Henry Olsen offers an unconvincing account for Ron Paul’s strong support among younger voters:
A 30 YO was born in 1981—his or her primary adult memories of foreign affairs are in the post–9/11 era. Thus, Ron Paul’s support is directly correlated to a worldview in which the United States is an unchallenged superpower and the only question appears to be how we should use our unquestioned power.
Those of us who are older worry that this period of unquestioned security and global preeminence will not last without our vigilance. That argument and worldview seems incomprehensible to many younger than us because of their life experience. The challenge for those of us who favor a stronger international presence and maintaining the defense budget is how to explain our policy conclusions to a generation that doesn’t share our premises.
Olsen’s post fails to account for the small details that during the last decade the U.S. has been engaged in two of the longest foreign wars in its history, one of which was entirely unnecessary, and the U.S. military budget is now higher in real terms than at the height of the Reagan build-up at a time of staggeringly large deficits. There are undoubtedly other factors that account for why Paul does so extraordinarily well with younger voters, but to try to explain support for Paul without referring to the disaster of the Iraq war and the explosion of military spending is to ignore two of the most important factors. In other words, many people in their twenties and thirties have seen how the U.S. has recently used its power in destructive and frequently pointless ways, and they find the demands to commit more of these blunders at unsustainable cost a baffling refusal to face reality. Put more simply, younger voters disproportionately support Paul because he is the one major party candidate running against the warfare state after over a decade of perpetual war, and all of his Republican rivals promise to continue and increase U.S. military entanglements in the rest of the world. It’s true that younger voters’ experience over the last decade has shaped how they think about foreign policy, but Republican hawks are going to be hard-pressed to win them over until they realize that the foreign policy they have supported during the last ten years has been badly misguided.