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Is There Any Way for the Dems to Win the Kids Back?

How about meeting voters where they are on popular issues.
April 21, 2022
Grandpa Joe Needs Weed | Not My Party With Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Gen Z is souring on Uncle Joe.

Joe Biden: Come on, man.

Miller: Is there any way for the Dems to win the kids back? This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. With Joe Biden’s poll numbers in the basement, nightmares about this year’s midterms have Democratic strategists in D.C. soaking their sheets.

Homer Simpson: I wet the bed.

Miller: And one group in particular is the cause of their nightmares: y’all.

Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico on The Sopranos): All you guys.

Miller: A new Gallup poll shows that Gen Z is turning on Biden faster than any other demo. Now only 39 percent approve of POTUS, down from 53 percent last year.

Izzy Buttons (Shaun Parkes in The Mummy Returns): Well that’s not good.

Miller: So to figure out what to do, the geriatric Democratic senators brought in this guy, who is said to be Biden’s Gen Z whisperer.

Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock): God, he looks so young.

Miller: Della Volpe’s usual gig is running the Harvard Youth Poll, so they figured he knows what’s up.

Lenny Wosniak (Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock): How do you do, fellow kids?

Kid: What?

Miller: His main message was simple: The Dems need Gen Z to win. And these voters just wanna be heard. He provided charts showing that huge spikes in youth turnout in 2018 and 2020 helped propel Dems to power, and warned that if they revert to the less-engaged turnout of the past, then the party is truly forked.

Schmidt (Max Greenfield on New Girl): Youths!

Man: Just a-kidding! . . . I love you, I love you.

Miller: Now here are the top issues young voters feel are going unaddressed: climate, the economy, income inequality, student debt, and weed. We’ll get to the herb in a second.

Jimmy from Bob’s Burgers: Aw, that’s the best part.

Miller: But first: On climate, Biden needs to do a better job of selling what he has done in spite of the GOP’s commitment to blocking any action to reduce emissions. Instead, Democrats have let extreme climate activists define the debate around where Biden has fallen short. For example, Biden reversed Trump’s executive orders softening emissions regulations. And the infrastructure bill pumped billions into electric vehicles, public transit, and cleaning up carbon-polluting mines and wells.

Gerry Fleck (Eugene Levy in Best in Show): I did not know that.

Miller: Next, on student loans. Biden is in a tough spot. The payments have been paused for over two years now. You’d think people would be happy with that, but nah. The TikTok libs are still pissed.

Biden: Come on; give me a break, man.

Miller: They want King Biden to wave his magic wand and cancel all the student debt unilaterally—something that almost certainly would be overturned by the courts, and could alienate voters who either didn’t go to college or who worked their ass off to pay off their loans.

Uncle Buck (John Candy): That’s not fair.

Miller: So if he can’t win on student loans, what can he do?

Scarface (Guillermo Díaz in Half Baked): I got it. We’ll sell weed.

Miller: Maybe I’m letting the residual vapors from a weekend at Coachella impact my thinking here. (Harry and Shania were magical.) But Nate Silver, who I’m pretty sure was not at Coachella, called the Democrats’ lack of movement here “legitimately perplexing.” And I agree. 79 percent of young voters support marijuana legalization. That’s 40 percent more than approve of Biden. Hell, even 48 percent of Republicans wanna legalize it.

Randy Marsh from South Park: Mar-i-juana!

Reporter Bill Keegan from South Park: —unites this nation once again.

Miller: But Biden has been reluctant to take on this issue.

Biden: The answer is no.

Miller: Maybe it’s generational, maybe impacted by his son’s problems, maybe he just caught a bad high in the Fifties. But whatever the reason, he should fall back on an instinct that has served him well over the years: meeting voters where they are on popular issues.

Biden: Men marrying men, women marrying women are entitled the same exact rights, all the civil liberties.

Miller: One idea to help get him there: Pair weed legalization with addressing the ongoing drug-overdose crisis. Marijuana taxes could fund addiction and recovery programs.

Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chapelle in Half Baked): They’re not drug dealers; they’re fundraisers.

Miller: Plus more resources to go after the assholes selling drugs cut with fentanyl. Look, I realize that Biden-branded O.G. Kush isn’t gonna turn his numbers around by itself.

Vigilante (Freddie Stroma on Peacemaker): Would be cool, though.

Miller: But it’s a policy that is: (1) right on the merits; (2) popular with a group that he needs to get energized; (3) a good wedge issue against Republicans, many of whom will be reluctant to embrace it; and (4) might actually be able to pass Congress. Roll that all up, and it’s a recipe for a good strain of politicking that could give Biden’s brand a boost at a time when he really needs it.

Jonah Hill as Seth in Superbad: Weed is tight, weed is tight.

Miller: We’ll see y’all next week for more of “Not My Party,” and I hope you had a great 4/20.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.