The Tea Party Teens

Here is my response to the article The Tea Party Teens by David Brooks:

There presently is not coherent and respectable tea party that could actually win a presidential election. The tea party is more held together by what its members are against rather than for. There are some strong divisions (such as b/t the social libertarians and rightwing fundamentalists) within the tea party that will split it apart once the economic situation stabilizes.

The article points out that the issues of intellectuals are becoming less popular, but history shows that anti-intellectualism always flares up temporarily during politically stressful times. It is a bit disturbing on a personal level because I value intellectuality and intelligence in general.  It makes sense though.  When people feel afraid and uncertain, they look to group norms and shared opinions.  Intellectuality, on the other hand, is about thinking for yourself.  People are more likely to think for themselves when they’re not worried about everyday issues such as unemployment, unpaid bills, and home foreclosures.

So where are political trends leading.  It would help to look at it in terms of generations.

Let me start with views of the youngest generation on social issues.  Specifically I’ll focus on the most divisive of issues: abortion.  In general, 18-29 yr olds of any generation tend to be less supportive of abortion rights than the general adult population. There is no reason to assume this won’t be equally as true for GenY as it was for past generations.  However, there are some differences between older and younger GenY.  Older GenYs are extremely liberal and progressive on all issues and younger GenYs are a bit more conservative on social issues, but overall GenY is the most liberal of any generation.

GenY is the largest generation and so they sway public opinion polls, but it’s difficult to infer what this means for future politics.   Polls in the past have shown that a majority of GenY are pro-choice, but this generation is still forming their opinions and so this could change.

Another thing to keep in mind is that GenY is strongly averse to politically divisive issues. Even if younger GenY teens are more socially conservative, it doesn’t mean they’ll be supportive of government enforcing bans on abortions. Younger GenY may be more pro-life, but they’re less pro-life than the 65+ demographic which would seem to imply a general shift of increasing liberalism on the issue.  I definitely wouldn’t look to GenY to carry on the combative style of the Boomers in the political arena.  Strauss and Howe theorize that we’re coming into a period of cooperation and so the prediction is that issues such as abortion will lose their power as wedge issues.

Plus, polls have consistently shown that Americans in general are against total abortion bans and think abortion should be allowed in some situations.  Being pro-life as a personal belief is way different than being anti-abortion as a complete ban enforced by the federal government.

There has been only one recent poll that has shown an increase in those who identify as pro-life. But a single poll, just like a single set of research data, doesn’t prove anything.  Such a poll, for the time being, can only be seen as a fluke, but possibly it is evidence of something.  Only further polls over the next several years can demonstrate if there is a trend.

As for the Tea Party in general, I’ve seen data that shows the Bush administration has caused independents to increasingly lean towards the liberal. Another thing that is interesting is that GenX is the most Republican of any generation right now and yet GenX is very socially liberal. The political map of the next few decades is going to be very different. 

One further point is that younger generations are less open to mixing religion and politics.  I think that is extremely important for the Tea Party movement.  The personas who have dominated the Tea Party are the religious right figures such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, but many people in the Tea Party aren’t followers of the religious right.  If the Tea Party is to survive as a longterm movement it will have to become less stridently focused on religious values.  Instead, the Tea Party should align itself fully with the Libertarian movement including the liberal Libertarians.  Then maybe it could be a force to be reckoned with.

Civic GenX

Here is an interesting article about GenXers.

More Than Zero by Pete Peterson

Two things caught my attention:

(1) GenXers are the least trusting of non-local government, but also identify as more conservative.  So, this would seem to imply GenXers are attracted to politicial ideologies such as libertarianism.

(2) GenXers are very civic-minded.  On the local level, GenXers are very involved in volunteering and donating.  This is interesting because GenXers are prone to a sense of being disenfranchized from the political system and aren’t well represented by politicians.  So, this would seem to imply that GenXers prefer their politics on the level of personal direct action and so bypass traditional paths of influence.

Wanted: Visionary for a Cynical World

This post is just about what is on my mind at the moment.

First off, I recently ordered two books that I’ve been excited about.  Quentin S. Crisp’s fiction book Shrike just came today.  I’ve only read a few of his stories, but I enjoyed them.  Also, even though I read many blogs, his is the only blog I regularly follow.  He has an interesting take on life and is an imaginative writer.  The other book I ordered is Carl Jung’s Red Book which is now being published for the first time.  It was a private journal that he kept during a difficult period extending many years.  If you’re a fan of Jung, this is a must read.

New books always make me happy and I can always use some extra happiness.  Recently, I’ve been in a bad mood for various reasons.  The most overt reason is that I’ve been listening to the news and the news is so very depressing.  I probably should ignore the news, but I seem to be a masochist.

In a perverse way, I was happy to see the CIA get nailed for one of it’s covert activities.  The CIA, of course, is always doing something evil somewhere in the world, but it rarely gets caught and when caught rarely gets into the news.  This covert operation involved kidnapping in a foreign country and extraordinary rendition where a person was tortured horrendously.  The reason I’m happy is because a foreign government decided to hold America’s government up to a moral standard that Americans should expect of their own government.  I’m not a fan of evil secret agencies such as the CIA and I’m not a fan of those who are the strongest supporters of this kind of evil such as the evangelical Christians (who are the biggest supporters of torture in the US).  May these CIA agents end up in torture prisons themselves and may these evangelical Christians end up in the hell they like to fantasize about.

I was watching Alex Jones documentary Terrorstorm.  It’s conspiracy theorizing, but it’s intelligent conspiracy theorizing based in actual facts that you can research if you’re one of those people who prefers not to dwell in complacent ignorance.  Agree or disagree about Jones overall view, the examples he brings up are in the public record.  You may dismiss them as isolated events or you may see a repeating pattern, but either way I think it’s important to know about such things.

I wrote about this a while back detailing the entire dark history of the 20th century US government and let me tell you it was a long post.  Jones covers some of the same things that I wrote about.  As I said, it’s all in the public record for anyone to research for themselves, but sadly few people choose being informed over being ignorant.  I wish I understood the attraction of ignorance.  Between government agencies and megacorporations, there are endless examples of oppression and the cynic that I am I simply accept that there are immoral people who enjoy oppressing others.  What I don’t get is why most of the world’s population wants to be oppressed.  There are people walking free who have commited various crimes against humanity and most people don’t seem to care.  Why?  Is it just ignorance?  Or is it fear?  Or even do people believe they deserve to be oppressed?

Every day, the goverment and media feeds the public lies and propaganda.  In the industrialized West, we like to think we’re free and yet we live in a fantasyland detached from reality.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then read the writings or documentaries by people like Noam Chomsky.

It makes me wonder what a visionary like Jung would think about these dark times we live in.  He saw the social climate shift as Europe descended into WWII and he had great fear of the evil that can be accomplished when people become organized.  But he also had faith in the individual and as an individual he has had great positive influence on the modern world.  There are plenty of doomsayers (whether intelligent like Alex Jones or idiotic like Glenn Beck), but where are the visionaries?

The ugliness of politics has become so blatantly obvious in the past half century that I think most people have become too cynical.  These dark times will pass, but it’s hard to see beyond them.  In the next couple of decades, the world is going to transform so dramatically that the outcome can’t be predicted.

About cynicism, I grew up in the cynical mood of Generation X.  My generation is much more realistic and informed than previous generations.  We grew up with more information available to us and we learned young not to trust authorities, not to trust single sources of information.  When I look at older generations, they seem very naive and trusting of the government and of authority figures.  Older generations grew up when there was certain authority figures everyone trusted such as Walter Cronkite, grew up before all the corruption came out about various presidencies such as Nixon and government agencies such as the CIA, grew up before the assasinations and COINTELPRO that destroyed the civil rights movement, grew up before the loss of America’s moral highground.  My generation, on the other hand, was bottle-fed on dark visions of post-apocalyptic America and dark visions of demonic children.

Now, my generation is coming to power.  Obama is technically a GenXer according to certain definitions, but he is on the very oldest end of GenX and some categorize him as different generation entirely.  Also, Obama grew up abroad and so doesn’t have the same experience that most US GenXers had growing up.  But he does represent the change that is happening.  He is a different kind of president than we’ve seen before.  He is the first president, for example, who has successfully used the internet in his presidential campaign.  Even so, there are more ways he is similar to than different from the neocon presidents of the last several decades.  He has so far done very little to distinguish himself from Bush jr.  More so than Obama, I’m looking to the GenXers outside of politics.  Will the innovativeness of GenXers actually pull us through this divisive time?

I don’t feel hopeful.  Glenn Beck is also representative of this new generation as he was born 3 yrs after Obama.  Both Obama and Beck know how to use the new media to influence the public.  Sadly, though, Beck’s cynicism is more in line with GenX than is Obama’s hope.  Who made a drunken clown like Beck into the mainstream voice of GenX’s cynicism.  I feel deeply ashamed that he represents my generation in any way.  I suppose the true visionaries of our time are people like David Foster Wallace who recently killed himself.  I could maybe try to nominate Quentin S. Crisp as the new visionary of GenX, but I doubt he’d want the job.

G.I.s and Millennials

In the theory of Strauss and Howe, the Millennial generation is the same archetype in the cycle as were the G.I. generation.

They are supposedly similar in that they’re both optimistic and civic-oriented generations, and similar in that they both have high expectations of society and themselves. The other similarity is that they both dealt with a major war (started by an attack on American soil) and financial crisis early in their lives.

However, the world is very different now. For the G.I.s, the Depression came before the war and so they returned to a country that was better off than when they left. The G.I.s were given tons of opportunities by society: cheap education, cheap housing, plentiful job openings, high wages, etc. Society actually lived up to their high expectations. Quite differently, the Millennials are fighting a war that can’t be won and they’re not treated as heroes on their return. What they get offered is expensive education, expensive housing, fewer job openings, and lower wages. To say the least, society isn’t living up to their high expectations.

Twenge claim that the Millennials are narcissistic and unrealistically demanding. As I see it, they may or may not be narcissistic in some ways, but certainly not in others. They are actually a very group-oriented generation, not that narcissism can’t include a focus on others because research has shown that it can. Strauss and Howe have written that Twenge was only looking at research that used self-reports. As such, Millennials speak in terms that sound narcissistic, but that is because they’re simply parroting back what they were taught by Boomers. However, Strauss and Howe claim that other evidence shows that their actual behavior is the opposite of narcissistic. For example, they volunteer more than the generations that came right before them.

Anyways, my point is that they’re no more narcissistic than the Great Generation of the G.I.s. The G.I.s were just as demanding of society and just as much wanted a good life right away. The G.I.s came back from the war and they felt they deserved a good life and not that they had to “earn” it. They wanted a good job, a nice house, and a perfect family; and they wanted it immediately. They got what they wanted, but we blame Millennials for the same expectation. The Millennials have also fought for America’s freedom. Why don’t they also deserve the good life that the G.I.s received? Why don’t they deserve to be treated as heroes for all of their sacrifices? Why do many people glorify the G.I.s who represent our past all the while criticizing the Millennials that represent our future?

According to the theory, Millennials have the potential to become another Great Generation. The Boomers, for good or ill, have dominated society for the last half century. When we speak of the present American culture we are speaking of Boomer culture. Boomers are at the start of the cycle. They disturbed the previous order and jumpstarted the digital age, but they’ve also been a brake on continued progress. They haven’t embraced technology and instead they’ve become known for their Neo-conservativism as represented by Bush Jr.

Interestingly, the G.I. generation is known for its many great presidents. But, despite their size, Boomers have had only two presidents (neither of which will probably be remembered as great… certainly not as inspiring speakers) before the smaller in number Gen Xers managed to get a president in. That is even more interesting because Boomers are known for their dominance of mainstream culture and Gen Xers have mostly played a lesser role in the background.

The generations following have been very different from the Boomers Neo-conservativism,. Gen Xers (because of?) their alternative tendencies and certainly because of their small numbers have been more conservative (in the traditional Libertarian sense). Millennials are supposedly more Progressive. As the theory goes, we are hitting the crises point of the Fourth Turning. Gen Xers role is to be the realist leaders that guide the civic-minded Millennials, and thus create a new social order. However, credit must really be given to the Millennials because it will only be their numbers that can counteract the numbers of the Boomers (and other previous generations).

Not to put the Boomers down, but I think America is ready for some real change. I know I’m excited to see where the world will go. Strauss and Howe predicted that if the Silent generation (the one following the G.I. generation) McCain was elected it would slow down the change that is happening and if the Gen Xer Obama was elected it would speed it up. They’ve been right about their predictions of the last couple of decades (e.g. school dress codes and school security in the ’90s, and major crises in the first decade of the new century) and so I hope they’re right about this one. However, they also predict that the following 20 years will be challenging and I wouldn’t mind them being wrong about that.

As a cynical Gen Xer, I’m not always the most optimistic about society. Gen Xers grew up as latchkey kids and because of this have some issues with abandonment and need for security. Gen Xers are actually more stable and family-oriented than the Boomers who had lives that revolved around their careers.

So, I’m cynical about the groupthink conformity of Millennials and their bland mainstream pop culture. I do fear that since they’ve grown up in schools that resemble something out of a police state that they might go too far in their acceptance of letting their civic rights be taken away for “the greater good”. To them, walking through metal detectors and having cameras watch them is normal. They’re used to having no privacy and so they don’t value it.

On the other hand, they have the potential of creating social institutions that actually benefit society as a whole. They will revolutionize society and I look forward in particular to the massive technological shift that will most likely happen in the near future. The world they will create will be a very connected culture. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more change in the next few decades than we’ve seen in a century or two.