Why Geezers Probably Should Not Draw Conclusions From Polls About What the Young Folks Think

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Republican Party

Thomas B. Edsall, who is even older than I am and definitely a geezer, writes that today’s young people might not grow up to be Democrats, after all. That’s because a new Pew Research poll says the young folks are more interested in personal and sexual autonomy than in economic inequality.

Geezer Dude: This is because they are young folks. You could have said the same thing about the Boomers when we were young folks, including the left-wing antiwar ones. Economic issues were not on our radar at all, as I remember. This was partly because the economy had been, on the whole, pretty sweet through most of our lifetimes, and we naively assumed nothing could screw that up. The 1960s- and early 1970s-era New Left was even opposed to labor unions, mostly because unions were run by old white guys who fought integration and badmouthed affirmative action, and partly because we didn’t appreciate what could happen without unions.

Teens and young adults are always primarily concerned about personal and sexual autonomy, because that’s the standard life phase associated with being a teen or young adult. It’s normal. If you’re still struggling with those things when you’re 50, though, that’s a problem.

Teens and young adults also may not yet fully appreciate how screwed up The System is and how everything is skewed to favor the socially and economically privileged. People who are privileged their entire lives often never learn that lesson, of course. They build on familial wealth and connections and consider themselves to be “self-made men” (or women).

Much of the Boomer generation was reasonably well insulated from real hardship in part because of the accumulation of wealth from the end of World War II to 1972, when it all peaked and started to slide backward. And even those of us who missed the economic security boat often were well into middle age before we realized our assumptions were wrong, that we were never going to catch up to where we expected to be, and that economic injustice is terribly and ruthlessly unjust, indeed. If anything, seems to me, the young folks are learning that lesson a whole lot sooner than we did.

In short, I seriously doubt a majority of today’s 20-somethings who aren’t already libertarian randbots will ever embrace some future warmed-over version of Reaganomics. While there is no way to predict where today’s 20-somethings will be when they are 50-somethings, I doubt it will be anywhere today’s Republicans want them to go.

Related: Matt Yglesias asks, How long can the GOP last as the cranky oldster party?

There’s something very oldsterish about contemporary conservative politics. The constant bickering about Ronald Reagan is very odd to anyone too young to have any particular recollection of the Reagan years. Calling a group of people “Beyoncé Voters” as an insult is weird. Some of this oldsterism is just tics, but some of it has policy implications. The sort of budgetary priorities that call for huge cuts in all domestic spending, except no cuts at all for anyone born before 1959 is kind of weird. The huge freakout over New York City starting a bicycle program last summer was bizarre. It’s easy to imagine a political party that’s broadly favorable to low taxes and light regulation without sharing this particular set of tics. And then there was the time George Will wrote a column-length rant against blue jeans.

They do all want to pretend the 1960s either never happened or that they can still be avenged against it (remember the brilliant campaign to get college students to burn their Obamacare cards?). Recently Re. Renee Ellmers (NC-R) actually said,

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that … we need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.

The Congresswoman was born in 1964, Wikipedia says. This is the same year Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 16, 2014 @10:15 am

    I suspect that today’s kids are much more economically aware, than most people my age were – I was born in ’58.
    Back then, you could get a good job with just a HS degree (or, even less, in some cases) buy a new car, support a family, and buy a home.
    Today’s kids are much more goal-oriented than we were.

    He thinks that today’s kids who practically HAVE to go to college, aren’t economically in tune, when they walk out with ten’s of thousands of dollars in debt, and the only jobs are in retail, customer service, or coffee shops?

    He should have looked into the eyes of young adults I trained, recent college graduates, who discovered that the only job their degree could get them, was as a CSR.

    You could see them thinking, “I invested how much, for a job that only pays a couple of bucks above minimum wage, and yet, REQUIRES a college degree?!?! Hey, I did my part! Where’s the ‘American Dream’ I kept hearing about, which was attainable with a college degree.’

    Sorry kids. Bad timing.
    Me too. I don’t suspect I’ll ever find job that will help me to independently support myself, again.
    Not without some Federal Program to aid over 50’s find meaningful work.
    And ditto the kids, who are living with their parents and grandparents.
    Get to work on THAT, Congress!
    LOL!
    And you know THAT ain’t happen’ anytime soon!!!!!

  2. goatherd  •  Jul 16, 2014 @11:26 am

    I sure don’t envy today’s young people. A lot of our friends have kids who are under thirty. A few of them have set out to be world beaters, with fire in their bellies to achieve and start a career. Most of those come from families that will pay for most of their college expenses. Others seem to know that the game is rigged against them. They set their sights lower without the illusion that they going to climb their way to the top. They have ambition and some idea of what they want to do, but their goals are modest, or in other words realistic. They know the world they’ve grown up in. Mostly, they seem to want a simple life with people they care about. They would fit right in with my post college gang. But, we had some luxuries that they don’t have. We had a bit of time and a slightly better economy. (Although I graduated during a recession and very high unemployment.) Also, the political and social atmosphere hadn’t yet absorbed toxic levels Rand, Reagan and fundamentalism. But, that was just around the corner. The young people today have to move faster than their shadows to get ahead. I suppose a lot of them don’t see that as a very enjoyable way to go through life. It didn’t appeal much to me either.

    And yes, I know a few that have opted to live in their parents’ basement.

    One of the many sad things about the quote from Renee Ellmers is that it should enrage women across the spectrum. In her part of North Carolina, it probably won’t.

    I think I am ready for a change of scenery.

  3. moonbat  •  Jul 16, 2014 @1:54 pm

    Sadly, I know a number of younger conservative women who would probably agree with Renee Ellmers.

  4. goatherd  •  Jul 16, 2014 @5:59 pm

    Yes, Moonbat, I watched a lot of young women in my neighborhood grow up. Many of them had a lot of promise. They had sharp minds, honesty, compassion and a will to work. Most got tripped up. I think all that rubbish about women being subservient to their husbands and the many other aspects of our culture, especially southern rural culture, that oppress women got the better of them, some of it was internalized. They would vote for Renee Ellmers, but she’s in another district. We have our own collection of jerks for them to vote for.

    One thing that I’ve seen enough to have a bellyful, is talented, intelligent, compassionate women being held back, limited and abused by jerks. It’s too common and probably universal, although I think some of the Scandinavian countries are way ahead of us.

    It’s enough, to drive a man to drink. Say, that’s not a bad idea. The sun is nearly past the yardarm.



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