Monday, March 02, 2009

Ailing G.O.P. Risks Losing a Generation

From the New York Times courtesy of Eschaton:

Americans identifying themselves as Democrats outnumber those who say they are Republicans by 10 percentage points, the largest gap in party identification in 24 years.

The gap has widened significantly since President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, when it was a mere 3 percentage points. But by the time Mr. Bush left office in January, less than a quarter of Americans approved of his performance.

These days, 38 percent of Americans say they are Democrats, 28 percent call themselves Republicans, and another 29 percent identify as independents, according to an average of national polls conducted last year by The New York Times and CBS News.

More here.

So it's once again becoming cool to be on the left. Nice. I've thought of myself as liberal for at least fifteen years, and in all that time, I've fully understood that I was going against the grain. I wonder how I'm going to deal with being part of the popular mass again. Actually, that's not quite true. Being a Democrat is not at all the same thing as being a leftist, and as regular Real Art readers well know, I've got plenty of ire for the Democrats. Granted, not nearly as much as I do for Republicans, but enough, I'm sure, to keep me blogging, at least, for years to come.

Still though, it's pretty clear that we currently are witnessing one of those political pendulum shifts America goes through every thirty or forty years. Conservatism is on the way out. I'm still not convinced that means liberalism is on the way in, but given the dark right-wing era of absurdity we've been enduring since the GOP took Congress back in '94, I'll take it.

For now, anyway.

What gives me hope is the conventional notion that people lock in their political attitudes when they're in their twenties: the biggest shift in political alignment, if I understand correctly, is among young Americans, who now favor the Democrats by an even larger percentage margin than the country as a whole. Unfortunately, that means my generation, which came of age during the Reagan years, and appears to be, by and large, rather conservative, is now something of a lost generation, slanted toward the right, even as the nation lurches left.

Whatever. At least I'm on the side of the up and coming. Maybe. I guess we'll see.

Of course, what troubles me is that in thirty years or so, if this is indeed one of those generational political realignments, conservatism will once again be looking good to young Americans. What can liberals do to avoid the stagnation and arrogance of the liberal political establishment of the 60s and 70s, which made it all too easy for Reagan, Gingrich, and other evil fools to capture Americans' imaginations?

If the left can't incorporate the concept of reinventing itself into its overall philosophy, the nightmare of the last eight years will happen again.