Young People Should Vote GOP Because [Argument]!

In today’s Boston Globe, columnist and very-nice-guy-even-though-I-disagree-with-him-on-politics Jeff Jacoby wonders why the GOP has so much trouble appealing to youth voters (he is not the first conservative to wonder this).

He invokes Mitt Romney’s remarks at a University of Chicago event last week:

The Democratic Party “is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation, mounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for,’’ Romney said. While Democrats are perpetrating “the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind,’’ Republicans are “consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down and creating economic growth and opportunity so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you.’’

The government’s record-breaking debts “are not frightening to people my age, because we’ll be gone,’’ Romney argued, but “they ought to be frightening to death to people your age!’’ He regretted not doing a better job of getting that message across to younger voters. “You guys ought to be out,’’ Romney insisted, “working like crazy for me and for people like me: conservatives, who want to keep the cost of government down and give you a brighter future.’’

It’s presumptive to think that young people are more concerned with the national debt than with, say, the near-catastrophic student-loan and employment situations they face.

But even if one assumes that young voters do care more about this than shorter-term economic issues, this argument doesn’t hold water.

Jacoby himself admits that the “debt wasn’t piled up without plenty of Republican help. During George W. Bush’s presidency, annual federal spending skyrocketed from $1.8 trillion to $3.4 trillion, and $4.9 trillion was added to the national debt.”

Now, he goes on to argue that Obama ran it up even more, but we all know that Obama’s spending had a lot to do with recovery measures that were a response to the situation he inherited—not to mention wars he didn’t start an an expensive Medicare drug bill he wasn’t around to vote for.

So I’m not sure where this leaves his argument. Young voters should support Republicans because… they run up debts, but not as quickly as Democrats? This actually hasn’t been true, historically.

I guess what we’re left with, then, is an optics argument: Republicans promise they will endlessly harp on the size of government—without doing anything about it, since significantly cutting the size of government given our country’s heft and its political system would be both foolhardy and almost impossible—while Democrats lack the rhetorical fortitude to constantly make speeches about the importance of doing a thing they know they will not do.

Might want to focus-group that one first.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.