Recent news stories
have been commenting on the sharp drop in support for Obama among young voters, disappointed both with his failure to live up to their imaginings and with the reality of policies he supported (Obamacare) or tolerated (NSA). The interesting question, going beyond the next few elections, is what effect if any this will have on their political views.
One thing that struck us when we were visiting colleges our kids were considering and that then struck our kids as college students was the uniformity of left wing views at elite colleges. By our daughter's account, the difference between Oberlin, where she started, and Chicago, which she transferred to, was that while at both schools most students took left wing views for granted, at Chicago they were at least curious as to why someone might disagree. At Oberlin the default assumption was that if you didn't agree you were either stupid or evil.
I expect that students at both schools, indeed at all the schools we looked at, voted and worked for Obama in both his elections. If many now think that was a mistake—according to one poll, nearly half of young voters said they would recall Obama if they could—how will that affect their political views?
One possibility is that it won't. They will conclude that the policies they supported were good ones, they got fooled this time by a clever politician who pretended to support those policies and will try in the future to find and support politicians who really do support them.
Another is that they will conclude that the policies they supported were good ones but the political system is hopelessly corrupt, so the right response is either to withdraw from politics, try to foment a revolution, or try to change the system in some fundamental way, perhaps by "getting money out of politics." The last is the theme of the "NH Rebellion" that Larry Lessig has been posting
about of late.
A final and more optimistic possibility is that they will conclude that they were wrong. If the system works so badly even when their hero is elected with a large majority and (initially) control of both houses of Congress, perhaps more government isn't really the solution to the world's problems after all. If the federal government can't run a web site nearly as well as Amazon, perhaps it isn't competent to run everything. Perhaps, even, we would be better off if it ran less of the world instead of more.
Different students will reach different conclusions, probably including all of those and others I have not thought of. My guess is that the political monoculture of (at least) elite colleges will survive Obama's failure, due if nothing else to the pressures of conformity. But one can hope.