The Red Dawn Difference

by lestro

For all the talk of the youth vote being the demographic that put Obama over the top, the truth is that while their energy and legwork was unmatched, the real revolution in this election came not in the 20-somethings, but in the 30-somethings.

It is the Red Dawn generation, the forgotten demographic, that made the difference this time around. We are the 30-somethings who in the past eight years have grown into not only the dominant demographic in the media and commercial sectors, but have also started raising families and buying homes – the time when people start to seriously vote.

We are also the first generation to be raised completely under the ideals the Baby Boomer worked so hard to establish. We are done fighting battles of the 60s and don’t see the world the in black and white ways of our parents and we have reached the point in our lives when people become politically active.

The proof is in the exit poll results. This was not a youth movement, but one led by the tail end of Generation X and the Red Dawn Generation, those of us who came of age in the era of Reagan and Thriller and Mutual Assured Destruction.

In 2004, the youth vote made up 17 percent of the electorate. In 2008, they made up 18 percent. In 2004, they went to Kerry 54-45. This year they broke 66-32 for Obama.

The 30-44 demographic, however, where the real Change took place. In 2004 and 2008, they made up 29 percent of the vote, but in ’04 they voted for Bush 53-46. This year, they went 52-46 for Obama.

THAT was the group that won this election for Obama, not the youth vote. Fifty-two percent of 29 is way bigger than 66 percent of 18.



A new generation of leadership with a new worldview has arrived on the scene. Fortunately, we are already well-conditioned on coping with and cleaning up the messes of our parents. We are the latchkey generation, learning to care for ourselves as watched our parents divorce, remarry, work careers and refuse to fully admit their adulthood.

The turnout in the youth demographic certainly was impressive – as was the margin – but the real shift in this race came in the 30-somethings. That is the demo where the sea change has occurred. And now it’s time to see what we can do.

3 Responses to The Red Dawn Difference

  1. Dale says:

    Everybody wants to take credit and lay blame based on some accident of birth, as if coming of age under Thriller and Mutual Assured Destruction were that much different from coming of age under Roxy Music and Mutual Assured Destruction.

    The truth is, if you look at the real numbers, the differences are minimal from one demographic to the next and from one era to the next. Your own data show that nearly half of your vaunted demographic voted for McCain. Sea change? I think not!

    In 1984 the 18-29 y/o vote went to Ronald Regan. Those people are 42-53 now, and most of them voted for Obama. Since I’m 52 maybe I should claim a huge sea change for my demographic, but still nearly half of them went for McCain/Palin.

    You’re talking about small changes over time, not huge sea changes. Red Dawn generation, indeed.

  2. Dale,

    I think your comment highlights how what is being described here is far more than an “accident of birth” or a question of childhood theme music.

    My take on the concept of Red Dawn is that there is a need to distinguish that segment of the population from the haughty, “whatever” attitude of Gen X.

    It is a huge sea change, especially in light of the upcoming projections of the population:

    Over the 30 year period, the Nation’s youth population (ages 0 to 19 years) is projected to decline as a fraction of the total population. In 1995, the Nation’s youth was 29 percent of the total population. A drop of two percentage points in the youth rate is expected over the three decades. During 1995 to 2025, all regions are expected to show a decline in the proportion of the population that is under 20 years of age.

    I think that it is clear that there is a significant segment of the population that is rejecting 50%-49% way of politics that is apparently so popular with the Boomers.

    If you recall the popular vote for this election, 52%-46%, perhaps it is easier to see how Red Dawn looks like the pulse of this election.

    That is a sea change, by my definition, and I expect that it will get easier to see over the next few election cycles.

  3. Pingback: Red dawn feminism « The Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi

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