The Democrats’ privileged college-kid problem

Wait, there is a downside to being too woke? And have I mentioned how much I am looking forward to the 2022 elections?

To anyone who’s spent time in Democratic politics in the past decade, a certain type of young person will immediately be familiar: bright-eyed, old enough to drive a car but not old enough to rent one without insurance fees, maybe taking a gap year before starting college or else filling a period of post-graduation, pre-employment idleness. 


At its most basic, Shor’s theory goes something like this: Although young people as a whole turn out to vote at a lower rate than the general population, the aforementioned type of young person is actually overrepresented within the core of the Democratic Party’s infrastructure. According to Shor, the problem with this permanent class of young staffers is that they tend to hold views that are both more liberal and more ideologically motivated than the views of the coveted median voter, and yet they yield a significant amount of influence over the party’s messaging and policy decisions. As a result, Democrats end up spending a lot of time talking about issues that matter to college-educated liberals but not to the multiracial bloc of moderate voters that the party needs to win over to secure governing majorities in Washington. 


In reality, Shor says, young party staffers are far to the left of the median Democratic voters on relatively uncontroversial, bread-and-butter Democratic priorities like combatting income inequality or addressing climate change. In their 2015 paper, for instance, Enos and Hirsch found that 23 percent of Obama staffers cited income inequality as the single most important issue facing the country, whereas polls from that election cycle found that fewer than one percent of all voters listed “the gap between rich and poor” as the most important issue. Enos and Hirsch also found that campaign workers were more likely to cite health care and inequality as an important issue to voters — even though most voters did not list those as high-priority issues and said they were more concerned about things like war and inflation.

By Stephen

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Professor and quant guy. Libertarian turned populist Republican. Trying to learn Japanese and play Spanish Baroque music on the ukulele.

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