2013 is for political slackers

There has recently been some speculation that anti-Putin protesters in Russia are losing their passion for street demonstrations against the Russian president and his administration. Some former protest facilitators and participants acknowledge that, for a while, the movement was a stylish thing to do, like wearing “cool” jeans or busting out your iPhone on Red Square. Too many protesters were posers, not genuine politicos. Now they are moving on to other trendy pursuits, leaving politics behind. I suspect that the same thing might happen here in the States in 2013.

The past five years have seen two great mass movements that politicized and animated ordinary citizens to a wholly unexpected degree. The two Obama campaigns brought non-participants into politics and the polling place in an extraordinary manner, especially youth. Republican strategists were blindsided by it in 2008, and incredibly, again in 2012. Partly in response to the Obama army’s surge, a Tea Party movement sprang up to counter the president’s and his allies’ more liberal tax-and-spend policy initiatives.

There are already signs that the Tea Party’s momentum is reversing. Leaders acknowledge that many Patriot chapters are disappearing and fewer new recruits are mustering to units that survive. It is difficult to sustain any organization in this day and age that isn’t achieving its primary goals and objectives. The Tea Party didn’t even consistently prevail across the country during the GOP primary season (with noteworthy exceptions like Indiana noted), and then the general election was largely a bigger bust. Some of the sunshine soldiers who took time off from other family and business pursuits during 2011 and 2012 to drink deeply of the Tea may have felt somewhat foolish at the end of the campaigns.

I am not sure that it would be fair to say that Tea Party participation is no longer “stylish” in conservative circles, but at a minimum it is viewed as less practical and efficacious.

On the liberal side of the ledger, it is more difficult to gauge the trendiness of the “Rock the Vote” movement. Will young adults stay energized, or have elections become the equivalent of the People’s Choice Awards, where the rock ‘n’ rollers vote, watch the results show and then go back to the rest of life? It is hard for me to get my mind around the notion that the under-35 crowd is excited by the sort of Capitol Hill back-and-forth we see involving old men like Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism MORE and John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA warning to Ryan’s successor: The Speakership is no cakewalk With Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election MORE. I am just guessing that smartphones, jeans, food, cars, jobs and YouTube are more salient than the fiscal cliff or sequester debates. Frankly, there are relatively few circumstances where the great political debates of our day impinge on palpable self-interests of young adults. No one wants to raise their taxes or take away their entitlements. Student loan programs and debt, gay rights and some environmental issues are about all that animate youth, besides Obama himself.

2013 may become the year of the political slacker. Voters may just take the year off and focus on other pursuits and interests, trendy or down-to-earth issues. I believe that both the left and right will be forced to focus more on employment and entrepreneurial pursuits in 2013.

There may be more people trying to join the 1 percent than dedicating their time to taxing the wealthy at a higher rate. As the economy finally tries to recover in a meaningful way, we’ll see people trying to jump aboard the success train. Separately, overt politics may be supplanted by local environmental activism in 2013. Fracking hysteria and extreme weather events will drive many to supplant political activism with eco-activism. The two are related, but decidedly different, not the least of these differences being that today’s eco-activism is less distinctively partisan.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.