Entry from June 25, 2012

What a surprise. The New York Times finally notices the war on the young that has been written about at some length by Walter Russell Mead, Niall Ferguson, and David Willetts, among others — including liberals like Stephen Marche and Matt Miller — but without so much as a mention of any of them, nor of the principal burden that the old are piling onto the shoulders of the young, the ballooning national debt. David Leonhardt, the Times’s Washington bureau chief, has instead been looking at polls, where he finds evidence that the young and the old

have different views on many of the biggest questions before the country. The young not only favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly; they are also notably less religious, more positive toward immigrants, less hostile to Social Security cuts and military cuts and more optimistic about the country’s future. They are both more open to change and more confident that life in the United States will remain good.

In short, they are in a state of denial, as we say nowadays, rather like David Leonhardt and the editors of The New York Times. That makes Mr Leonhardt optimistic too. True, he acknowledges that the kids are less well-off than their parents were at their age and will have to bear a heavier burden of social security and Medicare payments to the aged, but this just makes their optimism and their liberalism all the more remarkable.

While today’s young are not down-the-line liberal — they favor private accounts for Social Security and have reservations about government actions to protect online privacy — they certainly lean left. . . Hammered by the economic downturn, young voters say they want government to play a significant role in the economy. These attitudes create a challenge for the Republican Party that is arguably as big as its better known struggles for the votes of Latinos. “We’ve got a generation of young people who are more socially liberal and more open to activist government,” says Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew center, which has done some of the most extensive generational polling. “They are quite distinct.”

He doesn’t consider the possibility that, insofar as the young “lean left,” it may be because they are more impressionable and so willing to believe those in the media like Mr Leonhardt who tell them the old liberal lie that it is “the government” — conceived of as being, like their parents, in possession of more or less infinite resources of its own — and not they themselves who will be the ones to have to pay the extra money they supposedly want to spend on education and global warming and intervention in the economy. We’ll see how long that remains the case once they start getting the bills.

But there are other signs, mere straws in the wind, that the gullibility of the younger generation may have a term. One, according to Crossroads Generation, a group formed to educate the young in such matters, is that exit polling in the Wisconsin recall election showed that the Democrats’ advantage among those in the 18-29 age cohort was cut in half from the margin their gubernatorial candidate, Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett, enjoyed less than two years ago. Maybe, as Walter Russell Mead speculates the kids are at last beginning to catch on.

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