Nick Gillespie looks at the remarkable way Barack Obama transitioned from cool to square for one of his key supporting demographic groups:
Back in 2008, Barack Obama seemed like the coolest cat to hit the national scene in a long time, almost scientifically engineered to appeal to idealistic young Americans. He was the perfect combination of a dream dad and an older brother who could run you ragged up and down the basketball court, wink and nod about smoking dope, and hip you to some older but still cool music, you know? In 2008, the Pravda of youth culture, Rolling Stone, slathered the future president with praise for being so with it that he even knew how to use…an iPod. We were all pretty sure that his eventual Republican challenger, John McCain, had stopped listening to music when Rudy Vallee went electric or Stephen Foster released his Chris Gaines record or something, but there Obama was, listening to Bob Dylan, Yo-Yo Ma, Sheryl Crow, and even Jay-Z. “I have pretty eclectic tastes,” Obama told Rolling Stone. He even went on to invoke “Maggie’s Farm,” Dylan’s classic song of generational defiance and opting out. “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric,” explained.
Yeah, well, it’s all over now baby blue. Like Bush before him — and in many wars, even worse than Bush before him — Obama has personified the failure of leaders to speak plainly, honestly and directly and to enact simple, effective, financially responsible policies that speak to Americans’ hopes and dreams. The great political continuity in the 21st century is one of transpartisan failure and the continuing flight from party affiliation by more and more Americans.
Beinart and others like him are right to note that Obama’s and the Democrats’ decline in popularity is not automatically the Republicans’ gain (though get a load of this: Ken Cuccinelli won the 18-24 year-old vote against Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race). But just as there’s no reason to expect the problems with Obamacare to be fixed anytime soon, there’s no reason to think that youth disaffection with the president is going to get better over the remainder of his second term. He’s failed with younger voters not in spite of his policies but because of them. Along the way, he transmogrified from a hipster dad into a near-total drag whose control is as absolute as his inability to get anything right.
In terms of basic demographics, the future belongs to Millennials because they are young. For good and ill, they will inherit the world their elders made for them. In terms of politics, the future belongs to leaders and parties who not only agree with the record-high percentage of Americans who think the government has too much power but actually propose to give some of it away.