10 May 2009

In Praise of George W Bush

Yes, you read that headline right -- I’ve found something I can give Dumb-ya unfettered compliments on -- and that, according to stats-wonk Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com, is Bush’s creation of a huge generation of lifelong Democrats.

Using Gallup’s polling on partisan gaps based on age, we can see that (to put it as Silver did) the view of how “good” the president was when you were around 18-21 (when you could first vote) strongly shapes your political view for the rest of your life. This is not quite the same thing as saying “vote for a Dem when you’re 18 and you’ll vote Dem for the rest of your life,” but it does indicate a strong leaning in that direction.

Apparently, a lot of people only become politically aware shortly before they’re going to vote for the first time. I was politically aware way earlier (our family followed the ups and downs of the Nixon administration most carefully). In my case, I’d say Nixon did to me what Bush is going to do for generations to come.

For the record, my first eligible US vote was for John Anderson in 1980. I don’t have any recollection of why I voted for him in the first place, but I’m pretty sure I voted against Reagan and just couldn’t get behind Walter Mondale, so it was probably a protest vote (in hindsight, that sure sounds right).

The quick guide to reading the chart above is as follows: where you see high points, that indicates a strong preference for Democrats, and where you see low points, that indicates a weak preference for Democrats (the reason the chart is all positive for Democrats is that the majority of Americans identify as Democrats -- only the lowest points on the graph indicate periods when Republican identification was close to Dem identification).

Thus, you can see that the 18-25 group really, really, really hate George W Bush, whereas people who were 18 back when Reagan was in office (who would now be in their mid-40s) don’t feel that animosity so much, even today.

Assuming President Obama completes his first term as a popular and generally-well-regarded (despite his socialist hamburger-condiment choices) leader, we can expect an entire generation of people who turned 18 across a eight-to-16-year swath to be generally pro-Democrat supporters (and, from the looks of the current generation, much more politically active).

Looks like those “in the wilderness years” for the GOP really are going to be years. Of course, perhaps some unbelievably smooth-talking snake-oil salesman will emerge, or perhaps Obama will fumble (hey, look at Edwards!) or both, but assuming BHO can get from here to retirement with his rep intact, I think we’re looking at a generally blue future.

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