eyes on the U.S.

Trump And Young Voters, A Generational Risk For Republicans

Trump is supported by 1 in 5 younger voters, an astonishing and consequential collapse for the GOP.

A (rare) young Trump supporter in NYC on July 16
A (rare) young Trump supporter in NYC on July 16
Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON, D.C. â€" People always remember their first presidential vote â€" their first participation in the largest decision of American democracy.

In high school, I was a rather awkward, nerdish history buff. (My wife would dispute the verb tense.) I was also something of a lefty, particularly compared with my conservative religious upbringing. I debated on behalf of Jimmy Carter in the mock election at my Christian high school during the 1980 election, making me a political minority of one.

But my political identification had begun to shift by 1984, and I cast my first presidential vote for Ronald Reagan. For me, exposure to economics had an ideologically sobering effect. (A young liberal can’t be too careful in his or her reading.) In addition, Walter Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, had turned conservative religious people into a rhetorical skeet target. And Reagan himself â€" who had demonstrated personal courage and a capacity to govern â€" seemed to embody something hopeful and decent about the country.

I was not alone. In 1984, voters ages 18 to 24 supported Reagan over Mondale by 61% to 39%. “The oldest president in U.S. history and the youngest members of the nation’s electorate,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1986 , “have forged one of the strongest bonds in American politics.” The first serious political memories of my generation were of an appealing, creative, electorally dominant (at the national level) GOP.

Now jump forward to a recent USA Today/Rock the Vote poll that shows Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 56% to 20% among voters under 35. Let that sink in. Trump is supported by 1 in 5 younger voters â€" an astonishing and consequential collapse for the GOP. Though the young don’t turn out at election time with the same frequency as older voters, they always get (and deserve) particular attention from the parties. In the long run, younger voters are older voters. In the long run, older voters are . . . companions to John Maynard Keynes.

So why is Trump crashing and burning among the young? The 2016 election excludes some explanations. It cannot be that Clinton is making an inspiring, Barack Obama-esque appeal to youthful idealism. During the primaries, Clinton was routinely trounced among the young. In Iowa caucus entrance polling, Bernie Sanders bested Clinton among 17-to-29-year-old Democrats by 84% to 14% â€" the previous most laughable showing among the young.

And it cannot be that younger voters are rejecting Trump because he is too socially conservative. He got applause during his convention speech for promising to defend “LGBTQ citizens.” Trump’s nomination represents the advance of gay rights (though not of gay marriage) within the Republican coalition and the marginalization of social issues.

I would venture that Trump’s failure among the young has something to do with his assault on the idea of tolerance, particularly racial and religious tolerance. Younger voters are less likely than other age groups to regard racially inclusive language as “politically correct.” They are less likely to believe in “reverse discrimination” and to embrace anti-immigrant attitudes. And, according to the USA Today/Rock the Vote survey, they were not impressed by the GOP nominee’s convention speech. By more than 2 to 1, younger voters said it made Trump seem less human and accessible.

While Clinton has an ethics problem, Trump has a humanity problem. His combativeness and lack of political polish could be advantages among younger voters. But these are tied to a discrediting lack of empathy. It is one thing to go after “low-energy” Jeb Bush or “Lyin’ ” Ted Cruz; it is another to mock a disabled reporter, stereotype Mexicans as rapists, condemn a judge because of his ethnicity, attack the faith of a grieving Gold Star mother, or call for systematic discrimination against Muslims. These are not violations of political correctness. They are violations of human decency, revealing serious moral impairment.

Here is something for Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders to consider. At high schools and colleges with Latino or Muslim students, spray-painting “Trump 2016” on a wall or poster is properly taken as a racially charged incident. When white students chant “Trump! Trump!” at a basketball game against a team including minorities, it is properly taken as a racial taunt. Young people understand the logo of the Republican nominee â€" the very name of the Republican presidential candidate â€" as conveying a message of exclusion.

These are the first serious political impressions of my younger son, voting in his first presidential election this year. It is the way to lose a generation.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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