Mitt Romney won white voters under 30, even winning white women under 30. The youth voter barrier to the Republican Party is really the same barrier as it is for all age demographics: an ethnic barrier which concedes black, Hispanic, and Asian voters to Democrats. If abortion and gay marriage really are the decisive issues preventing Republicans from winning those voters, why aren’t they rated higher in the polling data among those voters?
Josh Barro emerges as an unlikely defender of social conservatives:
The Republican Party’s key electoral problem doesn’t come from social conservatives or nativists. It comes from the economic policy demands of the party’s wealthy donors. Murphy allows that Republicans “have lost much of our once solid connection to the middle class on kitchen-table economic issues.” But his prescription won’t do anything to fix that problem.
What are the “kitchen-table” economic concerns of the middle class? They’re high unemployment, slow income growth, underwater mortgages, and the rising cost of health care and higher education. Democrats have an agenda that is responsive to these concerns. Republicans don’t — and they don’t because the party’s donor class specifically doesn’t want one.
Have you spoken with a wealthy Republican donor in the last few years? By and large, they are outraged about Obamacare, easy money and stimulus spending — that is, at policies aimed at easing middle class families’ economic situations. They are often delusionally convinced that the country faces imminent economic collapse. What they believe will prevent that collapse is tight money, spending cuts and continued tax cuts for the rich. And so long as Republicans pursue those goals, they will be the party of anti-middle class economic policy. [ . . . ]
As Ross Douthat points out on Twitter, that means Murphy may have picked the wrong side of the Republican schism: Social conservatives are more likely to signal openness to pro-middle class economic policies than the “hardheaded business types” who fund the party.
Barro goes on to point out, I think rightly, that despite their greater sympathy to middle-class concerns social conservatives are unprepared to lead the party out of the electoral wilderness:
But social conservative interest in non-plutocratic economic policy looks awfully soft. When you look at the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential primaries, social conservatives threw in their lot with the candidates pushing the most regressive economic policies. Mike Huckabee sounds good rhetorical notes about middle-class economic struggles, but he’s also a backer of the hugely regressive “Fair Tax.” While the donor base drives the Republican Party’s orthodoxy on economic policy, conservative activists are not exactly being dragged along — they, too, are opposed to pro-middle class policies.
Of course, there are a host of promising proposals out there, championed by writers like Ramesh Ponnuru, Ross Douthat, and Reihan Salam. Will activists and candidates listen?