I was watching Sarah Palins magnificent speech at the Republican National Convention last Wednesday night with one of my liberal friends. (Yes, I do have a few of those dont worry, Im working on them.) The camera focused on some members of the audience who were, to put it gently, past their prime. My friend remarked, Man, it seems like this whole election is the youth vote versus the older generation!
Its easy to see why he would say this. When one hears the term Rock the Vote, John McCain jamming to Dave Matthews isnt usually the first image that comes to mind. Ill readily admit that if we ever hear the word hip associated with McCain, it will probably be because hes broken one.
Certainly, neither party has a monopoly on youth or old age. There were more than a few white-haired heads at the Democrats convention, and the Republican Party is the ideological home of a large number of bright, witty, intelligent young people; I happen to be one of them, if I may say so. But there does seem to be some truth in my friends observation. Consider, for example, that while McCain and Barack Obama are neck-and-neck in the national polls, as of this writing Obama has more than five times as many supporters as McCain on Facebook, which is of course dominated by younger college-age people.
But what people like my friend dont always think about is that the older people of today were not always old. They were the youth vote of yesteryear, a great deal of them desperately seeking to change the world inherited from their parents. Many of the members of the older generation my friend views as opponents in this election were passionate liberals when they were our age. If, after a lifetime of working, raising families, paying taxes and other formative experiences, people modify their political views, shouldnt we consider their judgment? If its true that this election is largely the young versus the old, why should we assume that young people are right?
Do you really think that, in general, people our age are more qualified than the older generation to choose the next president? You go to school with thousands of them, and so do I. Nice people, no doubt, but I wont lose much sleep if once again they dont turn out on Election Day.
McCain has been frequently criticized for admitting that he is illiterate when it comes to computers. Similarly, Ronald Reagan was once challenged by a student who accused the older generation of being irrelevant because they hadnt grown up with computers, jet travel or high-speed communication technology. Reagan responded, Youre absolutely right. We didnt have those things when we were your age. We invented them.
Theres something to be said for youthful passion and enthusiasm in politics, but dont discount age and experience. And if theres a discrepancy between the two groups, you can count me with the folks whove been around the block a few times.