Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trying to Unravel the Future

As a "Babyboomer" (1946 to 1964), I've always been interested in the impact of groups on trends and politics. I suppose it's because of how the two waves of 'boomers have behaved politically down through the decades. As it is well known, the earliest segment of the wave was the "Beatniks" from the late 1950's and early 1960's (think "Maynard Krebs" for the TV series "The Many Love of Dobie Gillis") which melded into the Flower Children and Hippies of the mid to late 1960's and to the Yippies of early 1970's. The second wave of 'boomers were more militant and aggressive that their immediate predecessors.

Of interest too is that the Beatnik and first wave Babyboomers were mostly liberal (free love, drugs, reading poetry, folk music, etc). They came to support John F. Kennedy, and later, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The second wave of 'boomer kids (1956-1954) were more the protestors, antiwar activists, Watergate, acid rock which eventually bled into the disco era (for which we eternally apologize). Peace, love, drugs, contemplation, and rock 'n' roll became drugs, sex, and dance, glam, and polyester (no wonder we ended up with the punk and grunge rock of their GenX children). However, this second wave, interestingly, became more conservative. In their adulthood, they would largely support Reagan while some would go on to support Bill Clinton. Now, we're starting to feel the effects of the next big wave, the Millennials. Maynard's Beatniks became Hippies who changed into Yippies which eventually morphed into Yuppies.

I've always been intrigued by the Millennials (ages 19 to 34). They are the largest cohort since the Babyboomers. In fact, they are actually larger in terms of sheer numbers than the Babyboomers, though as a group, much less financially well off (they are the most debt ridden generation in our history, mostly due to college debt). While the Flower Power generation seemed to inherit much from their Flapper Era grandparents, the Millennials seem to be mimicking some of their Hippie grandparents. How this will pan out over time is anyone's guess, but how they are currently trending certainly bears some consideration.

Most Millennials are very anti-government, at least in its present form. As a group, they support a big government, which they believe is more capable of solving some of society's ills than a smaller decentralized government. They distain both political parties for being corrupt, inept and in the pockets of the same corporate interests (true enough). However, they are very team and issue oriented. If there's a particular project which they're interested in, they can be counted on creating an ad hoc groups of friends and likeminded individuals to go out and deal with it. That being said, Millennials are what can be accurately described as the first truly digitalized generation. They were born into a world where laptops, cells phones, the internet, and, well, pretty all social media is as natural as TV was to the 'boomers. Without question, Millennials are the most technologically connected generation, and like their grandparents, not afraid to show their militant side, especially if it can be combined with technology.

The recent revolutions in the Middle East were instigated primarily by Millennials using Twitter, Facebook, and other e-platforms. This was supported globally by other, again mainly, Millennials who made use of their social media connections and a rather advanced use of available technology to get around attempts by various governments to stifle communication with the outside world. In the US, we got a taste of their capability with the Occupy Movement which petered out due to a lack of leadership and direction. While researching this, I was struck with an interesting thought---how and where do Millennials get most of the news? There had to some sort of commonality in order for them to have been so successful with the political uprisings.

It turns out that Millennials get most of their news (not surprisingly) through social media---68%---with the majority of it coming from Facebook, followed Twitter, YouTube, and political blogs (only 55% comes from TV and 33% from newspapers). In additional, Millennials also seem to be more open minded (or untrusting) in that they routinely check out opposing positions on issues in order to arrive at something approaching what they consider to be the truth. To put it another way, Millennials aren't blind followers. They don't follow just one ideological perspective, but seek a balanced approached to their news gathering and information (and they are also most likely to check sources).

As a group, Millennials are the most diverse of all the generational groups. While the Babyboomers are mostly White and came from middle class families, Millennials are a mixed bag racially (43% are non-white) with large numbers of blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. Overall, most come from middle to lower income families (they are also the least religiously affiliated generation ever and most likely to delay marriage). Most are college educated, yet overwhelmingly debt ridden and it's not uncommon for many to move back home and/or to be underemployed. Politically, the majority of Millennials are left of center; actually, far left of center; the majority are registered as Independents (just over 50%), which is the single largest political group in the US and is expected to soon surpassed Democrats and Republicans combined. Politically, most regard themselves as "socialist leaning" while a significant number are libertarian. So, on the ideological map, Millennials are mostly Left Libertarians.

As stated previously, Millennials don't support either political party (though they did support Obama by large numbers in his first presidential bid, and in significantly few numbers in his re-election). While they will vote for Democrats, very few vote Republicans (and among those who have or who consider themselves Republican. they remain overwhelmingly liberal on social issues which continues to put the GOP generationally out of touch). I fully expect this to be the generation to first election an independent or third party candidate to president. Who knows, given the sustained and dismal ratings of Congress (irrespective of party), I wouldn't be the least surprised to see Millennials electing indies and third party candidates despite a rigged system. But on the other hand, given their socialist leaning majority and contempt for the political structure, I could see them simply kicking the rotten door of the Washington Establishment down and starting over; something their more radical grandparents would applaud.

So, what can we expect? Well, I guess that all depends on your perspective. Neither political party have exactly of comfortable future, especially the Republicans. The GOP ranks a distant last when it comes to voter preference among Millennials. Democrats are more of a "hold your nose" first choice. However, the further Left the better. Their preference is, of course, independents. In the near term, I wouldn't be too surprised to see Republicans become a regionalized political party with a near absence from the national scene (especially if we consider that Hispanics, while not a political force as of yet since even those here legally aren't registered to vote. Nevertheless, Hispanics and Asians, another growing demographic, lean Left, could spell the end of GOP unless they totally overhaul their position on social issues). Democrats are seen as largely inept and corrupt and not ideologically equipped when it comes to economics and financial issues.

Millennials want a socially liberal party and one that's support of bridging the income gulf, term limits, real campaign finance reform (including overturning Citizens United), ending gerrymandering, and encouraging entrepreneurism. Of course, doing something about debt reform, the environment, a tax code overhaul, and social security are on the list too. I suspect that when they do come fully into their own, their collective wrath on those perceived to have mismanaged their future will be terrible. Then again, like every generation which has preceded it, mistakes will be made and until we can reign in human nature and can curtail greedy and the quest for power over others, we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over with ever greater consequences.

68% of Millennials Get Their News From Social Media

Pew Research: Millennials in Adulthood

Thoughts on Liberty

Millennials can really shake of the political and policy world

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