Christian Schneider asks:
But is it unimaginable that Ryan’s youth will help him impart right-wing ideas to a generation previously unaware of conservatism’s charms?
It may not be unimaginable. Lots of people keep trying to imagine it. It seems to be a favorite imaginary thing among some Republicans. It just doesn’t seem very plausible.
I am hardly representative of Americans under 35 (I am 33), but I have paid enough attention the voting habits and political preferences of younger voters that I believe I have a reasonably good idea of what these voters want. I can say with some confidence that most of them want nothing to do with what Ryan represents. The reason I keep coming back to this subject is not particularly to mock Ryan for his lack of youth appeal, which I never expected him to have, but to challenge the remarkably bad analysis that leads others to argue that young voters will be drawn to him.
He speaks in a way that goes down easy with Millennials. He is conversant in popular culture — he once thoroughly discussed with me his favorite themes in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.
Has anyone checked this claim with a representative group of Millennials? To the extent that they know who he is and what he sounds like, does his style of speaking “go down easy” with them? I can’t speak for them, but it would be surprising to me if most of them said yes. Ryan’s interest in Batman films is fine as far as it goes, but what difference does that make? Like his preference for Rage songs, this doesn’t earn him any points with younger voters. It just reflects his choice in entertainment.
Most important, it is younger voters who have the most to gain from Ryan’s plan to reform entitlements.
First, most of them may not know anything about Ryan’s plan or they may not associate his proposals with him. Even if they do, they probably view Ryan and his ideas negatively because of their existing partisan and ideological leanings. In addition, younger voters may realize that the Romney-Ryan campaign is pandering to older voters by pledging to defend the Medicare status quo for them, which would just reinforce the existing distrust they already have for the GOP. Ryan’s lack of youth appeal mostly isn’t his fault personally. He happens to be on the presidential ticket of a party that most younger voters have grown up knowing as thoroughly incompetent and dishonest. Even if younger voters theoretically ought to like what Ryan is proposing, most of them likely wouldn’t trust him enough to hear him out.