Ringside Seat: With Young Voters, GOP Pedals Backward

When a party suffers electoral losses, it often engages in a particular kind of internal debate. On one side are those who say, "We have to come up with some new policies to appeal to the voters who are rejecting us." On the other side are those who say, "The policies aren't the problem—we need to communicate better." Maybe it's the substance, or maybe it's the packaging. But what if it's both? What if voters dislike you not only because of what you're advocating, but of how you talk to them and who you are to boot?

That may be what Republicans are facing. The Winston Group, a prominent GOP polling firm, just released a focus group study of millennial voters to see what they think about issues and how they view Republicans. "The young 'winnable' Obama voters were asked to say what words came to mind when they heard 'Republican Party.' The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned," the report said. Not exactly a shock, but nor is it something Republicans will be particularly happy to hear. If they want, they can listen to Phyllis Schlafly instead. The legendary conservative activist, who certainly has her finger on the pulse of today's young people, recently advised the party that its efforts to reach out to Latino voters were misguided; instead, "The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes, the white voters who didn't vote in the last election."

Speaking of ornery old white ladies, you may not be aware of it, but Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz is here to tell you that one of the greatest threats to our freedom, or at least the freedom of those who live in New York, comes from the city's new bike share program. In a video that truly has to be seen to be believed, Rabinowitz goes to town on the horrifying oppression that has come to her city in the form of bike sharing, a veritable Stalinism on two wheels. Asked to explain why in the world a city would want such a thing as bike sharing, Rabinowitz says, "Do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians who run this government of the city. Look, I represent the majority of citizens. The majority of citizens of this city are appalled by what has happened." Rabinowitz asked those who live outside New York to imagine what happens when you are ruled by "an autocratic mayor … before which you are helpless!" She went on to explain that bicycles could well turn New York into a post-apocalyptic socialist hellscape like London, Paris, or Amsterdam. But the citizens of New York could do nothing, because "The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise." As a New Yorker, Dorothy Rabinowitz probably doesn't have a lawn, but if she did, you can bet she'd tell those damn kids to get off it.

As it happens, you don't have to go to Amsterdam to find bike sharing; there are programs in cities all over the country, places like Denver and Minneapolis and Boston, not to mention Washington, D.C., whose spectacularly successful Capital Bikeshare was the country's largest until New York started theirs. But it's just one of those things that sticks in some conservatives' craws. Why, though? If they can figure that out, maybe they can understand why young people don't much like them.

So They Say

"You’re toast, Graham."

Senator Claire McCaskill to Lindsay Graham, joking about being outnumbered by the seven women on the Armed Forced Committee

Daily Meme: R.I.P. Lautenberg

  • New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg died today at the age of 89. The five-term senator was the last World War II veteran left in the Senate, and the oldest senator.
  • Only 16 percent of the Senate is made up of veterans—the lowest percentage at least since 1945.
  • Lautenberg was also one of the more progressive senators, as his record attests. 
  • Governor Chris Christie has the power to appoint a successor, as well as decide whether to call a special election for the fall. At least we think. New Jersey's election laws are super confusing
  • Early predictions indicate that state senators Thomas Kean Jr. and Joseph Kyrillos could be chosen to face off against Mayor Cory Booker—longtime Senate dreamer—in a special election.
  • It's a tough decision that Christie would probably rather not make, especially if he's planning big things for 2016.
  • The appointment of a Republican Senate replacement could also hurt Democrats' chances at immigration and filibuster reform.
  • Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democratic representative from Silk City, said of Lautenberg, "He was not born with a silver spoon, and Paterson is not a place of silver spoons. Paterson is a place for tough, rough, dirty faces —you pick yourself up and do what you have to do. Frank Lautenberg did."

What We're Writing

  • Two gay parents in Connecticut are accused of abusing at least two of their nine adopted children. The story, E.J. Graff writes, is horrifying if true. That said, it’s a relief to see that this case is not being used as an argument against gay and lesbian couples, as such stories have been in the past.
  • Last night’s Game of Thrones episode was perhaps its most daring yet, and Rowan Kaiser argues that it finally gave the show an important theme to stand on.

What We're Reading

  • Jonathan Cohn does some Obamacare fact-checking
  • Ben Bernanke knows how to tell jokes? Good ones? 
  • Writing about presidential assassination conspiracy theories is apparently a very lucrative business.
  • Steve Coll explores what protections reporters should expect from the federal government.
  • Remember that time Bill O'Reilly railed against Rush Limbaugh? Probably not, thanks to Roger Ailes.
  • Three percent of Americans think Born in the U.S.A. should be our national anthem.
  • There is now a super PAC called "Americans against Americans Who Do Not Recycle and Misspell Bengazi."
  • A Dexter Filkins profile of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from March resurfaced today as protests continue in Turkey.
  • Bradley Manning’s trial starts with a battle of interpretations.

Poll of the Day

Whether it’s been for enjoyment or medicinal purposes, a poll recently released by the Pew Research Center says that 48 percent of U.S. adults have smoked marijuana. That number is up from 40 percent just three years ago, though only 12 percent say they’ve used pot in the last year. Of those who have used it, 47 percent say it was “just for fun,” while 30 percent say they needed it for their health.

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