Why are Democrats stereotyped as young and Republicans as old?





To clarify the question (because headlines need to be short and simple): Why, I ask, does the Democratic Party seem to attract younger, idealistic voters, while the Republican Party is stereotyped as the old-white-guy party?

I understand the media overgeneralizes and caricatures hardcore Party followers, and people in turn assume that construction to be true. But then again, stereotypes can contain some elements of truth.

But on to the fundamental question …


The Democratic Party should be all about formal democracy, right? I mean, with a name like that, I would assume that if the majority wants it, it gets it, right?

… But what if the majority wanted to, say, exterminate a race of people? Or what if the majority was all for forcing people to go to church?

This, I’m afraid, is what complicates the democracy problem; the fact that the “majority” doesn’t always know best. In fact, I would say that public opinion isn’t good for much other than measuring localized attitudes. Because of this, majority rule is not always the best system.

Nonetheless, the Party hijacked the word. And to clarify, Democrats aren’t really about populist politics (meaning “of the people”), rather, the Party has developed conceptions of justice, and become the socially conscious arm of American politics, and has been so for some time now (I would say, since the ’60s).

In general, the Party is considered “left” because it 1) believes in positive societal change and 2) it believes in redistributing social power to favor traditionally marginalized groups.

And for younger audiences, it’s probably more appealing to listen to Democratic-centric, Robin Hood-like narratives about how it’s possible to take power from the rich and give to the poor. It’s probably not as inspirational to hear about how we all need to buck up and work hard to get what we want. There’s something revolutionary about identifying “establishment” rules, and recreating them, altering them, and trying to achieve positive “justice,” and that probably speaks more to people when they’re younger.

Just to reinforce, the volley between traditional and more-liberal approaches is all over the place. Remember Star Wars (A New Hope, you purists)? Luke Skywalker, the younger Vader, is, himself, the hope for a future Republic (as opposed to the existing dictatorship).

Harry Potter, anyone? The younger generation is again battling a tyrannical, xenophobic dictator. The same with all sorts of other stories. The Hunger Games, The Godfather (new business vs. traditional business), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest … the list can go on.

It’s always the same struggle between dichotomous elements and ideas; modern living vs. traditional; old vs. young; new ideas vs. old ideas. It seems to be that the Democratic party appeals to younger, fresher ideas and people who believe in the malleability of society and justice.

The Party intentionally uses words like ‘change,’ ‘new,’ or ‘forward.’ This marketing reinforces and legitimizes an individual outlook, and the Democratic Party seeks to consolidate and mobilize this outlook.

You have to admit, younger people have a particular energy that older people simply don’t have; kind of a hunger to change the world. However, there are certain older people who are able to sustain the energy of younger people, and I would say these people would more likely be Democrats as opposed to Republicans.

WAIT, how do Republicans become characterized as rich people!?

There are lots of reasons why conservative ideologies exist, but I would say the two biggest contributors to this outlook are 1) religious perspectives, and 2) age.

First, religion (in America, which is overwhelmingly Christian) preaches how negative human nature can be redeemed through baptism, and the word, and such. However, in return for the transformation into a “good” person, you gotta follow the church’s rules (well, really the Bible’s rules, however your church interprets them).

Religious folk (lots in America) don’t view the world as constantly changing, because the key to happiness is to follow the Bible’s word, and you’ll be OK. Knowing you’re a small part of something greater is humbling; and the people who think they can singlehandedly change the world are a bit vain, and think too much of themselves.

So politically speaking, instead of attaining social justice, religious folk generally would prefer everyone endorse charity, love, and goodwill over orchestrated policy meant to induce change (hence limited government intervention). Another view, from the religious perspective, is that societies can heal themselves by living as closely to the ideal person as possible — granted everyone is religious. Either way, government doesn’t take center stage in prevailing religious outlooks, because it’s men trying to dictate what God should be dictating (to be fair, government could be incorporated somehow for religious folk, but I’m not savvy enough to know how).

Second, just getting old in life tempers that idealistic spirit in people. As you get older, you experience setbacks, lose money, figure out that those youthful friendships are temporary in the face of life’s pressures, and your values shift from changing the world to a attaining a stable, healthy life. In other words, you end up caring more about you and your immediate family more as you age. I would say that, as one gets older, the propensity to help achieve societal harmony diminishes, and the reality that you need to establish yourself and become stable takes precedent.

Once people find themselves in this old-person logic, it’s really difficult to go back. Once people are established, making money, and secure themselves, they find it difficult to identify with those who are currently struggling. After all, once people make it through trials and hardships to get somewhere, they forget what it’s like to go through the events they did. Instead, they look back on those experiences through the lens of nostalgia. Then, in effect, the past becomes an idealized version of living; so the struggle was the golden days. The logic shifts from “we can all do this together” to, “well, if did it, so can someone else!”

Here’s the way this operates: Jack goes to a four year school, and takes 6 years to get his degree while working full-time at a clothing store. He didn’t have any help paying for school (other than federal Pell), and hated his job at the time. He only got through because of a strong support system of family and friends helping him study, and encouraging his pursuit Then he gets success in a manufacturing firm, and in 5 years becomes the VP. He now funds Republican super PACS that emphasize limited government, less social welfare, and increased education in Libertarianism (his current ideology of choice). He doesn’t like government “propping” people up, because he thinks people should work like he did.

In effect, Jack lost compassion for individualized struggles and situations. Jack adopted the old-person logic of “I did it, so you can!” Because HE struggled, he thinks it reinforced his character and therefore EVERYONE can struggle to get somewhere as well. It’s the old tough-love approach to life and success.

This story is very common. Some old rich dude touting the Republican Party’s principles, and the reason they do so is that they faced barriers as well, but survived; hence everyone should survive.

Is it right? That’s obviously up to individual taste, but that’s how Republicans became synonymous with old, white, rich dudes.

Political Identity! Chill out, it’s not that serious

Here’s the thing, people are more likely to shift from Democrat to Republican in their lifetime — that is, if they shift at all. That’s pretty well known in political study that as people get older, they more often gravitate towards conservative principles.

But is it possible that both views are necessary to effectively govern?

To react to that question, I would say that Democrats become popular when complex solutions require community intervention. In contrast, Republican ideology becomes more popular in times of peace and prosperity, where the individual can take hold of his/her future.

There are times when people need protections, and a community centric outlook is necessary (like post 2008, during the Civil Rights era, or the few times that Amendments gave minorities voting rights). But also, there are times when people should be free to take hold of wealth and success, free from collective consciousness (like during the post Cold War or post WWII eras).

To say that one ideology should rule over the other forever is a really bad way to look at the world. I suggest the people who have that view begin looking at ways to visit very traditional, agrarian nations as an example of a singular ruling approach to values and politics. Should one approach dominate the United States indefinitely, the essence of the United States would be lost. Rather, the rules were set up in such a way that activates people, and forces them to agree on solutions. The American rules also encourage competition between not only people, but ideas, and ensures that no one approach rules.

So, to all you hardcore Party extremists: you’re wrong. The real enemy to the American way of life isn’t rebel terror groups; it’s people who hold extreme beliefs — extreme to the point that they take action against others. Extremism not only allows terror groups to exist, it can create (and is creating) an environment where no action is made (i.e. Congress), and I would say that a wrong action is still better than no action at all.

But hopefully you have a better understanding of why certain stereotypes exist. Also, don’t forget that a large part of that construction is because of propaganda and marketing.










5 thoughts on “Why are Democrats stereotyped as young and Republicans as old?

  1. jonolan

    To some extent it’s an attempt by the Lamestream Media to marginalize Republicans and to some extent it is because being a Democrat is something that most people grow out of.


    1. Joel Raffety Post author

      Sweet! A response! Thanks for the thought.

      I see your point, although, instead of people “growing” out of Democratic policies, I would say that people are more beaten down by life, and consequently adopt conservative perspectives — it takes a certain kind of person to remain idealistic throughout life.

      Definitely something interesting to think about.


      1. jonolan

        It also takes a certain sort to keep clinging to policies that don’t work and that no longer are in their own interests. Once they become what their previous idealism labeled as evil, selfish, whatever they tend to change their opinions.


  2. Pingback: Why is there a difference between “working class” and “professional” voters? | Political Ideas and Education

  3. Pingback: Hipster Culture is an Enemy of the Political Left AND Right | The Tailgate Society

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