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Tipsheet

Ghosts of Obama: Here's the One Voter Bloc Democrats Cannot Rely on Anymore

AP Photo/Annie Rice

It’s chaos. It’s mayhem. Or it could be a big nothing burger. Young voters are an emerging voter bloc, yes. They’re numerous. They can be a key piece in a winning coalition, but it depends on the candidate. Barack Obama created a virtually unbeatable voter coalition when he ran for president twice. Young voters were a key component, but he’s gone. The ghosts of Obama are all that’s left, and its legacy is mixed, namely because he let local state party apparatus’ atrophy to the point where new candidates are tough to find. Obama was a state senator. Do you know anyone on the horizon that is quality presidential material from the local level? No. The Castro brothers are overrated. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t ready. Wendy Davis turned out to be a draft bust. It’s a band of retreads right now in the Democratic Party—and they’re not good. Two words: Joe. Biden. 

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What makes the young voter factor a mixed bag is that while they tweet a lot and post on social media—that’s not voting. These kids still don’t vote consistently and they’re increasingly sick of both parties (via NBC News):

Losing Virginia's governor race isn't the only development from Tuesday's elections that has Democrats concerned heading into a vital midterm year. Turnout among their youngest, most progressive voters was down by stunning numbers in an otherwise high-turnout gubernatorial race.

The share of votes coming from Virginians under the age of 30 was just 10%, according to preliminary NBC News exit polls. Last November, the same age group accounted for 20% of Virginia votes.

[…]

Data on young voter turnout in September's California recall election, recently obtained by NBCLX, also revealed a substantial drop. Turnout among voters under 30 fell by approximately 48%, compared to the 2020 presidential election. The share of ballots from those young adults fell to just 12% of the electorate, down from 17% last November, according to the California secretary of state’s office.

And even though overall turnout for the recall election was down 28% from 2020’s presidential race, the drop-off among voters under 30 (48%) was four times higher than the drop-off among voters over 60 (12%).

The turnout numbers, as well as recent polling, suggest Democrats may be suffering due to young progressives' frustrations over the glacial pace of progress in fulfilling Biden's campaign promises on social programs, climate change and civil rights.

[…]


 Only 43% of Gen-Z voters approve of President Biden’s job performance, compared to 51% of Millennials, 46% of Generation X and 45% of Baby Boomers, according to an October poll from Morning Consult and Politico.

For Gen Z, that represents a nearly 20-point drop in approval from June, when 62% of adults 18-24 gave Biden the thumbs-up, compared to 59% of Millennials and 51% of both Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers.

[…]

A Harvard Kennedy School survey earlier this year found 36% of Americans under 30 say they’re politically active, compared to just 24% immediately after President Obama’s first election in 2008.

That includes organizing on TikTok, Twitter and alongside presidential motorcades.

“Youth organizations are thinking about elections and voting as one of many strategies, not [putting] all of their hopes for significant change on one tactic for affecting ... the traditional political system.”

...the shift in tactics coincides with a shift away from both the Republican and Democratic establishments and more toward specific policy priorities.

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So, I can see young voters bringing chaos to local ballot initiatives and harassing politicians like Kyrsten Sinema in the bathroom and Joe Manchin on his houseboat. For now, they’re the x-factor in a lot of Democratic GOTV plans—and it’s one where if they’re wrong about the turnout, the whole strategy is torpedoed. And while Republicans aren’t a group these kids will flock to—they’re incrementally doing better with nonwhite voters, especially those in the working class which paints an even more gloomy picture for Democrats.

We’ll see. Frankly, it’s after these kids get a job and start paying taxes that they get their head out of the clouds usually. Those who don’t are just communists. 

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