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Blame the Millennials

An astounding exit poll statistic isn’t getting enough attention in the morning-after analysis of the 2014 election. In some ways, it’s the only statistic that matters: Eighteen-to-29-year-old voters comprised 19 percent of all voters in 2012; this year, they made up less than 12 percent.

Can I just say “wow” about that?

Richard Nixon wasn't cool long before Millennials were cool.

Richard Nixon wasn’t cool long before Millennials were cool.

It’s an even more astounding stat when you consider that the total number of voters dropped by 30 percent from 2012 to this year. That actually means that somewhere around half as many 18-29 year olds voted this year than in the presidential election. They were a much smaller portion of a much smaller overall number.

The magnitude of the drop very likely determined the results in many close races, simply because Democrats are much more popular among 18-29 year olds than they are among older voters. In fact, this year’s Exit Poll shows that Democrats won that youngest voters’ demographic, by 54 percent to 43 percent. The older the demographic, the better the Republican percentages. Once you get to the 65-plus group, the Dem:GOP split is more than a complete swing, from 54:43 to 41:57.

The drop in Millennial turnout itself isn’t so surprising. As NBC News pointed out yesterday 18-29 year olds made up a similar portion of all voters in the 2010 midterms.

But there were some important distinctions this year. For one thing, other supposedly low-midterm-turnout groups didn’t drop off nearly as much as Millennials did. Blacks, Latinos and single women showed up in slightly smaller numbers (which may be more attributable to the fact that all three of those groups skew to the young side, than to anything else). Whatever the case, the drops among those groups weren’t enough to alter more than a handful of results.

Another big difference is that the oldest age group (65-plus) comprised a significantly larger portion of the overall vote in 2014 than in 2010 (37 percent vs. 32 percent). In other words, the most conservative age group was much larger this year relative to the most liberal age group.

Democrats can take solace in three pieces of good news here. One is that the groups that supported them in recent years still favor them. Sure, Republicans did a bit better this year among Latinos and single women, but that’s to be expected when all voters (including Latinos and single) skewed older and when most of the exciting contests were in conservative states.

The second piece of good news is that Millennials are likely to come out of hibernation in 2016, giving Democrats yet again a commanding demographic advantage in the next presidential election.

Finally, it’s likely that Millennials will vote more regularly as they settle down and raise families. Meanwhile, the GOP’s favorite group, to put it bluntly, will continue to die off.

For now, however, the failure of so many Millennials to vote in midterms is a real problem, and not just for the Democrats. It’s as if we’re two countries right now — neurotically swinging from right to left every two years, and then back right again. The presidential elections may more closely reflect the will of the people. After all, the demographics of presidential-year voters more closely resemble the demographics of citizens. But legally it doesn’t matter a third of the Senate and all of the House faces re-election every two years, and midterms feature more than twice as many contests for state offices than the presidential years do.

So, we can expect the dysfunction to continue in 2018, 2022, et cetera. Or at least until those ungrateful whippersnappers start voting.


On the Media on Emory rabbi ethics issues

PBS’ On the Media runs a fascinating — and very candid — piece on an Emory University law and ethics professor who was found to have created at least one Internet sock puppet to promote himself and his agenda.

Michael J. Broyde is a senior fellow at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law Religion, as well as an influential “modern orthodox” rabbi and the founder over Young Israel in Toco Hills.

In April, the Jewish Channel broke the story that a character calling himself Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser had lauded Broyde frequently for more than 20 years via online comments and even in letters to scholarly journals. It turns out that, Goldwasser’s comments were coming from the same IP address that Broyde uses.

Eventually, Broyde apologized — sort of. “I deeply regret these actions,” he was quoted by Emory PR officials as saying, “and I apologize that some of my rabbinic work has come to reflect adversely on Emory University.” But Broyde denied the findings in a second investigative report by the Jewish Channel that he’d created another sock puppet. That character went so far as to defend controversial scholarship by Broyde, as well as to invent quotes that Broyde then referred to in his own scholarship.

In early February, Broyde resigned from the prominent Rabbinical Council of America. But Emory appears to be dealing with him more softly. The university hasn’t disciplined him, and Steven I. Weiss, who broke the Jewish Channel stories, reported in December:

The short summary of Emory University’s investigation of Michael Broyde would be that regarding everything Broyde has admitted to, the investigation acknowledges as fact, while regarding everything Broyde did not admit to, the investigation “did not find evidence to substantiate.”

On the Media, which airs Sunday afternoons on WABE 90.1 FM, interviews Weiss here. You can listen to the segment here.



Jason Carter’s snow-white opportunity

Thousands of vehicles and drivers were left stranded overnight on frigid highways. Two people died. Some 3,000 children ended up sleeping at their schools. And everyone in metro Atlanta has a neighbor or two with a scary story of a drive home that took longer than 12 hours.

Will Gov. Nathan Deal suffer political backlash for the state of Georgia’s failure to prepare for yesterday’s 2-inch snow “storm”? Is this a meaningful opportunity for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter to build on his theme that Deal’s administration isn’t tending to the needs of everyday Georgians?

Nathan Deal, Georgia governor

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is taking a hit for the state’s poor response to Tuesday’s snowstorm.

The classic example of a snowstorm that presumably cost an incumbent re-election was Chicago’s January 1979 blizzard. The blizzard — actually a series of storms accumulating more than 20 inches — was much bigger than the piddling snow that hit metro Atlanta on Tuesday. It paralyzed Chicago barely a month before challenger Jane Byrne swamped Mayor Michael Bilandic in the Democratic primary. And having inherited the city’s teetering machine from Mayor-for-Life Richard Daley just two years earlier, Bilandic was on thin political ice to start with.

So, no. Georgia’s lack of preparedness isn’t likely to “cost” Deal the election in the same way that the Blizzard of ’79 upended Chicago politics. But it could be one piece of a narrative that helps to redraw the political lines that have given Republicans a lock on statewide contests since 2002.

Jason Carter, Georgia, governor, 2014, Democrat, Nathan Deal, state senator

State Sen. Jason Carter is the leading candidate for Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The central theme of that narrative is that years of partisan orthodoxy — where the all-purpose answer is “cut taxes and government” — have starved state agencies of the competence required to provide basic services. As state grants to public schools come up short each year by the billions, families have felt those cutbacks in the form of fewer school days and larger classes. Other big, cross-partisan groups — college students, state employees, commuters, licensed professional and seniors — are intimately familiar with the reductions, although they many are agnostic on who to blame for them.

But there’s nothing like a crisis to cement nagging unease into a broadly held belief. Ten months from now, thousands of voters — for the most part, suburban Republican and independent voters — will remember the scary chaos they experienced firsthand. Even if that anger doesn’t metastasize into mass rage rippling through the voting populace, the right steps by Carter and the wrong steps by Deal and company could provide some staying power.

Deal at first protested that he couldn’t have prepared better because it was “unexpected winter storm.” That just incensed anyone who’d watched weather forecast one or even two days earlier, or who’d simply looked at the smartphone weather app that morning. There was plenty of warning that this storm would hit parts of the metro area, and might blanket all of it. And by making that claim, he was implicitly arguing that the state could have made things better had it but known the storm was coming.

Will the people who are outraged today blame Deal at the polls in November? Will they help to lock in the narrative of a state government that no longer delivers basic services?

Despite that initial  “unexpected storm” misstep, the governor has deflected blame effectively. He’s pointed out, for example, that surface roads, which are maintained by local governments, were just as clogged as expressways, which are the state’s responsibility. Kasim Reed has obligingly appeared onstage with Deal, welcoming cameras to view the Atlanta mayor as the face of what’s been dubbed nationally as an “Atlanta” fiasco (never mind that most of the mess was outside the city). Reed, a Democrat, has even run a bit of interference for the Republican governor: He lambasted the national media for making fun of Georgia, and he directed some of his own ire toward school districts that released kids in an uncoordinated fashion.

But fact remains that this was the state’s mess. The city holds less than a tenth of the metro population and incorporates far less of its geography. Only the state could be in a position to coordinate the emergency responses of some 50 local governments and school systems. For that matter, it’s the state’s poor planning that has created the road-dependent sprawl that responds with such brittle sensitivity to anything out of the ordinary. More to the immediate point, most of those drivers who were stranded overnight were stuck along the state maintained expressways.

One caution: Georgia may lack the civic infrastructure to process even an obvious lapse in ethics or competence in a rational fashion We seem incapable of assigning fault in such a crisis, or of choosing a fresh course, or a new leader, to avert a repeat. While metro Atlanta still employs some courageous journalists, none has the platform of, say, a Mike Royko, who hammered away at Bilandic’s failure until there could be no mistaking it. It’s an open question whether such a voice even would be listened to at a time that many voters view everything through strictly partisan filters.

One recurring truth in political transitions is that they’re difficult to see in the windshield but look obvious through the rearview mirror. Georgia had Democratic governors form more than 120 straight years, until it began electing Republicans — supposedly forever. Byrne, who beat Belandic in ’79, confessed years later that, even before the storm:

the usual smooth, seamless functioning of the Machine was breaking down, and City Hall was becoming a helter-skelter. The snow just proved what everyone had already come to know and see with their own eyes: that the system wasn’t working anymore and that people—a lot of people—wanted a change.

Short of Deal’s deepening ethics problems, Carter’s opportunity lies in the hammering home the point that Georgia’s government isn’t delivering necessary services. The storm of 2014 simply gives him a pristine, powdery opportunity.


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