Young vs Old: Will Republicans Turn Class Warfare into Generational Warfare in the 2012 Election?
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Marche’s piece is a particularly vivid attempt to turn the class war into a generational war. Just take this passage:
This bleeding up of the national wealth is no accounting glitch, no anomalous negative bounce from the recent unemployment and mortgage crises, but rather the predictable outcome of thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.
Substitute “wealthy” for “old” and “middle and working classes” for young, and you’ve got what really happened. Republicans have a huge incentive for people to get it wrong. The funniest rebuttal to Marche’s dumb piece came from Connor Fitzpatrick writing in The eXiled — funniest because Fitzpatrick actually wrote a similar anti-boomer diatribe but from the left.
I hate to say it because after all Boomer-hatin’ really is fun and slightly cheerier than regular down-in-the-mouth anti-capitalism, but Marche’s “The War Against Youth” validates every hostility the no-bullshit Left holds towards anything that smacks of generational politics. And it shows you just why you gotta be careful before you take aim at the gray-hairs…
As much fun as it is to kick around the Boomers, we gotta move past it. Generational politics is a dead-end. Fuck it, someone slap the shit out of me if I ever say the word “Millennial’ after this. Because once we’ve set up this economic collapse as nothing more than generational warfare, we’re already lost–we’ve created a narrative which the wealthy can easily co-opt and spin for their own fiendish ends.
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I’m thinking about the old-young dynamic a lot at least partly because my daughter graduates from college this month – and she’s part of the lucky minority who has a job, a modestly paid, socially important, true-to-her-values job that makes me prouder of her than of anything I’ve done myself, to be honest. I talk it; she walks it. But I think most people are like me – they have kids or nieces or nephews or grandchildren that mean more to them than anything else, and they are not interested in supporting social policy that beggars the younger generation to keep themselves comfortable. I think most “kids” are like my daughter – they don’t support efforts to make life worse for their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles. Ross Douthat’s assertion that “brown and beige” kids won’t want to support majority-white seniors ignored the fact that their own “brown and beige” parents will likewise rely on Social Security and Medicare. Plus, there’s evidence that the younger generation, of every race, is less susceptible to racial-resentment appeals than their elders, anyway.
Of course, the party that’s determined to cut Social Security and Medicare is even more determined to slash programs for young people. To avoid the automatic defense cuts promised by the debt-ceiling deal last August, the House budget cuts Pell Grants and child nutrition programs, even the refundable child tax credit, for God’s sake. Mitt (“borrow college tuition from your parents”) Romney is probably not the best standard-bearer for a Republican Party that wants to win the youth vote, anyway.
So Obama is likely to win this false battle. The young become old; the old for the most part have young people they love; the tribalism that’s divided us racially and ethnically probably can’t work this way; we’re genetically programmed to reject it.
But the Democrats have to do more to earn the youth vote than keep the interest rate on one category of student loan from doubling. Social Security and Medicare will be strained by retiring boomers, but they’re going to be even more threatened by a labor market that’s producing too many low-wage jobs and leaving out young people. I trust young people to realize we’re all in this together; I’m hoping more of the “keep the government out of my Medicare” crowd wakes up to that reality, before it’s too late for all of us.