President Obama should rethink the Afghanistan war for lots of reasons. The war isn't making us more secure. It's costing us billions (soon to be trillions) of dollars. It's costing us jobs. The war causes massive human suffering for both Afghans and Americans. We can now add another reason for the president to rethink the Afghanistan war: it's hurting his party's re-election efforts among a key constituency.
On February 18, 2010, Pew Research published a study titled "Democrats' Edge Among Millenials Slipping." The report warns that among voters born after 1980, Democrats lost more than half of their lead in party identification over Republicans during 2009. In 2008, Millennials favored Democrats over Republicans by a huge 32-percent margin (62 percent to 30 percent). That margin has now shrunk to 14 percent.
This sharp change in such a short period could be a major problem for Democrats heading into the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Pew previously reported how important these voters were to Democratic victories in 2008:
[In 2008], 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.
...[Y]oung people provided not only their votes but also many enthusiastic campaign volunteers. Some may have helped persuade parents and older relatives to consider Obama's candidacy. And far more young people than older voters reported attending a campaign event while nearly one-in-ten donated money to a presidential candidate.
One of the major reasons cited by Pew for Millennials' sharp loss of enthusiasm for Democrats was young voter opposition to President Obama's policies in Afghanistan.
According to the report:
"Only about a third of Millennials (34%) approved of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan while 50% disapproved. ...That represented a sharp reversal from July, when a majority of those younger than 30 (51%) approved of Obama's performance on Afghanistan."
Why the sharp reversal? Millennials strongly disapproved of the President's December 2009 decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. And, Millenials are rapidly souring on militant foreign policy in general, with only 38 percent agreeing with the statement that "peace is best achieved through military strength."
Democrats can't afford to hang on to the dead weight of a brutal foreign policy in Afghanistan. When a war has killed thousands of children, almost a thousand American troops and cost us almost a trillion dollars, electoral peril isn't the only reason the President should rethink his policy. But it is a good reason.