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The Young And The Useless: How Millennials Left Democrats Hanging On Election Day

Memo Pad Politics

The Young And The Useless: How Millennials Left Democrats Hanging On Election Day


Everybody knew that Democrats were likely to have a rough time on election night. But hardly anyone expected the avalanche that buried Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, across the country. Republicans won in red states where they were expected to romp, blue states where they were given little hope of competing, and plenty of purple states in between. And now, they want Americans to know: The midterms gave them a mandate, and they intend to use it.

“Republicans were affirmed both to go to Washington … and affirmed at home,” Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus gloated after the election, speaking for many of his fellow Republicans.

But by giving the GOP control of the Senate and a number of statehouses, did voters really sign on for a right-wing revolution? Not exactly. Even as Democratic candidates across the country collapsed, progressive ballot iniatives — most notably, increases in the minimum wage — fared very well. Millions of Americans did not join the Tea Party overnight.

The true secret to Republican success was simpler, albeit less inspirational: Democrats just didn’t show up.

Given the strong Republican tilt of the electoral map, Democrats always knew that to avoid disaster, they would have to increase voter turnout to make the electorate look more like a presidential year than a midterm. They spent some $60 million to build a voter turnout machine (the oft-hyped “Bannock Street project”) to bring single women, minorities, and young voters to the polls. And they failed miserably. According to NBC News exit polling data, all three groups fell off from their 2012 levels.

Young voters in particular declined to show up for Democrats. The exit poll shows that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 supported Democrats by a strong 54 to 43 percent margin. But they made up just 12 percent of the electorate — down 7 percent from 2012, and equal to their dismal turnout from 2010.

By contrast, 37 percent of midterm voters were 60  or older — and these voters backed the Republicans by more than 15 percent.

NBC news demographic chart

Democrats may take solace in the fact that young voters still strongly favor their party over Republicans, and will likely return to the polls in 2016 when Republicans are defending a tough map. But that will be cold comfort with Mitch McConnell running the Senate for at least the next two years.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

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Henry Decker

Henry Decker was formerly the Managing Editor of The National Memo. He is currently an Online Associate at MRCampaigns.

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  1. TZToronto November 5, 2014

    In that case, Americans deserve what they’re going to get over the next two years. If you can’t bother to show up to vote, then don’t complain when things–like student loan interest–don’t go your way. And to those who voted for Republicans, don’t complain when your entitlements get smaller or disappear entirely. You said you wanted it, so be quiet and take the medicine you ordered. I’m still here in Canada, enjoying my health care. For those who did vote for Democrats and are completely disillusioned with the American political landscape, don’t think you can just come to Canada for something a little more rational. Canadians really do love Americans, but immigration reforms have made it difficult for anyone to become a permanent resident here.

    1. alphaa10000 November 6, 2014

      Yes, but in politics, the voter is never “wrong”. Pointing out that idiots get the government they deserve does not improve the situation for anybody. We must work with what we have, even if the majority (ie a plurality) seems unappreciative, uninformed and inactive. The payoff is when voters do catch fire, and show interest and enthusiasm.

      1. TZToronto November 6, 2014

        You’re right, of course. However, many of those who voted against their own best interests will be among the first to complain and to blame their misfortune on the people they didn’t vote for.

  2. AuntySemantic November 5, 2014

    It was a contributing factor, but you can’t lay it all at the feet of Millennials.

    Voters feel powerless and they’re not wrong. Oh you can point to races here and there where a few votes made a difference in the outcome, but for the most part the entire structure is rigged in favor of the power and money of those who already have it.

    People are disgusted with government and while Democrats are a bit more user-friendly, they are as much a part of this system as the Republicans.

    1. 1standlastword November 5, 2014

      Respectfully, I beg to differ.

      The chief difference–and motivator–between republicans and democrats is republicans really feel like they have everything to lose while democrats appear to think they have little or nothing to gain.

      The mindsets are as far apart as our shoreline is from China.

      Lastly, the youth turned on to Obama because he was rock star cool but because they are young and entitled, distracted and wealthy or looking for the next thing techno, they feel as though they have plenty of time on the planet so why waste time dreading about politics…just leave it to Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma.

      Even the horrid specter of student loans hasn’t galvanized them…not yet anyway

      1. Fred the Turtle Tamer November 11, 2014

        The revolution will not be tweeted!

        1. 1standlastword November 12, 2014

          And that is why Americans will miss it! People everywhere these days walking around with their heads down and fingers punching like pistons on an engine running at high RPMs

    2. highpckts November 6, 2014

      I totally agree! Most figure it is useless to vote because nothing ever changes. Politicians are politicians and they definitely DON’T work for the people! It’s now all about accumlation of wealth and getting their particular agenda through for the pay offs! Call that cynical but they have proven this time and time again!

  3. dana becker November 6, 2014

    They will have two years to reflect on this because they will be affected by the Republican agenda and probably not in a good way.

  4. alphaa10000 November 6, 2014

    Unfortunately, the facts take exception to Aunty’s post, below. For both 2010 and 2014, analysts are comparing exit polling data, and so far, confirming Democrats were not sending an effective message to women, minorities and young people 18-29.

    And here is why that message was not effective– when any candidate comes from a party which seems confused about what it represents, that turns off just about every prospective voter. Compare that with the triumphant Democratic campaign victory of 2008, and recall some two million hopeful people standing in January cold at the Washington monument weeks later to watch Obama take the oath of office– warmed by their common flame of hope– and you see the difference.

    The Democratic Party under Debbie W. Schulz has made a huge Failure Souffle by not bringing an inspirational message to every audience. What should Debbie and friends have expected? They learned nothing from former DNC chair Tim Kaine, who presided over the 2010 debacle with his strikingly similar “put it on autopilot” policy.

    Debbie botched the Wisconsin efforts at unseating Walker so badly, they were not invited back. Not content with that, Debbie– widely noted as a promoter of “gender equality” versus such mundane issues as basic competence– supported the idea of running Martha Coakley again. Yes, that Martha Coakley, the one who lost Ted Kennedy’s seat to changeling Scott Brown– because her status in the party entitled her to run. Never mind, whether she might actually win.

    The party message? Oh, that– Democrats must return to the blueprint for 2008, the campaign that actually animated women, minorities and the late, lamented Millennials. The best way to write that message is stop chattering among themselves, leave their comfortable offices and cellphone connections and find out what people in the grassroots are actually thinking, saying and doing. This will be a new experience for you.

    Good luck– you will need it.

    1. 1standlastword November 12, 2014

      Galvanizing Democrats in ’08 was too easy as it was right after Bush, Cheney and then came McCain, Palin and they looked too much like cartoon sketch Boris and Natasha and who in their right mind could take that seriously…oh wait…I think they call themselves Tea Partiers…LOL!!!

  5. FT66 November 6, 2014

    Please don’t blame the young voters. They are like a stationary car. It doesn’t start or move unless you ignite it. They were energized in 2008 & 2012. They listened to what the President told them then, they felt the move and acted accordingly. In this mid-term election, they were left to sleep as much as they wanted, and they did so.

  6. highpckts November 6, 2014

    First off, a lot students were denied votes for lack of “proper ID” which is BS!! Second, if it doesn’t effect them in the wallet, nine times out of ten they won’t bother unless it’s Presidential. I know, even though I reminded them several times, that my own kids and their spouses did not vote for various trumped reasons. I am ashamed of them but, they live for the moment, lead too busy lives and are not concerned with the running of this country!

  7. Bill Cortell November 6, 2014

    The democrat political party is little more than a coalition of the useless.

  8. Jonathan Kendrick November 11, 2014

    Today’s liberals are mostly socialists. No question.

  9. Charles Phipps February 27, 2017

    Millennials were inspired by Bernie and generally felt Hillary was awful even if they felt Trump was worse. Blaming them boils down to the fact Democrats have a history of taking every one of their constituencies for granted then being angry when they’re ignored at the polls.


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