The Consequences of Growing Up During the Vacation from History
Michael Barone observes that George Bush has done a poor job of selling the Republican party–and by extension, conservatism–to the under-30 crowd. For instance, Barone writes, “when Bush’s call for [reforming Social Security] was opposed by Democrats, the response of young voters seemed to be, ‘Whatever.'” Barone explains why:
My sense when I look at what young voters tell pollsters is that they assume that everything is going to be just fine if things roll along pretty much as they are. They have grown up in an era, lasting nearly 25 years now, when we’ve had low inflation coupled with economic growth 95 percent of the time. They may grouse about gas prices or paying off college loans, but they’re able to get jobs that mostly pay pretty well and often are more interesting and less backbreaking than the vaunted factory jobs of the past.
They have grown up in an era when personal choices that were stigmatized as immoral not so long ago are accepted and even respected. You can live with your girlfriend or boyfriend before you get married; you can be gay — nobody is going to give you a very hard time…
The one issue on which young people seem dissatisfied with things as they are is the military conflict in Iraq — that would be with the exception of most of the young people who have served there and who are re-enlisting at higher than projected rates. The attitude of those without military ties seems to be: If we just get out of Iraq, if we just get rid of George Bush, then everything will be all right. We won’t see suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices on our television screens; we won’t see mass demonstrations by Europeans and Muslims against us; we won’t have all this controversy and bitterness in our partisan politics.
Today’s 21-year-old was 3 when the Berlin Wall came down; his or her parents were born well after World War II. Unlike people who lived through the experience of 1914-1918 or 1939-1945, they have no reason to draw the conclusion that everything can — and sometimes does — go terribly wrong.
Yet, the younger generation aren’t necessarily to blame for having a skewed perspective of what is “normal.” They grew up during a decade of peace and prosperity. Perhaps, in a way, it’s akin to those who look back to the post-WWII 1950’s longingly. During both the 1990’s and the 1950’s, America was basking in the glow of international triumph and a surging economy. But in the background, the seeds of a new conflict were sown and began to grow. Many adults didn’t see the new threat on the horizon–or didn’t take it seriously enough. Heck, many still don’t. So how can we be surprised when many of our youth don’t either?