Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 7, 2012

CARRIE STAMBAUGH: The new normal

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — The new normal. It’s a phrase you’ve been hearing over and over again to describe the electorate that has twice now voted President Obama into office.

In a culture that has become all about branding, the new normal is just a catchy phrase for reality.

The reality is that the demographics of the country are changing and have been for a long time. The result is voters are changing and so are their values.

Some people just haven’t been paying attention. Or, they have just had a serious case of denial.

I wrote a column earlier this year describing my generation, “the millennials” and the set of values they embrace.

I received an email in which one reader interpreted it to mean that I was both “young and communist” and wrote to tell me so. He advised me to have lots of children. This, he said, would open my eyes to the harsh realities of life.

I don’t think he understood what I was trying to tell him.

Not all young people are “liberals” just like not all old people are “conservatives,” contrary to that old popular saying.  Millenials just have a different set of values than other generations, shaped by their life experiences.

 His world view is simply out of step with that of those who are now exercising their political will in larger and larger numbers. He’s turned a blind eye to the realities that will continue to shape our culture and our country as it moves into the future.

In many ways, he is representative of those who were caught off guard most by the results of the recent election. He is male, white and a baby boomer.

The “new normal” electorate is young, female and Latino. That is the coalition that put Obama in office. They are the demographics that need to be paid attention to and come with a set of facts that are undeniable.

Women are out earning and out learning men in huge numbers. We’re doing it because we have the power to choose how many children we have and when.

The bulk of us aren’t going to give that up without one heck of a fight. We also vote in larger numbers, more often then men and have been since 1980. We proved our political will this year, just look at the numbers.

Youth turnout has also been growing steadily for the last three presidential cycles. It’s a trend, not a fluke. Youth voters swung the handful of swing states that gave Obama his victory.

Young people are highly connected through social networking and engaged in the political process. Evidence shows that is only going to increase.

The number crunchers have also been telling us for some time that the country is on pace to become a more ethnically diverse nation in the next century. For the first time in our history, minority births outpaced white births this year. We are becoming a living, breathing reflection of the diverse globe we live on.

Normal is always changing, and change is the very heart of our American democracy; it has been from the beginning.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.