The young and the apathetic

Bristol Palin didn’t vote in yesterday’s election, according Us Magazine anyway. I’m sure that will earn her a few digs from comedians and maybe a lecture from her mother. I figure it’s her business. I’m not particularly interested in what Bristol should or should not have done. I mention this little sound byte here only to say that she is in the majority. Most people her age didn’t vote yesterday.

The interwebs are full of election postmortems today. I’ve been digging through some opinion pieces and exit poll analyses. Mostly, they are predictable. Some say health care was the primary issue. Some say the economy was the primary issue. Some say the Republican gains were direct indictments against Obama. Some say the turnovers were responses to watching a bickering, backstabbing, and ineffectual Congress in action.

I’ll leave you to parse out the party lines on these stances for yourself. It isn’t difficult.

Whatever the other reasons involved, we all know that elections are never about fundamental shifts in conservative or liberal values. Who Americans are and what they want and what they believe hasn’t changed much since two years ago when they put a Democrat in the Oval Office and a Democratic majority in Congress.

Circumstances may have changed. Some opinions may have changed. But America itself is not radically more conservative today than it was two years ago. In fact, on social issues, the country has actually crept slightly toward more liberal-mindedness in the past two years if the fact that acceptance of same sex partnerships crossed the 50% mark this year is any indication.

Americans are more worried about the economy now. That’s for sure. They may even be more divided on what they think the solutions to our economic woes are. They may most certainly be more at odds with Washington on how those solutions should be carried out.

But overall they are the same people they were two years ago and two years before that. Societal shifts happen. Value shifts happen. But they don’t happen in large and swift waves of change the likes of which it would take to carry an election.

Elections go to whichever side gets the most people out to vote.

This time that was clearly the Republicans. They were able to do it because they were more organized and more energized. Whatever the reasons behind the energy, the fact remains it was the energy that did it.

The fact also remains that no one energized the young voters this time. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that Bristol Palin, had she voted, would not have gone with a straight Democratic ticket. There are plenty of young Republicans around without a doubt. However, a higher youth turnout does usually mean more votes for Democrats. That didn’t happen.

No big surprise. Young people never show up to vote in large numbers unless someone deliberately sets out to get them all fired up. I guess someone forgot this time. Sometimes that happens. Something tells me, though, it won’t happen in 2012.

And that’s my random observation of the day. You can read some election turnout demographics and comparisons from 2008 to 2010 at the Washington Post.

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