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Last month, I wrote a fairly innocuous piece on my Open Salon blog. To say the least, I was surprised by the waterfall-velocity at which comments flooded the article. At first, I was determined to respond to all of them, but soon gave up. What was the point of responding to a comment if I had to write something that was as long – and took as long – as an actual blog post?
As I pondered the deluge, one sentiment from conservatives struck me: that I was too young to understand the wisdom of conservative ideology. As if my neocortex needs to evolve for another ten years, until finally developing that Personal Responsibility Radar that seems to be a byproduct of age.
As if, given the fact I haven’t paid too much in taxes makes me unqualified to speculate about how our country spends the money. I understand, and sympathize with some of the more burnished conservative talking points. Yes, government could be doing a better job. But could private sector companies be doing a better job than the government? Sure, if you want those jobs done overseas. After all, that was the corporate solution to the Great Recession. And how are the workers at Foxconn?
More like job craters, eh? Hahaha.
Also: I’m perpetually amused by the assumption that every millionaire or billionaire is Bill Gates or Thomas J. Watson, instead of a swarm of celebrities, musicians, athletes, overly compensated, tax-evading CEOs, and investment bankers who do very little, in fact, to bolster the national economy.
Additioanlly, I noticed that one of the responses of my article pointed out that 53%, the percentage of Americans found to be support gay marriage, is hardly a majority. Ironic, given that this was the number that won one Barack Obama the presidency. This brings me to the first reason that young adults are liberal:
1. Holy Crap, We Don’t Care About Social Issues.
A survey of more than 30,000 people found that more than a quarter of millennials (Americans born after 1980) profess no religious affiliation
A poll of evangelicals age 18-29 found that 44% support gay marriage. Another showed that 65% of Americans 18-29 support gay marriage.
Our more diverse demographic – 18.5% Hispanic, 14.2% black, 4.3% Asian, 59.8% white (record-low) makes us more likely to support immigration
I think that people often envision sign-touting masses when they hear that young adults “support” something. That’s not the case. In fact, I would argue that for a lot of us, “support” is synonymous with “Really? We’re wasting our time debating that?” That’s why moments like thisstun us and manufactured debates about things like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” utterly befuddle us. Really? Are Church and State actually separated or… what? More importantly, are we really arguing about whether an openly gay soldier has the right to die for the United States of America?
The Republicans, forced to bend to the rumblings of a very active part of their constituency, have had to cater to these issues. In effect, that pushes awaymillennials who are looking for the issues that concern them: higher education and finding a job.
2. We Don’t Deify Capitalism
Almost everyone in our age group knows someone who is unemployed. Not because that person is lazy, but because the lowest percentage of Americans age 16 to 29 are employed since World War II, with 55% of young adults employed. If we dwell on the fact that many of those jobs are not careers, and many of those are part-time, the picture gets bleaker.
We haven’t had the time, nor reason, to develop the near-ubiquitous attitude of conservative Americans: “Well, things worked out for me. Why wouldn’t they work out for everyone?”
I’m going to avoid citing various facts about how students are crushed by loans that were sold to us through brochures about high-priced colleges and unemployable career prospects fed to us by go-lucky culture that raised us in a fantasy world fueled by the belief that, if you just did what you loved, things would work out.
The fact is, at this point, a lot of us know that we should have majored in something differently. Or tried to somehow afford a college degree. A lot of people argue that we should have known that all along. On behalf of my generation, I extend our deepest apologies for being idealists in our adolescence and majoring in things capitalism doesn’t like, such as education, social services, and environmental studies.
We saw parents struggle with unemployment after years of working up a ladder. We saw the friends of parents devastated by the loss of a job, a home, and health insurance, all the while struggling to pay for exorbitant college tuition fees outpacing inflation by 500% and taking care of younger kids at home. In part, this experience could explain why 47 percent of millennialshave a negative view of capitalism.
We don’t equate self-worth with net worth, because we know so many people who have worked so hard and gotten so little, and so many with so much that have given so little. Millennials know that our grasp on a reliable income is very tenuous and very precious. This doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying to find a way into the system, it just means that we’re distrustful of the system itself: after all, 70% of millennials plan on changing jobs when the economy improves.
3. This Guy
I was listening to a song a few weeks ago and a verse came on that said, roughly, “And poor kids are dying for billionaire’s profits.” I actually sighed. “This again?” I thought. That’s when it dawned on me: we actually live in a time where the exploitation of American lives for corporate revenue is a cliché.
If you want to know why my generation seems recklessly liberal, take a look at the president under whom we became (somewhat) politically cognizant. George W. Bush was an embarrassment to the country at best, and ran it into the ground at the very worst. Here are some facts that are generally taken to be common knowledge at this point:
- The Iraq war was fueled by a lie
- There is convincing evidence that George W. Bush stole both the 2000 and 2004 election
- Halliburton, of which Dick Cheney was CEO before becoming Vice President, profited immensely from the deaths of thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, through no-bid construction contracts that have been acknowledged as a source of billions of dollars in losses
- No central figure from the Bush administration was so much as slapped on the wrist
I love it when Republicans accuse Democrats of lingering on the Bush administration. That’s because the Bush Administration was unequivocally the worst administration in the history of our country and embodied many of the values still espoused by Republicans.
Oh wait, except this new batch of Republicans will be more fiscally conscious by cutting unnecessary social support services like welfare, education, and unemployment benefits rather than end the Bush tax cuts, a move thought to be a one-stop solution for keeping debt at manageable levels. You know, since austerity measures have worked so amazingly well for economies overseas, and garnered so much public support.
But I digress. Back to Bush.
No one has done so much damage to America’s reputation in so little time, both domestically and internationally. No one has set such a dangerous precedent for foreign policy.
Yes, you can point to individual incidents, most of which elicit a very blasé and unapologetic attitude from Americans: from the wholesale slaughter of Nicaraguans under the careful eye of Reagan to the Watergate scandal to the Gulf of Tonkin incident to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the CIA-led coup of the democratically elected government of Iran to the sinking of USS Maine to Polk’s intentional machinations to start the Mexican War to the Trail of Tears, but nothing really compares to the years of 2000-2008.
With the creation of The Department of Homeland Security (blighted by political appointees), the passing of the Patriot Act, the national endorsement of torture as an interrogation strategy, the flexing of the term “terrorist” and “unlawful combatant” in a conflict of our own invention, the internationally recognized torture camp at Guantanamo Bay (known to frequently house innocent victims indefinitely), George W. Bush established a systemic abuse of power that has since become the public and acknowledged foreign policy of the United States. As opposed to previously, when our abuse of power was more subtle.
Note: I’m aware that President Obama (or at least his administration) has been an advocate for new & improved torture camps (Bagram) and a huge fan of killing civilians with drones. I’m not even going to talk about the administration’s pick-and-choose foreign policies when it comes to Egypt, North Korea, Iran, Yemen, Libya, and Syria.
Fortunately for Obama’s election prospects, Republicans have proven to be even more belligerent. And, since everyone in Washington seems to agree that the remote killing of Pakistanis in the hopes that one or two terrorists with no capability whatsoever of attacking the United States is the right thing to do, the determined shouldering of war down a very slippery slope hasn’t become a campaign issue.
Instead, we get to focus on whether Obama loves America and whether corporations make enough money to stay here.
I take a little comfort in the fact that Mitt Romney is at least intelligent (can you imagine two intelligent presidential candidates in a debate? Can anyone tell me the last time that happened?).
I know Romney is just lying his way to the general election, like any pragmaticcandidate. I’m eager to see what new economic platforms he advocates, but I’m not holding my breath.
Yes, I Guess We Could
In the end, millennials are going to stick with Obama. After all, he gave us health insurance until age 26, which is great, since half of us are unemployed and, wow, the policy actually makes financial sense.
Most of us are blissfully unaware that one bargaining chip in the budget ceiling debate was that anyone in graduate school has the privilege of accruing interest on their loans while still studying. But I rest assured that, since the debate was the Republican’s fault, we can say that this anti-education policy was their fault, too.
The big risk is that the “Yes We Can!” marketing campaign deployed so successfully by Obama in 2008 will sag to the heaving sigh of “Yes, I Guess We Could, But Do We Have To?”
As millennials mature, we’re learning that education and jobs and capitalism and presidents and life are presented to us much differently than they are in reality.
That’s a general evolution in the early twenties, granted, but, again, I just don’t see the Republicans appealing to my generation by fervently maintaining the same tired Bushisms of the past and hoping no one notices. Honestly, why are all young adults “liberal?” Because there’s no real conservatism anymore. We’re not old enough to remember any kind of Republican other than Bush. What are we supposed to think?
Like any generation before us, millennials have been defined by a series of landmark events: experiencing 9/11 as a preteen or teen, the colorful and diverse corruption and murderous deceit exposed throughout the Bush administration, the Glenn Beck Show’s fomenting of political paranoia and unimaginable partisanship, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the burgeoning global powers overseas, the advent of the internet, the availability of thought leadership channels like MSNBC, Huffington Post, Fox News, and NewsMax rather than journalism and intelligent, measured debate.
We are 80 million Americans who will be defining politics for decades to come and we’ve grown up in a world where politics has become increasingly harder to define. Whatever it is, it’s apparently not a system of thoughtful leaders seeking compromise for the betterment of all.