The actual big demographic that has the GOP so worried but not talking about isn’t Latinos or Women (notice the capital W) or Minorities (again with a capital)…it’s a way of life demographic that does not fit in with their platform at all. And it’s being ushered in by a group large enough to have their own capital letter—it’s Millennials.
Young people, in a surprisingly swift manner, are decisively doing everything their parents didn’t. They’re shunning cultural and economic traditions to contest what we take to be proper as a culture. They aren’t marrying. They don’t care about having the newest, fanciest car that they can’t afford. They’re in debt up to their ears just to get a four-year college degree. They’ve become the refuseniks of our uber-competitive corporate culture. And hordes of them are opting out of organized religion.
Here’s how Millennials are changing the political science landscape:
Social and Cultural Norms:
Over half of all American women under 30 who give birth are not married…by choice. When adjusted for levels of education and myriad economics, the numbers skew exponentially greater.
There is an assortment of assumed reasons for this trend, from the relative economic independence of educated women to a shift away (almost 60% according the latest U.S. Census) from the cultural ignominy of “out-of-wedlock” parentage to a hidden, subconscious reaction to the divorce of their own parents.
This one transformation alone brings a complex array of challenges. For example, marriage is an underlying foundation of our legal system connected to property, beneficiary and custodial rights and obligations. While cultural standards may have changed, adjusting our legal system to protect unwed mothers and their children lags far behind because the majority of our laws are still being decided by older generations, and an increasingly oligarchic system of politics-of-the-wealthy exacerbated by the ruinous Citizens’ United Supreme Court ruling (talk about your generational divide, only one Supreme Court Justice is younger than 60 years old).
But the change of the marital status norm could also indicate an undoubtedly positive change: the countries of Scandinavia, which follow the Nordic economic model of Capitalism countries, rank among the highest educated in the world with a standard of living well above that of the U.S., and they exhibit the same downward trend for marriage among the millennial generation. Their society has not collapsed, their children are well attended, and by, most discernible standards, they are thriving.
Economics vs Social Values:
The middle-class economy in America, Europe and now Asia, and how it has impacted young people and started cultural movements that shifted the center of balance from economics to social values. According to Pew Research, this change is creating a generation gap of unprecedented proportions between baby boomers and millennials that is only going to expand. It appears to be yet another response to the worst employment prospects for young adults in almost a century thanks to the de-regulations pushed through Congress, signed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and continued by Barack Obama. Many millennials’ parents lost their savings and 401k accumulations due to the economic crash in 2007. And millennials represent a renewal of ardent frontierism, with the New Urban Passage as the 21st-century version of the Wild West. What were once areas of blight are attractive magnets of opportunity for millennials.
The decimation of the middle class and the realization that “trickle-down” was and still is a massive con job perpetrated on baby boomers by conservative propaganda. It was done in order to skew politics away from benefitting the masses for the sake of benefitting the wealthy,it has left the middle class with only two choices; being forced into either the rich or poor segments of society. The result is anti-commercialism. In a once unheard of mass rejection of corporate culture acquiescence, this rejection is showing up in massively unreported significance in the lack of demand in every segment except technology (read: smartphones): shared houses and cars, the explosion of services like Uber, urban farm co-ops, rejection of the “Keeping-up-with-the-Jones” syndrome that was uniformly embraced by their parents, and disdain for “politics-as-usual”. Millennial survival guides proliferate in the form of innumerable blogs that offer advice on how to hack the new world and simply do without the overabundance of material things chased by their parents and focus on a happier, healthier, more environmentally conscious, less-stressful need for “stuff”. It is not lost on millennials that their parents are unhappy no matter how many personal status symbols they accumulate.
And millennials are leading the world in cutting the cord from cable and other formal traditional means of television entertainment, along with the rejection of the commercialization of television “news” to seek out more unbiased and reliable information sources.
In other words, they see the damage being inflicted upon their parents by the morphing of traditional news sources from reliable and honest depictions of in-depth journalism to the wealth-driven “Professional Wrestling” style of news-for-profit. And they resoundingly reject it.
The statistics are eye-popping: the average age for all major broadcast and cable news viewers has gone from the average age of 41 years old in 2005 to age 60 in 2015. For some cable news outlets it’s much worse. The average age of MSNBC and CNN viewers is 60, broadcast news viewers average age 62, and Fox news checks in at a whopping age 68 for the average age of its viewers. Fox is especially skewed despite the emergence of Megyn Kelly as its primary draw for the “younger” old, white people. Not only are Fox News viewers much older, 98.9% of them are white. MSNBC checks in at age 25% minority viewership and CNN at 14% minority
Lastly, Time documented the fact that there is a noticeable shift away from traditional careers in favor of values-centric goals of communal harmony. For example, a much larger percentage of recent college graduates now seek work in the nonprofit sector… on a scale not seen since the 1960s. Attempts by conservative pundits to try and attribute this shift to the dismal job market or the decreasing availability of posh parental support. But this global, inclusive view of millennials suggests a real change in attitudes about what constitutes meaningful work.
According to the Washington Post, 25% of millennials don’t affiliate with a faith-based tradition and 48.7% don’t belong to a church. More so, a Pew Research study suggests that an astonishingly low number of youth believe in the existence of a Supreme Being at all. As religious participation, affiliation, classification, and even belief wane in both post-Christian Europe and the Americas, “freethinking” is now among the fastest-growing affiliations among young adults who have turned anti-faith into its own kind of faith.
What has driven our youth away from their spiritual traditions in record numbers at record speed? A recent report from progressive think tank Center for American Progress suggests, surprise!; a culture gap. The organization characterizes this gap as both a rejection of church dogma regarding same-sex marriage and reproductive rights and a growing determination that unless the politicians who dictate U.S. policy toward science and personal development change they will no longer be able to count on their increasing share of the voting public for support nor their energy for campaigns.
Abuses by clergy and power plays by the bully pulpit may also factor into this divide. Even evangelical magazine Relevant notes that social media-savvy millennials are increasingly rejecting the hierarchy of the church and turning to each other and “non-traditional” sources for spiritual solace and advice. Though they may not be attending traditional services, they might well be creating their own personalized spiritual playlist that more aligns with Reform Judaism that emphasizes that doing what is right, and what is good for themselves and others’ well being is either doing God’s work or God’s work isn’t worth doing at all.
And millennials growing impatience with the effects of the older generations to protect, preserve, and defend the rights of all people, not just the elderly, white or privileged may soon manifest itself in ways that should scare the beejeezus out of traditional conservatives as they are getting dangerously close to having their entire emphasis of governing for the elderly, white, privileged donors and oligarchs will come to a screeching and halt if they decide to say at the voting booths, enough is enough.
Politicians that fail to heed the warning signs of these shifts do so at their own risk.
Harvey A. Gold