Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Clinton's war against the young finally getting real

The demographic so often maligned as Generation Selfie is rallying behind the candidate who has far and away the most shambolic presentation of anyone on either side of this crazy race? ...That’s the guy with the youth vote? - Alexandra Schwartz, New Yorker
Say what you will about this, but Schwartz at least recognizes what most of her colleagues have missed: Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the olds.

Clinton does not have a monopoly on women; young women support Sanders. She does not have a monopoly on voters of color; when you adjust for name recognition, they tend to support Sanders, too. Her media surrogates have diligently ignored all of this, of course, swarming on the largely fabricated bogeyman of the racist, sexist BernieBro while running a stilted, painful campaign to paint Clinton as the youth candidate of Katy Perry and Broad City.

But as has been evident for months, Clinton's struggling to win a simple majority of Democrats born after the sixties. And as her campaign begins to crash against the rocks of demographic reality, like it did Monday night in Iowa, the generational war is moving to the fore. Recall Matt Bruenig's comments just a week ago in response to another anti-youth attack by Joan Walsh:
For as long as the age demographic divide persists, I expect this kind of get-off-my-lawnism to intensify. “Shut up them rude kids,” old pundits who are simply reflecting the candidate preferences of their age demographic will say. It will always come obscured in other hand-waving because the last thing you want to do is come off so lame. But it’ll be there.
This, I think, is a little off-base: Clintonites don't need to rely on hand-waving to obscure their war against the young. Schwartz can get away with more brazen attacks because she's one of the demographic outlier Clinton supporters who happens to be young herself. Since she makes a point of noting that she's "north of twenty-five, south of thirty" she can get away with directly attacking her peers with lines like "the voters least likely to see it are young ones" and "[it] might be a delusion for most voters, but it's a privilege of youth".

Of course, this kind of thing gets a little less plausible the older you are; so for example, by the time you get to Annie Zaleski's age, you have to move back to the sort of hand-waving that decries meme attacks [the preferred vehicle of critique for young people] as somehow intrinsically sexist:
Constantly reducing Clinton to a robotic caricature or a reductive meme underscores the pervasive, persistent sense that women are second-class citizens whose opinions simply don’t matter.
This is the exact argument I made as a ridiculous joke several months ago, but it's all that aging Clintonites have left against their younger critics. The PR challenge Clinton 2016 faces now is that their most powerful and influential voices in the media are the ones who have been climbing for years and years: the Walshes, the Brocks, and the Traisters. Younger writers just don't have the same kind of media presence, not many of them support Clinton, and for those hoping to make a career out of it, Hillary has nothing to offer but empty promises. That's why her media coalition is what it is.