S.E. Cupp Thinks Millennials Are Conservative and Is Wrong

An article from the New York Daily News’ S.E. Cupp, titled “The rise of Republican millennials”, came across my desk recently. I’ve always operated under the assumption that my generation was overwhelmingly liberal, and that conservative millennials were few and far between. While this may be true today in terms of party orientation, Ms. Cupp approached the question from a different angle: is the millennial generation actually conservative, in terms of personality rather than politics?

As a millennial, I decided to weigh in on Ms. Cupp’s hypothesis, and see if she’s right.

Spoiler Alert! She’s not.

For anyone that would like to follow along, here’s the article.

It’s doubtful right now that there’s a Democratic strategist, politician or candidate anywhere in America who’s asking: “How do we get more young voters?”

That’s because youth fealty to the Democratic Party is so rote these days that liberals seem to delight in rubbing it in.

Democrats, to the best of my knowledge, have been doing this for the better part of fifty years. Something along the lines of “If you’re a Republican under 40, you’re heartless, and if you’re a Democrat over 40, you’re brainless.”. As to why liberals enjoy rubbing this in as much as possible, Ms. Cupp answers her own question.

Progressive prognosticator Ana Marie Cox, for one, decreed in The Guardian recently that “no amount of ‘rebranding’ will win back young voters to the Republican Party.” Amanda Marcotte of Slate implied just this week that the rise of progressive millennials — voters ages 18 to 30 — has brought about “the end of the conservative death grip on religion in America,” since “it’s an open secret that the youngest generation finds the reactionary politics and hostility toward science that marks religious conservatism to be repulsive.”

Sounds about right. I find pretty much everything religious conservatives believe to be abhorrent, and I know most of my friends believe the same. Even the religious ones find evangelicals to be far outside the mainstream.

But the largest generation in history — 80 million potential voters, who in 2020 will be roughly a third of the voting-age population, and already are a bigger bloc than either blacks or Hispanics (of course, there’s overlap) — might actually be the most conservative wave of young people in recent memory.

If you’re conservative, you’re freaking out about the first part of this sentence. In 2020, a third of the voting-age population will be me and my peers. How could the GOP, as it exists today, survive such a calamity?

Well, deluding yourself into believing that we’re actually conservative would be a good start!

I have no scientific data to prove it — my hostility toward science revealed, no doubt — but if one actually bothers to challenge the well-tread assumptions, it’s nearly impossible to think otherwise.

Allow me to retort.

Most assumptions have some basis in fact. If you plan on challenging them, saying “I have no evidence.” is not the best way to be taken seriously in doing so. But please, do go on.

Take their lifestyle habits, for starters. As I’ve written before, David Burstein’s research in “Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World” is instructive. He found that millennials are taking on less debt than their predecessors and are renting, rather than buying homes they can’t afford.

It could be that millennials have replaced revolving credit card debt with educational debt, which is a significantly worse trade off and near impossible to get rid of in bankruptcy court. Also, we have no jobs; 50% of millennials are underemployed or unemployed. Also, because of the aforementioned educational debt, it’s entirely possible that we can’t afford to buy houses, and are renting instead. You can also make the case that many millennials choose to live in urbanized areas where buying a home may be prohibitively expensive, and renting may be the only option.

This is called “evidence”. Sure, it’s anecdotal, but it’s better than just making shit up, which is what Ms. Cupp’s theory appears to be based on.

You may see this as delaying adulthood, but in fact young folks deserve ample credit for learning the ills of easy money, predatory lending and government subsidies that don’t pan out. Millennials understand fiscal responsibility instinctively.

Based on the number of people I know that racked up a quarter million dollars in debt between undergrad and graduate school and are currently working at Starbucks for twelve bucks an hour part time, I beg to disagree.

In addition, they are increasingly entrepreneurial. You could see that as the idealism of youth, but not if the world they live in rewards their ideas. When a 17-year-old sells an app to Yahoo for $30 million, it’s one of many clear signs that today’s young people have an unflinching faith in capitalism and free markets.

Alternatively: millennials understand technology in ways their older counterparts do not, and are more than capable of absolutely fleecing them when the opportunity presents itself. Worth noting: no one in tech takes Yahoo seriously.

Many have suggested that the explosion of social media among millennials, where professional and personal relationships are experienced virtually, represents a rejection of community, family values and other such provincial relics of conservative culture.

Not so, in my opinion. The point of social networks like Facebook and Instagram is to maintain (and even rediscover) high school friendships, share baby albums with family a continent away, and create communities where people with the same values can gather. Likewise, Twitter is a news aggregator that acts as a hometown newspaper, condensing the global experience into a quaintly local one.

The millennial embrace of social media is, in fact, a rejection of progress. Yes, it’s an embrace of new technology, but for the purposes of desperately preserving the traditions and experiences of generations past.

The “community” building aspect of Facebook is seeing what people I used to know are up to, so that I can either be smug about doing better than some guy that picked on me in high school, or irrationally angry that someone I went to high school with is doing better than I am. Also, I despise baby albums; if there were an option to block all photos of anyone under the age of 18, I’d click it so hard I’d need a new mouse.

I’ll be honest: if there were porn stars that occasionally posted naked pictures of themselves in my local newspaper, I’d probably read it a lot more. Alternatively, if my local newspaper weren’t so conservative it makes my teeth hurt to read it, that would work as well.

Isn’t “an embrace of new technology, […] for the purposes of desperately preserving the traditions and experiences of generations past.” basically the whole point of language, writing, and most of human culture? If every generation had to literally reinvent the wheel or discover fire, we never would have made it out of caves. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that my generation is carrying on the basic function of society. Gold stars for everyone! Can we hand out “Participant” trophies for this?

Of course, social issues — most notably, gay marriage — are the coup de grâce in the liberals’ case for why today’s young people will never vote for conservatives. And they’re right, to the extent that the politics of gay marriage favors Democrats.

So you’re admitting that without significant moderation on social issues, conservatives don’t stand a chance of capturing the millennial generation? Awesome. It’s good to finally read someone that has at least a smidgen of common sense.

To me, the more instructive takeaway isn’t that young people think Republicans hate gays, but that young people are enthusiastically promoting marriage. Instead of trying to delegitimize the institution to create new social paradigms, millennials have chosen to champion marriage and monogamous relationships for all couples.

Nevermind, I take it back. Young people think Republicans hate gays. That is literally what we think, and Republicans have done absolutely nothing to dispel us of this theory. So until such time as Rush Limbaugh is willing to open mouth kiss another man on Fox News and not be at risk of giving his entire listenership an aneurysm, we will continue to think that Republicans hate gays.

On the topic of us “enthusiastically promoting marriage”, most of the people I know aren’t at all concerned with marriage. I’m pushing 30, and while I’d like to get married, I am in no rush to do so. As my generation is significantly less religious than our predecessors, we’re fine going to the courthouse or the marina and getting hitched by a judge or sea captain.

Remember: It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans were faring quite well among young voters. In 1972, Richard Nixon won 52% of voters younger than 30. Ronald Reagan won 59% of young voters in 1984, and in 2000, Al Gore and George W. Bush virtually split the youth vote down the middle.

Republicans were faring well with Baby Boomers and Generation X. My generation was BARELY able to vote in 2000. Notice how Ms. Cupp conveniently omits anything post-2000? That’s because in 2004, 2008, or 2012, Da Yout’ went 54, 66, and 60 percent for the Democratic candidate, and if the GOP ever hopes to hold the White House ever again, they at least have to force it to 50%.

While it’s possible (and maybe probable) that millennials will continue to vote Democratic, that won’t be because they are inherently liberal. Their values are quite the opposite, if you can see through the stereotypes, cliches and political adages.

So having provided no evidence, only cliches and suppositions utterly unsupported by even the flimsiest of rhetorical frameworks, S.E. Cupp is ready to declare young people as the next great conservative battleground.

As Democrats grow complacent with these voters and misread their values, Republicans should take the opportunity to give them exactly what they’re asking for, even if they don’t know it yet: conservative policies that help empower their conservative lifestyles.

This last sentence makes me wonder if S.E. Cupp has ever talked to anyone under 40 in her life, because she clearly hasn’t talked to anyone under 30 in at least the last ten years.

If the GOP is going to have any hope whatsoever of capturing the youth vote to be relevant in a national, non gerrymandered election, they’re going to need to junk their entire economic and social platform. If they’re LUCKY, we’ll let them keep some of the limited government stuff, as it applies to military spending and national surveillance by the Intelligence Industrial Complex.

Otherwise, S.E. Cupp and her fellow conservatives are going to spend the rest of their careers wondering how they read my generation so wrong.

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