party has significantly racially diversified over the years. In a nation that is more diverse with every generation, that’s bad news for Republicans.
The all-sides assault on the young, from media sliming to political undermining, may play to Trump’s base of old white men now. Unfortunately for his party, time moves steadily forward, and as the old die out, the young grow up. Thanks to the GOP and their particularly nasty flying monkeys on Fox and online, our young have no reason to grow up anything but liberal.