Ramesh Ponnuru makes a good point that echoes something I was saying last week:
This post isn’t meant to take sides in that [immigration] debate, just to urge that one talking point in it be retired. Namely: “Hispanics are natural conservatives because they’re hard working, family-oriented, and religious.” This line manages to be condescending to Hispanics, self-congratulatory for conservatives, and insulting to non-conservatives. I suspect most people throughout human history have been hard-working, family-oriented, and religious, without sharing conservative views about limited constitutional government.
Whenever someone argues that any group of people should be naturally inclined to favor his political persuasion on account of their ethnicity (or age or religion, etc.), the odds are good that the person making the argument is relying on convenient and distorting stereotypes of the group and indulging in arrogant presumption that his political preferences obviously serve their interests. In addition to reducing other people into single-issue caricatures (which would drive the same conservative pundits crazy if this treatment were applied to them), the problem with this sort of thinking is that it fails completely to understand how people outside the party see it. Millions and millions of “hard-working, family-oriented, and religious” people don’t and won’t vote for the GOP because of these things. They may have other reasons for not supporting Republicans, but sometimes the things that conservative pundits think ought to make them “natural” political conservatives or Republicans take them in an entirely different direction.
There are a lot of so-called “natural” conservatives and Republicans that don’t consider the conservative movement or the Republican Party to be representatives of “hard-working, family-oriented, and religious” people. Part of that has to do with its actual economic agenda, and part of it has to do with broader disagreements over what kinds of policies do the most to support the institutions and communities that these people value. Another problem is the selective way that many conservatives and Republicans use religion and the rhetoric of religious values in certain policy arguments and then dismiss or minimize them elsewhere. They are obviously not alone in doing this, but because so many on the right rely on invoking religious values the contradiction seems more glaring.
It’s almost as ridiculous to make arguments that younger voters ought to vote Republican because youth is “all about rebellion and freedom and independence—things the Democratic Party preaches but doesn’t deliver.” Naturally, when one thinks of the contemporary GOP, rebellion and freedom are the first words to come to mind, aren’t they? The person making that argument hasn’t taken much time to consider why younger voters might recoil from a party that had a disastrous record at the same time that they came of age politically. If an age cohort started paying attention to politics for the first time at almost any point over the last twelve years, it shouldn’t be surprising that they wouldn’t be drawn to the party that presided over the debacle of the Iraq war, the start of a major recession, and the beginning of the financial crisis.
On a related note, to the extent that younger voters are interested in “freedom and independence,” what did the GOP leadership have to offer them in the last decade? Nothing. If party leaders had nothing to offer these voters, is it any wonder that most younger voters continue to hold the party’s disastrous Bush-era record against it? For many of these voters, the Bush era is all that they know of Republican governance, and they are understandably unwilling to support a party that seems to have learned little or nothing from that experience.