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New Times / Commentary

The following article was posted on May 8th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 41

Why the Millennials don't like us

And probably never will

BY ADAM HILL

And so another study tells us that the younger-than-30 demo is turned off, tuned out, and unlikely to be engaged by politics, unlikely to click on CSPAN and see little more than a failing reality show, unlikely any time soon to invest any more hope in hope.

All the usual headlines got trotted out. The ones about cynicism, partisan poison, a lost generation who can DVR their way out of what passes for the political process of elections. Sure, there are up sides. The involvement in various forms of community service, the open-minded opinions on social issues.

But when the Millennials glance or gape at the nation’s political leaders and institutions, here is what they see: the craven and servile, the invincibly stupid, panderers, clowns, dog-whistlers, and perverts, all of them polluters of the public airwaves.

Locally—and now I am extrapolating—they can, if they cared, see the same thing.

Q: Would you rather eat a dish of death-flavored sherbet or spend an hour with a small city mayor?

A: Can I get college credit for the sherbet thing?

Q: Do you trust your non-partisan elected officials to always consider the common good?

A: I trust my cat to maim a bird; I trust my mama to be sad about the bird when I send her the YouTube.

What I am suggesting is that many of the ills infecting the national body politic have metastasized, right down to the local marrow, and with it comes the twitchy public nausea derived from a dearth of critical thinking, candor, and courage.

Why would a 26-year-old, laden with massive student debt and losing health insurance, trust a middle-aged politician possessing the moral certainty of a teenager, or get excited by the little low heavens of less regulation?

Sure, you can still find clusters of politically engaged kids—the ones who want to save the world by banning plastic bags (my faves), the ones who steadfastly refuse to remove their Ron Paul for President bumper stickers (Rand is not cutting it yet), the ones who post pics from legalize marijuana rallies on their Facebook pages (beware job seekers!). These are the outliers, and I am not sure we can trust them.

Is there any hope for the hopeless? Any way to mitigate the hardening cynicism and disaffection of the youngest generation of fitful voters?

As a politician, I’d like to believe so, but as a former educator and continuing participant/observer of the bad hostage dramas known as public meetings, I am less optimistic.

The system everywhere is broken, broken by cash cudgels of special interests, the demented vanity of those who ride along on the ridges of no control, and the instant gratification of pleasing those who already agree with you. Politics has become a zero sum game with the winners often gaining something of so little recognizable significance that the losers can’t be blamed for not wanting to play anymore.

If there is hope to found among the Millennials—and I do find it when I can—it is in their untainted enthusiasm for innovation, for the new and always improving. Now if we could somehow inject that same spirit into the body politic, if we could somehow transform all our elected and appointed knowers into learners, then, maybe, a true connection from the present to the future could be created.

 

Adam Hill represents the 3rd District on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. The study cited can be found at iop.harvard.edu/institute-politics-spring-2013-poll. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.