To Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, ‘GOP’ Might As Well Stand For ‘Grouchy Old Party’

July 17th, 2014 6:58 AM

No, Vox blogger Matthew Yglesias has not suggested that an appropriate slogan for the current Republican party would be “Get off our lawn!” Yglesias did, however, argue in a Tuesday post that these days, conservative politics reeks of “oldsterism,” as evidenced by developments including righties advocating large budget cuts except for programs benefiting those 55 and older; “constant bickering about Ronald Reagan”; and George Will’s “column-length rant against blue jeans.” All that and more, Yglesias declared, adds up to a “cranky” GOP that won’t win the votes of most young people.

From Yglesias’s post (bolding added; italics in original):

You can tell it's the dog days of summer because some of Washington's finest minds are spending their time debating the inherently unknowable question of whether today's teenagers will grow up to be Republicans...

…[O]ne thing you learn from history is that partisan and ideological configurations can change a lot — and in surprising ways — over time.

More interesting than asking whether people born in the 1990s will be voting GOP in the 2020s, I think, is asking what kind of a GOP it would have to be for them to vote for it.

…[W]hile today's teenagers might well turn against some of the failings of Obama-era liberalism, they're unlikely to be pining for a return to Mad Men social norms.

There's just no way.

Which isn't just to say that the younger generation is socially liberal and the GOP is socially conservative. For one thing, on some key issues like abortion and gun control, younger voters don't seem to have particularly left-wing views. For another thing, there's really a broader issue with the GOP than it's specific views on, say, marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

There's something very oldsterish about contemporary conservative politics. The constant bickering about Ronald Reagan is very odd to anyone too young to have any particular recollection of the Reagan years. Calling a group of people "Beyoncé Voters"as an insult is weird. Some of this oldsterism is just tics, but some of it has policy implications. The sort of budgetary priorities that call for huge cuts in all domestic spending, except no cuts at all for anyone born before 1959 is kind of weird. The huge freakout over New York City starting a bicycle program last summer was bizarre. It's easy to imagine a political party that's broadly favorable to low taxes and light regulation without sharing this particular set of tics. And then there was the time George Will wrote a column-length rant against blue jeans.

There have always been cranky old people asserting that things were better when they were kids and whatever is happening now is terrible…and presumably there always will be cranky old people. But a confluence of circumstances has created a situation in which conservative politics has gotten bound up with cranky oldersterism [sic] in a somewhat weird way.

And I think it's fairly predictable that today's young people aren't going to vote for that...