This picture from Andrew Gelman is striking. It suggests that the major difference between the past two elections and this one was the youth vote. In this election, the young left the Republican party in droves.
Why? I am not enough of a political scientist to be sure, but recent conversations I have had with some Harvard undergrads have led me to a conjecture: It was largely noneconomic issues. These particular students told me they preferred the lower tax, more limited government, freer trade views of McCain, but they were voting for Obama on the basis of foreign policy and especially social issues like abortion. The choice of a social conservative like Palin as veep really turned them off McCain.
So what does the Republican Party need to do to get the youth vote back? If these Harvard students are typical (and perhaps they are not, as Harvard students are hardly a random sample), the party needs to scale back its social conservatism. Put simply, it needs to become a party for moderate and mainstream libertarians. The actual Libertarian Party is far too extreme in its views to attract these students. And it is too much of a strange fringe group. These students are, after all, part of the establishment. But a reformed Republican Party could, I think, win them back.
Can the Republican Party move in this direction without losing much of its base? I have no idea, but for the GOP, that seems to be the challenge ahead.
BZZZZTT!! I'm sorry. But thanks for playing!
Nothing could possibly be more revolting to the base and (everyone else) than the GOP trying to be "hip" and "cool" in order to try (and fail miserably) to win the bong hit, gay chic, hookup college vote.
A country that needs to appeal to the utter irresponsibility, selfishness, and naivete of the young for salvation is a country unworthy of salvation. Better to employ the unusual and risky strategy of sticking to principles, win back those who care about principles, and become winners again instead of pathetic losers. The youth vote will follow.
More details on how the 73 vote figure was come up with.