I, for one, was delighted at the surge of new, mostly younger people who registered to vote for the first time in order to support Ron Paul in this year’s presidential primaries and caucuses. I explained to non-Paul supporters that the GOP should embrace them because the Republican Party is aging and needs new blood.
However, I saw a study of new, mostly younger people who registered to vote for the first time in 2008 for Barack Obama which makes me wonder about the long-term impact of Paul people.
A study conducted by two political scientists at my alma mater The University of San Francisco discovered that of the 2.1-million first time voters in California who showed up for Obama in 2008, most left other offices blank and didn’t vote on major issue referenda questions involving gay marriage and parental notification of a minor’s abortion request either.
The authors speculate that in 2008 this was evidence that many of the Obama voters were just that — voters more dedicated to the candidate than his liberal causes.
And they tested their hypothesis further by comparing 2010 election data and discovered that most of these new voters did not even show up at the polls two years after voting for Obama. Voting patterns in 2010 were not much different from the voting patterns before this new bloc of voters registered.
As I watch the enthusiasm of the Paul people and meet many younger people who registered to vote for the first time because they believed themselves disenfranchised by the parties, I wonder whether the same results as the Obama voter study would ensue or whether they will stay active in the mundane lower ballot campaigns and become a force within the Republican Party.
My hope is that Paul people will follow the template set by we Youth for Goldwater of the 1960s and suffer through the mundane in order to build a movement within the party. Instead of disappearing after his trouncing by LBJ, we kept the Goldwater movement alive at the grassroots level. Within 20 years, most of us from Youth for Goldwater were either working in media, working as policy advisors in the White House and Congress or actually elected to office and Ronald Reagan, who gave pep talk speeches at Youth for Goldwater rallies, was POTUS.