Here’s the good news: The Republican party is dying. Slow, painful, twitching, secreting war and intolerance and desperation like a fetid gas, snarling and gagging like Jabba the Hutt being choked by the hard chain of progress and hope and relaxed social mores and an upcoming Generation Next that seems to sense that screaming about gays and women’s rights and Muslims and drugs actually doesn’t do much to move the human experiment forward in the slightest.
Is this not delicious? Is this not cause for rejoicing? According to Pew Research, the percentage of young ‘uns age 18 to 25 (a.k.a. Generation Next) who identify with Republicans has been in steady decline since the early ’90s, and now hovers around a meager 35 percent, down from a high of 55 percent in the Reagan-toxic early-90s, and is still dropping, whereas fully 48 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds now lean Democratic … and rising.
Seems Generation Next tend to be more socially liberal and much less worried about the trembling “sanctity” of the failed nuclear family, and are overall less inclined to align with a particular religion. Indeed, it almost makes you want to weep and sigh and go buy a large grass-fed free-range organic hybrid vibrator.
Ah, but there is a flip side. A counterargument. A dark cloud of righteous bleakness and it looms like a giant synthetic cheesecake-scented Glade PlugIn of potential misery.
It is this: According to another set of data, for the past 30 years or so, conservatives — particularly those of the right-wing red-state Christian strain — have been out-breeding liberals by a margin of at least 20 percent, if not far more.
It’s true. The reason? Why, God loves babies, of course. White American babies, most especially. Also: issues of space, religion, sexual orientation and, of course, conscience. Or, you know, lack thereof.
One theory goes like this: Libs are generally more socially conscious and hence tend to actually give a modicum of thought to what it means to pop out a brood of children in this modern overstuffed age. Also, many other liberal bohos are (admittedly) happy selfish suckwads who want all the modern booty for themselves and won’t want to give up the Ducati and the plasma and the biannual trip to Cinque Terre for the sake of a pod of rug rats and 15 grand a year (each) for private kindergarten. Translation: Libs just aren’t procreating like they could/should be.
Conservative Christians, of course, have no such conscience. Among the right-wing God-lovin’ set, there is often little real awareness of planetary health or resource abuse or the notion that birth control is actually a very, very good idea indeed, and therefore it’s completely natural to worship at the altar of minivans and SUVs and megachurches and massive all-American entitlement and have little qualm about popping out six, seven, 19 gloopy tots to populate the world with frat boys and Ford F-150 buyers and food court managers.
I always assumed it might actually be a good thing that conservatives breed so mindlessly, because all those unhappy neocon kids, all those repressed misled tots grow up and eventually begin to (well, sometimes) think for themselves and ultimately do what any good kid does: rebel against their parents’ silly dogma and become a bit more open-minded and hopeful, right?
Not exactly. Apparently, according to the research, four out of five kids actually stick with the political affiliation of their parents, generation after generation, with religious conservatives far more unlikely than their liberal brethren to allow their kids to develop the capacity for independent thought (given how it’s so, you know, dangerous to America). Also, one word: homeschooling. I’m just sayin’.
So then, the big question: How can these two major demographics exist at the same time? How can we be enjoying the slow death of the GOP along with an impressive surge in young Democrats, and yet simultaneously be undergoing this quiet toxic swelling in ranks of the army of conservative autobots? The logic breaks down all over.
It seems impossible. Either we are we headed toward a new dawn full of smart social liberalism, perhaps leading to concomitant ideas of peace and tolerance and a newly evolved American identity, or there is another massive group lurking in the shadows, entirely overlooked by Pew Research, a seething army of religious conservatives who are working like a spiritual STD to force us backward once again, much the way the Bush regime brutally reversed decades of social, environmental, fiscal and international progress and made war and isolationism and megachurch evangelicals the lords of the playground for a shocklingly painful blip of time.
Hell, maybe it’s both. Maybe what we’re getting with these two sets of data is simply a glimpse of the next two major phases of the culture, the next two major swings of the sociopolitical pendulum, in sequence.
In other words, maybe we are indeed headed into a delightful progressive liberal phase, one with the potential to radically, even permanently change the way we view gender and identity and family and even America’s role in the world.
But then the sad recoil. The clench, the terror, the loud screeching from all those red-state kids who are being taught right now to despise change and fear alternative views and see anything that’s not wrapped in the flag or the Bible or a McDonald’s wrapper as evil and dangerous and worthy of derision/elimination.
Or maybe there’s another possibility. Perhaps it’s something even more wild and delicious and improbable, and we are all, liberal and conservative alike, evolving more toward social progressiveness merely by default, not through social engineering or political maneuvering or reactionary Christian dread but merely as a nearly unconscious by-product of the times. In other words, maybe everyone is trending more progressive and open merely by existing on this planet today, almost despite ourselves.
I know. Completely idiotic. I must be totally drunk.
Option 3 is, of course, the most likely: Both sets of data are full of flaw and misinterpretation and wishful thinking. Neither is completely correct and by the way statistics are for dreamers and acidheads and pollsters and should be thrown over the shoulder, like salt, right before you go back for another Xanax and a beer.
And hence we are, as ever, simply a mad intoxicated mishmash of reactions and beliefs and ideologies, a God-obsessed sex-crazed drug-lovin’ sociopolitical train wreck of a country that doesn’t really know its ass from a hole in the ground or its God from a burp in the sky.
Personally, I’m going with the new liberal dawn thing. Hell, it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?
Mark Morford’s Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.
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