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The Hill Pundit's Blog   September 14, 2011

 

Obama’s stealth resource

By Ronald Goldfarb

 

If President Obama needs some good news, and he does, he should read Morley Winograd and Mike Hais’s book Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America, a follow-up to their earlier Millennial Makeover.

Both books examine intriguing data about the Millennial generation, Americans born between 1982 and 2003. (Disclaimer: I represent the authors, but what I have to say here is offered not because I represent them; rather, I represent them because I think what they have to say is important.) Few besides Winograd and Hais, and President Obama's brain trust, believed these young voters would make a difference in the 2008 election, because the conventional wisdom was that young voters don't vote.

In fact, Millennials tuned in to the Obama campaign, and it to them. They supported him by over 2-to-1, compared to the older generation, which split 50-48 in favor of Obama. That was 80 percent of the winner's vote margin. Millennials represented less than one-fifth of the electorate in 2008. In 2012, Millennials will compose about one-quarter of the electorate. Do the math. The new voting pool (about 47 million) will be significant in 2012.

In their earlier book, which preceded the 2008 election and was prescient in its analysis of Millennials' likely impact on it, Winograd and Hais put the Millennial phenomenon in historical perspective. Millennials compose the latest group of civic generations in a pattern that occurs every approximately 80 years. In their new book, they describe more than this bloc's electoral bent, focusing on its transformative ideas about the society it desires. The president will find comfort in their analysis.

While Millennials may be less enthusiastic about President Obama in 2012, they will be, as the Winograd-Hais book points out, much more in tune with President Obama's public policies than with any of the positions of the current crop of Republican candidates. That is the president’s good news, and it may be the reason he is reelected, despite the disillusionment of his older 2008 supporters. While they identify themselves, 2-to-1, as Democrats over Republicans, Millennials are not doctrinaire liberals nor conservatives. Idealistic, they value community service, deplore income inequities in society's social opportunities, are non-meddlers on social issues, worry about environmental problems and are concerned about human rights. They assume civic responsibility and are unlikely to be moved by know-nothing appeals to pseudo-virtue that ignores social responsibility, bashes “ObamaCare,” demands harsh immigration policies and deplores the federal government.

If President Obama taps into these people and their values, as I expect he will, he may surprise skeptics who think he is doomed by the economic bad news he didn’t create but also didn’t resolve. The Millennials may give him anther chance if the Republicans don’t come up with something better than the divisive shibboleths they are spewing today. Given the influence of Tea Party Conservatives, no Republican candidate is speaking to the Millennials. That is the president’s much-needed good news.


Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington-based lawyer, author and literary agent.





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