Will Disillusioned Millennials Bring an End to the Reagan-Clinton Era?

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This post first appeared in The Daily Beast.


Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg’s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio smiles during a rally in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio smiles during a rally in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. De Blasio, who has been the most vocally anti-Bloomberg of the major candidates, emerged from Tuesday's primary election as the Democratic front-runner. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

To understand why that challenge may prove so destabilizing, start with this core truth: For the past two decades, American politics has been largely a contest between Reaganism and Clintonism. In 1981, Ronald Reagan shattered decades of New Deal consensus by seeking to radically scale back government’s role in the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton brought the Democrats back to power by accepting that they must live in the world Reagan had made. Located somewhere between Reagan’s anti-government conservatism and the pro-government liberalism that preceded it, Clinton articulated an ideological “third way”: Inclined toward market solutions, not government bureaucracy, focused on economic growth, not economic redistribution, and dedicated to equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was lower than it had been when Reagan left office.

For a time, small flocks of pre-Reagan Republicans and pre-Clinton Democrats endured, unaware that their species were marked for extinction. Hard as they tried, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole could never muster much rage against the welfare state. Ted Kennedy never understood why Democrats should declare the era of big government over. But over time, the older generation in both parties passed from the scene and the younger politicians who took their place could scarcely conceive of a Republican Party that did not bear Reagan’s stamp or a Democratic Party that did not bear Clinton’s. These Republican children of Reagan and Democratic children of Clinton comprise America’s reigning political generation.

President Bill Clinton speaks at the Enough Is Enough: Forum With The President, sponsored by MTV, April 19, 1994, in Washington.

President Bill Clinton speaks at the Enough Is Enough: Forum With The President, sponsored by MTV, April 19, 1994, in Washington. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

By “political generation,” I mean something particular. Pollsters slice Americans into generations at roughly 20-year intervals: Baby Boomers (born mid-1940s to mid-1960s); Generation X (mid-1960s to early 1980s); Millennials (early 1980s to 2000). But politically, these distinctions are arbitrary. To understand what constitutes a political generation, it makes more sense to follow the definition laid out by the early-20th-century sociologist Karl Mannheim. For Mannheim, generations were born from historical disruption. As he argued — and later scholars have confirmed — people are disproportionately influenced by events that occur between their late teens and mid-twenties. During that period — between the time they leave their parents’ home and the time they create a stable home of their own — individuals are most prone to change cities, religions, political parties, brands of toothpaste. After that, lifestyles and attitudes calcify. For Mannheim, what defined a generation was the particular slice of history people experienced during those plastic years. A generation had no set length. A new one could emerge “every year, every thirty, every hundred.” What mattered was whether the events people experienced while at their most malleable were sufficiently different from those experienced by people older or younger than themselves.

Mannheim didn’t believe that everyone who experienced the same formative events would interpret them the same way. Germans who came of age in the early 1800s, he argued, were shaped by the Napoleonic wars. Some responded by becoming romantic-conservatives, others by becoming liberal-rationalists. What they shared was a distinct generational experience, which became the basis for a distinct intra-generational argument.

If Mannheim’s Germans constituted a political generation because in their plastic years they experienced the Napoleonic Wars, the men and women who today dominate American politics constitute a political generation because during their plastic years they experienced some part of the Reagan-Clinton era. That era lasted a long time. If you are in your late 50s, you are probably too young to remember the high tide of Kennedy-Johnson big government liberalism. You came of age during its collapse, a collapse that culminated with the defeat of Jimmy Carter. Then you watched Reagan rewrite America’s political rules. If you are in your early 40s, you may have caught the tail end of Reagan. But even if you didn’t, you were shaped by Clinton, who maneuvered within the constraints Reagan had built. To pollsters, a late 50-something is a Baby Boomer and an early 40-something is a Gen-Xer. But in Mannheim’s terms, they constitute a single generation because no great disruption in American politics divides them. They came of age as Reagan defined a new political era and Clinton ratified it. And as a rule, they play out their political struggles between the ideological poles that Reagan and Clinton set out.

The nationally visible Democrats rising behind Obama generally share his pro-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic, Reaganized liberalism.
To understand how this plays out in practice, look at the rising, younger politicians in both parties. Start with the GOP. If you look at the political biographies of nationally prominent 40-something Republicans — Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz — what they all have in common is Reagan. Jindal has said about growing up in Louisiana, “I grew up in a time when there weren’t a whole lot of Republicans in this state. But I identified with President Reagan.” At age 17, Scott Walker was chosen to represent his home state of Colorado in a Boys Nation trip to Washington. There he met “his hero, Ronald Reagan,” who “played a big role in inspiring me.” At age 21, Paul Ryan interned for Robert Kasten, who had ridden into the Senate in 1980 on Reagan’s coattails. Two years later he took a job with Jack Kemp, whose 1981 Kemp-Roth tax cut had helped usher in Reaganomics. Growing up in a fiercely anti-communist Cuban exile family in Miami, Marco Rubio writes in his autobiography that “Reagan’s election and my grandfather’s allegiance to him were defining influences on me politically.” Ted Cruz is most explicit of all. “I was 10 when Reagan became president,” he told a conservative group earlier this year. “I was 18 when he left the White House … I’ll go to my grave with Ronald Wilson Reagan defining what it means to be president … and when I look at this new generation of [Republican] leaders I see leaders that are all echoing Reagan.”

Younger Democratic politicians are less worshipful of Clinton. Yet his influence on their worldview is no less profound. Start with the most famous, still-youngish Democrat, a man who although a decade older than Rubio, Jindal and Cruz, hails from the same Reagan-Clinton generation: Barack Obama. Because he opposed the Iraq War, and sometimes critiqued the Clintons as too cautious when running against Hillary in 2008, some commentators depicted Obama’s victory as a rejection of Clintonism. But to read The Audacity of Hope — Obama’s most detailed exposition of his political outlook — is to be reminded how much of a Clintonian Obama actually is. At Clintonism’s core was the conviction that to revive their party, Democrats must first acknowledge what Reagan got right.

Obama, in describing his own political evolution, does that again and again: “as disturbed as I might have been by Ronald Reagan’s election … I understood his appeal” (page 31). “Reagan’s central insight … contained a good deal of truth” (page 157). “In arguments with some of my friends on the left, I would find myself in the curious position of defending aspects of Reagan’s worldview” (page 289). Having given Reagan his due, Obama then sketches out a worldview in between the Reaganite right and unreconstructed, pre-Reagan left. “The explanations of both the right and the left have become mirror images of each other” (page 24), he declares in a chapter in which he derides “either/or thinking” (page 40). “It was Bill Clinton’s singular contribution that he tried to transcend this ideological deadlock” (page 34). Had the term not already been taken, Obama might well have called his intermediary path the “third way.”

By pre-Reagan standards, the economic debate is taking place on the conservative side of the field. But — and this is the key point – there’s reason to believe that America’s next political generation will challenge those limits in ways that cause the leaders of both parties fits.
The nationally visible Democrats rising behind Obama generally share his pro-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic, Reaganized liberalism. The most prominent is 43-year-old Cory Booker, who is famously close to Wall Street and supports introducing market competition into education via government-funded vouchers for private schools. In the words of New York magazine, “Booker is essentially a Clinton Democrat.” Gavin Newsom, the 45-year-old lieutenant governor of California, has embraced Silicon Valley in the same way Booker has embraced Wall Street. His book, Citizenville, calls for Americans to “reinvent government,” a phrase cribbed from Al Gore’s effort to strip away government bureaucracy in the 1990s. “In the private sector,” he told Time, “leaders are willing to take risks and find innovative solutions. In the public sector, politicians are risk-averse.” Julian Castro, the 39-year-old mayor of San Antonio and 2012 Democratic convention keynote speaker, is a fiscal conservative who supports NAFTA.

The argument between the children of Reagan and the children of Clinton is fierce, but ideologically, it tilts toward the right. Even after the financial crisis, the Clinton Democrats who lead their party don’t want to nationalize the banks, institute a single-payer health-care system, raise the top tax rate back to its pre-Reagan high, stop negotiating free-trade deals, launch a war on poverty, or appoint labor leaders rather than Wall Streeters to top economic posts. They want to regulate capitalism modestly. Their Reaganite Republican adversaries, by contrast, want to deregulate it radically. By pre-Reagan standards, the economic debate is taking place on the conservative side of the field. But — and this is the key point–there’s reason to believe that America’s next political generation will challenge those limits in ways that cause the leaders of both parties fits.

America’s youngest adults are called “Millennials” because the 21st century was dawning as they entered their plastic years. Coming of age in the 21st century is of no inherent political significance. But this calendric shift has coincided with a genuine historical disruption. Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous. This experience has not produced a common generational outlook. No such thing ever exists. But it is producing a distinct intragenerational argument, one that does not respect the ideological boundaries to which Americans have become accustomed. The Millennials are unlikely to play out their political conflicts between the yard lines Reagan and Clinton set out.

In 2001, just as the first Millennials were entering the workforce, the United States fell into recession. By 2007 the unemployment rate had still not returned to its pre-recession level. Then the financial crisis hit. By 2012, data showed how economically bleak the Millennials’ first decade of adulthood had been. Between 1989 and 2000, when younger members of the Reagan-Clinton generation were entering the job market, inflation-adjusted wages for recent college graduates rose almost 11 percent, and wages for recent high school graduates rose 12 percent. Between 2000 and 2012, it was the reverse. Inflation-adjusted wages dropped 13 percent among recent high school graduates and 8 percent among recent graduates of college.

But it was worse than that. If Millennials were victims of a 21st-century downward slide in wages, they were also victims of a longer-term downward slide in benefits. The percentage of recent college graduates with employer-provided health care, for instance, dropped by half between 1989 and 2011.

The Great Recession hurt older Americans, too. But because they were more likely to already have secured some foothold in the job market, they were more cushioned from the blow. By 2009, the net worth of households headed by someone over 65 was 47 times the net worth of households headed by someone under 35, almost five times the margin that existed in 1984.

Right-wing populism generally requires rousing white, Christian, straight, native-born Americans against Americans who are not all those things. But among Millennials, there are fewer white, Christian non-immigrants to rouse. Forty percent of Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities. Less than half say religion is “very important” to their lives.

One reason is that in addition to coming of age in a terrible economy, Millennials have come of age at a time when the government safety net is far more threadbare for the young than for the middle-aged and old. As the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out, younger Americans are less likely than their elders to qualify for unemployment insurance, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Not to mention Medicare and Social Security.)

Millennials have also borne the brunt of declines in government spending on higher education. In 2012, according to The New York Times, state and local spending per college student hit a 25-year low. As government has cut back, universities have passed on the (ever-increasing) costs of college to students. Nationally, the share of households owing student debt doubled between 1989 and 2010, and the average amount of debt per household tripled, to $26,000.

Economic hardship has not always pushed Americans to the left. In the Clinton-Reagan era, for instance, the right often used culture and foreign policy to convince economically struggling Americans to vote against bigger government. But a mountain of survey data — plus the heavily Democratic tilt of Millennials in every national election in which they have voted — suggests that they are less susceptible to these right-wing populist appeals. For one thing, right-wing populism generally requires rousing white, Christian, straight, native-born Americans against Americans who are not all those things. But among Millennials, there are fewer white, Christian non-immigrants to rouse. Forty percent of Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities. Less than half say religion is “very important” to their lives.

And even those Millennials who are white, Christian, straight and native-born are less resentful of people who are not. According to a 2010 Pew survey, whites under the age of 30 were more than 50 points more likely than whites over 65 to say they were comfortable with someone in their family marrying someone of another ethnicity or race. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that almost 50 percent of evangelicals under the age of 30 back gay marriage.

Of course, new racial, ethnic and sexual fault lines could emerge. But today, a Republican seeking to divert Millennial frustrations in a conservative cultural direction must reckon with the fact that Millennials are dramatically more liberal than the elderly and substantially more liberal than the Reagan-Clinton generation on every major culture war issue except abortion (where there is no significant generational divide).

They are also more dovish on foreign policy. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are close to half as likely as the Reagan-Clinton generation to accept sacrificing civil liberties in the fight against terrorism and much less likely to say the best way to fight terrorism is through military force.

According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government. And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.
It is these two factors — their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism — that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.

The only economic issue on which Millennials show much libertarian instinct is the privatization of Social Security, which they disproportionately favor. But this may be less significant than it first appears. Historically, younger voters have long been more pro-Social Security privatization than older ones, with support dropping as they near retirement age. In fact, when asked if the government should spend more money on Social Security, Millennials are significantly more likely than past cohorts of young people to say yes.

Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government.  And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.

There is more reason to believe these attitudes will persist as Millennials age than to believe they will change. For starters, the liberalism of Millennials cannot be explained merely by the fact that they are young, because young Americans have not always been liberal. In recent years, polls have shown young Americans to be the segment of the population most supportive of government-run health care. But in 1978, they were the least supportive. In the last two elections, young Americans voted heavily for Obama. But in 1984 and 1988, Americans under 30 voted Republican for president.

President Barack Obama talks with college students and their parents during a stop at Magnolia's Deli and Cafe in Rochester, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, on the first day of a two-day bus tour where he is expected to speak about college financial aid. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama talks with college students and their parents during a stop at Magnolia's Deli and Cafe in Rochester, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, on the first day of a two-day bus tour where he is expected to speak about college financial aid. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Nor is it true that Americans necessarily grow more conservative as they age. Sometimes they do. But academic studies suggest that party identification, once forged in young adulthood, is more likely to persist than to change. There’s also strong evidence from a 2009 National Bureau of Economic Research paper that people who experience a recession in their plastic years support a larger state role in the economy throughout their lives.

The economic circumstances that have pushed Millennials left are also unlikely to change dramatically anytime soon. A 2010 study by Yale economist Lisa Kahn found that even 17 years later, people who had entered the workforce during a recession still earned 10 percent less than those who entered when the economy was strong.  In other words, even if the economy booms tomorrow, Millennials will still be suffering the Great Recession’s aftershocks for decades.

And the economy is not likely to boom. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t believe the unemployment rate will reach 6 percent until 2016, and even that will be higher than the 1990s average. Nor are the government protections Millennials crave likely to appear anytime soon. To the contrary, as a result of the spending cuts signed into law in 2010 and the sequester that began this year, non-defense discretionary spending is set to decline by decade’s end to its lowest level in 50 years.

If Millennials remain on the left, the consequences for American politics over the next two decades could be profound. In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials constituted one-fifth of America’s voters. In 2012, they were one-quarter. In 2016, according to predictions by political demographer Ruy Teixeira, they will be one-third. And they will go on constituting between one-third and two-fifths of America’s voters through at least 2028.

This rise will challenge each party, but in different ways. In the runup to 2016, the media will likely feature stories about how 40-something Republicans like Marco Rubio, who blasts Snoop Dog from his car, or Paul Ryan, who enjoys Rage Against the Machine, may appeal to Millennials in ways that geezers like McCain and Romney did not. Don’t believe it. According to a 2012 Harvard survey, young Americans were more than twice as likely to say Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan made them feel more negative about the ticket than more positive. In his 2010 Senate race, Rubio fared worse among young voters than any other age group. The same goes for Rand Paul in his Senate race that year in Kentucky, and Scott Walker in his 2010 race for governor of Wisconsin and his recall battle in 2012.

Pre-election polls in Ted Cruz’s 2012 senate race in Texas (there were no exit polls) also showed him faring worst among the young.

The likeliest explanation for this is that while younger Republican candidates may have a greater cultural connection to young voters, the ideological gulf is vast. Even if they are only a decade older than Millennials, politicians like Cruz, Rubio and Walker hail from a different political generation both because they came of age at a time of relative prosperity and because they were shaped by Reagan, whom Millennials don’t remember. In fact, the militantly anti-government vision espoused by ultra-Reaganites like Cruz, Rubio and Walker isn’t even that popular among Millennial Republicans. As a July Pew survey notes, Republicans under 30 are more hostile to the Tea Party than any other Republican age group. By double digits, they’re also more likely than other Republicans to support increasing the minimum wage.

Republicans may modestly increase their standing among young voters by becoming more tolerant on cultural issues and less hawkish on foreign policy, but it’s unlikely they will become truly competitive unless they follow the counsel of conservative commentators Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam and “adapt to a new reality — namely, that today, Americans are increasingly worried about their economic security.” If there’s hope for the GOP, it’s that Millennials, while hungry for government to provide them that economic security, are also distrustful of its capacity to do so. As a result of growing up in what Chris Hayes has called the “fail decade”  — the decade of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis — Millennials are even more cynical about government than the past generations of young Americans who wanted less from it. If a Republican presidential candidate could match his Democratic opponent as a champion of economic security and yet do so in a way that required less faith in Washington’s competence and benevolence, he might boost the GOP with young voters in a way no number of pop-culture references ever could.

President Ronald Reagan greets House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. of Massachusetts at the conclusion of a session in the Rose Garden of the White House, Aug. 19, 1982. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)

President Ronald Reagan greets House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. of Massachusetts at the conclusion of a session in the Rose Garden of the White House, Aug. 19, 1982. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)

If the Millennials challenge Reaganite orthodoxy, they will likely challenge Clintonian orthodoxy, too. Over the past three decades, Democratic politicians have grown accustomed to campaigning and governing in the absence of a mobilized left. This absence has weakened them: Unlike Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could never credibly threaten American conservatives that if they didn’t pass liberal reforms, left-wing radicals might disrupt social order. But Democrats of the Reagan-Clinton generation have also grown comfortable with that absence. From Tony Coelho, who during the Reagan years taught House Democrats to raise money from corporate lobbyists to Bill Clinton, who made Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin his chief economic adviser, to Barack Obama, who gave the job to Rubin’s former deputy and alter ego, Larry Summers, Democrats have found it easier to forge relationships with the conservative worlds of big business and high finance because they have not faced much countervailing pressure from an independent movement of the left.

Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign offers a glimpse into what an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism might look like.
But that may be changing. Look at the forces that created Occupy Wall Street. The men and women who assembled in September 2011 in Zuccotti Park bore three key characteristics. First, they were young. According to a survey published by City University of New York’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor, 40 percent of the core activists involved taking over the park were under 30 years old. Second, they were highly educated. Eighty percent possessed at least a bachelors’ degree, more than twice the percentage of New Yorkers overall. Third, they were frustrated economically. According to the CUNY study, more than half the Occupy activists under 30 owed at least $1,000 in student debt. More than a one-third had lost a job or been laid off in the previous five years. In the words of David Graeber, the man widely credited with coining the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the Occupy activists were “forward-looking people who had been stopped dead in their tracks” by bad economic times.

For a moment, Occupy shook the country. At one point in December 2011, Todd Gitlin points out in Occupy Nation, the movement had branches in one-third of the cities and towns in California. Then it collapsed. But as the political scientist Frances Fox Piven has argued, “The great protest movements of history … did not expand in the shape of a simple rising arc of popular defiance. Rather, they began in a particular place, sputtered and subsided, only to re-emerge elsewhere in perhaps a different form, influenced by local particularities of circumstance and culture.”

It’s impossible to know whether the protest against inequality will be such a movement. But the forces that drove it are unlikely to subside. Many young Americans feel that economic unfairness is costing them a shot at a decent life. Such sentiments have long been widespread among the poor. What’s new is their prevalence among people who saw their parents achieve — and expected for themselves — some measure of prosperity, the people Chris Hayes calls the “newly radicalized upper-middle class.”

If history is any guide, the sentiments behind Occupy will find their way into the political process, just as the anti-Vietnam movement helped create Eugene McCarthy’s presidential bid in 1968, and the civil-rights movement bred politicians like Andrew Young, Tom Bradley and Jesse Jackson. That’s especially likely because Occupy’s message enjoys significant support among the young. A November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that while Americans over 30 opposed Occupy’s goals by close to 20 points, Millennials supported them by 12.

Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign offers a glimpse into what an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism might look like. In important ways, New York politics has mirrored national politics in the Reagan-Clinton era. Since 1978, the mayoralty has been dominated by three men — Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg — who although liberal on many cultural issues have closely identified Wall Street’s interests with the city’s. During their time in office, New York has become far safer, cleaner, more expensive and more unequal. In Bloomberg’s words, New York is now a “high-end product.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, despite her roots on the left as a housing and LGBT activist, became Bloomberg’s heir apparent by stymieing bills that would have required businesses to give their employees paid sick leave and mandated a higher minimum wage for companies that receive government subsidies. Early in the campaign, many commentators considered this a wise strategy and anticipated that as New York’s first lesbian mayor, Quinn would symbolize the city’s unprecedented cultural tolerance while continuing its Clintonian economic policies.

Democrats in New York are more liberal than Democrats nationally. Still, the right presidential candidate, following de Blasio’s model, could seriously challenge Hillary Clinton.
Then strange things happened. First, Anthony Weiner entered the race and snatched support from Quinn before exploding in a blaze of late-night comedy. But when Weiner crashed, his support went not back to Quinn but to de Blasio, the candidate who most bluntly challenged Bloomberg’s economic philosophy. Calling it “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity,” de Blasio made his central proposal a tax on people making over $500,000 to fund universal childcare. He also called for requiring developers to build more affordable housing and ending the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policies that had angered many African Americans and Latinos. Bloomberg’s deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted that de Blasio’s “agenda is clear: higher taxes, bigger govt, more biz mandates. A u-turn back to the 70s.”

But in truth, it was Wolfson who was out of date: Fewer and fewer New Yorkers remember the 1970s, when economic stagnation, rising crime and bloated government helped elect both Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan. What concerns them more today is that, as The New Yorker recently noted, “If the borough of Manhattan were a country, the income gap between the richest twenty percent and the poorest twenty percent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia and Lesotho.”  In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Quinn defeated de Blasio in those parts of New York where average income tops $175,000 per year.  But he beat her by 25 points overall.

Democrats in New York are more liberal than Democrats nationally. Still, the right presidential candidate, following de Blasio’s model, could seriously challenge Hillary Clinton. If that sounds far-fetched, consider the last two Democratic presidential primary campaigns. In October 2002, Howard Dean was so obscure that at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin repeatedly referred to him as “John.” But in the summer of 2003, running against the Iraq War amidst a field of Washington Democrats who had voted to authorize it, Dean caught fire. In the first quarter of the year he raised just under $3 million, less than one-third of John Kerry’s total. In the second quarter, he shocked insiders by beating Kerry and raising over $7 million. In the third quarter, he raised almost $15 million, far more than any Democrat ever had. By November, Harkin, Al Gore and the nation’s two most powerful labor unions had endorsed Dean and he was well ahead in the Iowa polls.

At the last minute, Dean flamed out, undone by harsh attacks from his rivals and his campaign’s lack of discipline. Still, he established a template for toppling a Democratic frontrunner: inspire young voters, raise vast funds via small donations over the Web, and attack those elements of Clintonian orthodoxy that are accepted by Democratic elites but loathed by liberal activists on the ground.

In 2008, that became the template for Barack Obama. As late as October 2007, Hillary enjoyed a 33-point lead in national polls. But Obama made her support for the Iraq War a symbol of her alleged timidity in challenging the right-leaning consensus in Washington. As liberals began to see him as embodying the historic change they sought, Obama started raising ungodly amounts via small donors over the Internet, which in turned won him credibility with insiders in Washington. He overwhelmed Hillary Clinton in caucus states, where liberal activists wield greater power. And he overwhelmed her among younger voters. In the 2008 Iowa caucuses, youth turnout rose 30 percent and among voters under the age of 30, Obama beat Hillary by 46 points.

Hillary starts the 2016 race with formidable strengths. After a widely applauded term as secretary of state, her approval rating is 10 points higher than it was when she began running in 2008. Her vote to authorize Iraq will be less of a liability this time. Her campaign cannot possibly be as poorly managed. And she won’t have to run against Barack Obama.

Still, Hillary is vulnerable to a candidate who can inspire passion and embody fundamental change, especially on the subject of economic inequality and corporate power, a subject with deep resonance among Millennial Democrats. And the candidate who best fits that description is Elizabeth Warren.

Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, center right, greets supporters outside the polls after voting in Cambridge, Mass. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

First, as a woman, Warren would drain the deepest reservoir of pro-Hillary passion: the prospect of a female president. While Hillary would raise vast sums, Dean and Obama have both shown that in the digital age, an insurgent can compete financially by inspiring huge numbers of small donations. Elizabeth Warren can do that. She’s already shown a knack for going viral. A video of her first Senate banking committee hearing, where she scolded regulators that “too-big-to-fail has become too-big-for-trial,”  garnered 1 million hits on YouTube. In her 2012 Senate race, despite never before having sought elected office, she raised $42 million, more than twice as much as the second-highest-raising Democrat. After Bill Clinton and the Obamas, no other speaker at last summer’s Democratic convention so electrified the crowd.

Warren has done it by challenging corporate power with an intensity Clinton Democrats rarely muster. At the convention, she attacked the “Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — [who] still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”

And in one of the biggest applause lines of the entire convention, taken straight from Occupy, she thundered that “we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”

Don’t be fooled by Warren’s advanced age. If she runs, Millennials will be her base. No candidate is as well positioned to appeal to the young and economically insecure. Warren won her Senate race by eight points overall, but by 30 points among the young. The first bill she introduced in the Senate was a proposal to charge college students the same interest rates for their loans that the Federal Reserve offers big banks. It soon garnered 100,000 hits on YouTube.

A big reason Warren’s speech went viral was its promotion by Upworthy, a website dedicated to publicizing progressive narratives. And that speaks to another, underappreciated, advantage Warren would enjoy. Clinton Democrats once boasted a potent intellectual and media infrastructure. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Democratic Leadership Council and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, were the Democratic Party’s hottest ideas shops, and they dedicated themselves to restoring the party’s reputation as business-friendly. Influential New Democratic–aligned magazines like The New Republic and Washington Monthly also championed the cause.

Today, that New Democratic infrastructure barely exists. The DLC has closed down. The New Republic and Washington Monthly have moved left. And all the new powerhouses of the liberal media — from Paul Krugman (who was radicalized during the Bush years) to Jon Stewart (who took over The Daily Show in 1999) to MSNBC (which as late as 2008 still carried a show hosted by Tucker Carlson) — believe the Democrats are too soft on Wall Street.

You can see that shift in the race for governor of the Federal Reserve, where the liberal media has rallied behind Janet Yellen and against the more Wall Street-identified Larry Summers. In the age of MSNBC, populist Democrats enjoy a media echo chamber that gives them an advantage over pro-business Democrats that did not exist a decade ago. And if Clinton, who liberal pundits respect, runs against Warren, who liberal pundits revere, that echo chamber will benefit Warren.

Of course, Warren might not run. Or she might prove unready for the national stage. (She has no foreign-policy experience). But the youthful, anti-corporate passion that could propel her candidacy will be there either way. If Hillary Clinton is shrewd, she will embrace it, and thus narrow the path for a populist challenger. Just as New York by electing Ed Koch in 1978 foreshadowed a national shift to the right, New York in 2013 is foreshadowing a national shift to the left. The door is closing on the Reagan-Clinton era. It would be ironic if it was a Clinton herself who sealed it shut.


Peter Beinart is the editor of OpenZion.com and writes about domestic politics and foreign policy at The Daily Beast. He is also an associate professor of journalism and political science at CUNY and author of The Crisis of Zionism.
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  • Anonymous

    Wow, excellent work. My problem is that it says every single thing I want to hear. It’s difficult for me to read with a critical eye. I don’t want to challenge, I want to embrace. That’s a recipe for setting myself up for a fall. All my problem, not the writer’s. Now as to the Clinton v Warren thing…I can have some fun here. Warren will not run. It’s just too soon for her. I speak here of 2016 only, after that, who knows? Well, I don’t even really know this, now do I? I do not anoint Ms Clinton as the given 2016 candidate. The person I have my eyes on would be Schumer, (D), Senator NY. As far as I know he’s not expressed one word re: 2016. I just like what I see and hear. He’s sharp, fast, energetic, lots of “can do” and works like hell to get things done (see his work re: immigration reform). He’s also extremely well spoken. He really can pack a rhetorical punch. I’m also a fan of North Eastern Liberalism. And he strikes me as pragmatic. I do believe this, after Obama (voted for him twice, still support him) Demo’s are going to have had their fill of, “Hope”. I firmly believe we will be seeking a solid jolt of “Can Get it Done”. I mean, “yes we can” but, no we’re not. Clinton does not strike me as such a person. Certainly not to the extent of Schumer.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    Smart money is a Clinton-Warren ticket.

  • Rasmichael

    Remove the ‘zionism’ from our politics, would be a good start. Time for a new beginning with out the tarnished personalities of our shared past. You talk of ‘ism’ around two leaders who were mere communicators. Most of their core idea’s were never their own. I for one know where Nicaragua and Rwanda are. To para phase Mrs Warren; ” the system is rigged by design.” The 1% will groom the next leaders as they have always done.

  • Jim

    One thing this article does not discuss is that increasing numbers of people are recognizing that the Democratic & Republican parties have become two equally criminal branches of a single corporate party run by the ultra wealthy class. They are seeing that the job of the politicians is to argue about gay marriage & abortion to give the illusion of partisan bickering & gridlock while voting mostly the same way on deregulating the financial industry, free trade agreements that offshore American jobs, & starting wars for the benefit of various corporations. I won’t be voting for either Democrats or Republicans.

  • Anonymous

    Warren-Clinton, with a side of Bernie Sanders

  • Lauren Steiner

    Just before I got to the paragraph where you said “Elizabeth Warren” I was thinking Elizabeth Warren for President and Alan Grayson for VP. Boy, they’d sure shake things up. Great article Peter. I learned a little history and a lot of political science I didn’t know. I will share this.

  • Lauren Steiner

    Schumer, he and Chris Dodd were the two Senators most responsible for the fact we still have the carried interest loophole, or whatever that’s called where hedge fund manager who make $30 billion a year get to pay only 15% tax on their income. I don’t think you were reading this article carefully enough. Peter is saying that Millenials don’t want any more defenders of Wall Street.

  • Ado Egbdf

    Maybe a new Millennial Party will surface? Seems to be more and more people expecting Big Brother to give them cradle to grave assurances. Can’t help but recall Maggie Thatcher’s comment, ” The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].”

  • Rogelio Martinez

    Bravo Mr. Beinart, this was an up lifting article.

  • Rogelio Martinez

    This article sailed over your head. Thatcher was Britons Reagan. The delusion of reaganomics has failed and so have the baby boomers.

  • Ian Osmond

    It SEEMS like too soon for Warren to run, but is it any faster than Obama? If he did it, she can.

  • MD

    Elizabeth Warren in 2016!

  • Martha Coyne

    I understood the article’s definition of Millennials as mostly well educated individuals who had lost their jobs or could not find good–or any–jobs because of the recession. Doesn’t sound like people who want to use other people’s money, sounds like people who want to be able to get good jobs to make money.

  • Pete Joachim

    So – the Reagan-Clinton period of moving to the right has not proved to help the youth of our nation today. Isn’t that what any nation should be looking to do if its going to continue to prosper over centuries?

    Or is it that the Baby Boom generation “got theirs” on the back of large gov’t and a more socialistic tax system but then spent most of their mid-life and older-life trying to keep more of it via lower taxes, deregulation, building cultural walls and generally moving to the right. The left has had no choice but to move that direction in order to survive. But in the end, this inability to keep the seesaw level, has failed the youth – which means it fails PERIOD. Short term thinking rarely works out in the long run – but long-term thinking is not nearly as sexy or as lucrative – in the short-term.

  • Zier

    Peter Beinart fails to explain what links Reaganism, Clintonism, Bushism and Obamaism. That is, all of their economic policies are based on neoliberalism. A big deficit in our ability to escape our 33 year spiral of economic inequality and decline is that we do not have language with which to understand the cause of our problem. In most other countries neoliberalism is known, understood and written about. In the US even many progressives still believe that the main dynamic of the past 33 years is ‘liberals’ vs ‘conservatives’. It is not. Bill Myers Journal needs to have a show on neoliberalism to help educate an to advance the conversation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

    “Neoliberalism—the dismantling of the state, privileging of markets over all other institutions, and relentless catering to corporate interests—has reshaped the economic and political terrain, sharpened class cleavages, and pitted disadvantaged groups against each other…However, neoliberalism doesn’t quite represent the dismantling of the state. Indeed the state’s punitive power has grown, not diminished. Neoliberalism requires a powerful state to rollback the social safety net and to rollout neoliberal policies. Furthermore it requires a state with broad ranging surveillance and punitive powers to separate those unable to work within the neoliberal framework from those able to do so….”
    – Prof. Lester Spence, Johns Hopkins University

  • Miles Howard

    I absolutely want to belive in Beinart’s argument, but there’s a pretty big obstacle that he glosses over: the growing number of Millennials who are giving up on government entirely and turning to libertarianism. If new leftism is going to become a defining movement, our government has to win back the engagement of the Millennials who’ve swung beyond the far right, a la “I’m only looking out for myself because I can’t count on the government.” A fine way to start would be revitalizing social security for Millennials, posing real solutions to student loan debt, and building better safety nets for the unemployed or laid-off. The ball is in the court of the center-right “democrats.”

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Sorry if I don’t agree. What really are the millennials anyway? Are they middle aged parents of children in school? Are they college age students? Hillary has zip to worry about. The day when the youngest, least experienced minds think the Libertarians take, take, take and give back nothing is the best form of democracy is nothing more than spoiled McBrat HAVES too used to having it all handed to them.

    Sorry if this means they can’t retire at age 35 as McBillionaires. Sorry if they have to contribute to the society they live in like their grandparents and parents did. All their whining and wailing is going to be met with a deaf ear unless they stop texting night and day and start applying themselves to real work.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Excuse me? The Baby Boom generation is paying for elderly sick parents, kids with kids of their own and you think we got it all? Get a clue. The Baby Boom generation took it to the streets so today’s ungrateful little Middle Aged Fat Gut who make their wants bigger than their salaries could have it better.

    Who failed the Baby Boomers? What a load of BS you posted. I don’t feel sorry for young people too lazy to get off the texting addiction and learn to actually work an 8 hour day. The problem with todays Texting generation is their parents daycared them to the point of gross insecurity.

    If you are tough, you get going. You don’t blame others for your failures. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. The Dotcoms thought they’d retire as billionaires at age 20…Are these the millennials only successes?

  • Jon

    EXAMPLE: As a 35-year old white male
    who grew up middle-class, I think I am right at the heart of this. My
    first time voting for a president was for Clinton. Rock The Vote, he was
    a younger person, my hippie baby-boomer parents thought this was finally a
    victory for their generation, done. Graduated college in 2000, went into
    Business Management of Information Systems because seemed to be a safe choice
    at the time. Out of school Tech bubble burst, 9/11, recession, job
    prospects horrible. Surfed horrible entry-level jobs outside of IT, and
    became disgusted by that, and the career prospects. Only plentiful jobs
    were awful sales jobs. 2005, needed to make a move and listened to boomer
    parents that I should now follow what I love, and will not have money, but be
    happy with what I do. Went back to grad school full-time for non-profit
    work. Graduate, have some career traction, then Great Recession hits.
    From 2008 until 2012 struggled to keep my job and my staff in work.
    Leadership (older boomers, majority financially comfortable who later
    went to work for non-profits), made organization shift towards unpaid docents,
    part-time no benefit positions, and eliminating full-time workers. Vote
    for Obama first as supposed true liberal and antithesis of Bush. 2013
    long-term effects of Great Recession hit, I’m laid off and have been out of
    work now for 7 months with only job prospects being $11 an hour part-time work,
    which are highly coveted(!). Can’t afford to go back to school again only
    prospects look like a trade that trains on the job. Maybe installing
    dishes on houses. What’s my political persuasion? Still digesting
    the moderate Clinton era, Bush was a psychopath, Obama is in no way a liberal,
    and last election only voted for Obama because did not want Romney. I
    think many millennials think like Dennis Kucinich, and would vote for someone
    like an Obama if he ACTUALLY did what he promised in the first election. If someone can come in and actually do some
    things for the millennials, that party would have quite a few votes bought for
    the next couple decades. Millennials are
    used to many broken promises. Right now
    we view Dem’s and Repub’s as both bought and sold. We view the former opinion of a college
    degree being a ticket to the middle-class as dead, we will never be able to
    retire, or own a home, and I think contrary to all this entitlement talk, we
    are handling it very well. When people
    say we are entitled, I would love to see the attitude the boomers took and
    plunk them down in the middle of our times.
    I’d wager to say they’d be setting themselves up for being 30 years
    behind a typical career/life track in the U.S. instead of only 20 years behind
    like us. I can only imagine what my life
    would be like if I wasn’t white, grew up middle-class, had a health problem,
    and had a ton of school debt. Wow.

  • Ado Egbdf

    But the question remains, what do you do when eventually you do run out of other people’s money to spend?

  • Ado Egbdf

    But didn’t Obama promise to end the recession? Is it still ongoing five years into his presidency? When will someone assume responsibility and man up? My three youngest kids(two with college diplomas – professionals) had no trouble finding work. My oldest never had a problem staying employed, also a college educated professional. People who have a desire to work and are motivated individuals do not remain among the ranks of the unemployed for long.

  • Rogelio Martinez

    Your question is a fallacy. You only have to look to northern European countries with lavish social programs. Which also have the lowest income inequality.

  • Anonymous

    Boy, you read that definition of what’s going on and you have to wonder what the “liberalism” part of neoliberalism is . . . seems mostly like taking liberties with human rights. You have a Stalinist state (what’s so darn liberal about that?) spying on everybody and meting out various “punitive” actions including blowing up American citizens on foreign soil. Wow, if we get any more liberal we’ll have to reincarnate Barry Goldwater! What an abusive, Orwellian term, to associate any aspect of “liberalism” with this confluence of interest between big business and big government. I believe there is already a name for this, and it is called fascism. So why don’t we abandon this stupid “neoliberalism” term and call it what it is: New American Fascism.

  • Anonymous

    It would be easier to “end the recession” without complete obstructionism at every turn by the unloyal opposition, i.e. the Republican Party, which by all rights should be renamed the Plutocratic Party, given the policies they pursue and the priorities they favor. If Obama could dictate policy, then we could blame him for failure to move the economy forward. But he basically can only get things done by carefully wending his way through the minefields created by the Plutocrats.

    Stop whining. We have the best darn government that money can buy! What do you want? Effective government? Ha!

  • Anonymous

    I would add that you only run out of money to spend when you allow the wealthy to move it all to the sidelines and fail to support policies that encourage reinvestment instead of “rent collection.” Whether it is property ownership (i.e. rental properties) or dividend-bearing stocks and bonds, all these forms of investment simply are collecting rent rather than creating any kind of money recycling (also known as investment) that actually expands an economy and provides healthy growth. Our economic policies currently favor this rent collection, to the detriment of wider, broad-based economic health. Thus the wealth flows to the top and drains out of the economy, destroying jobs and producing an obscene gap between the very, very rich and . . . the rest of us.

  • Anonymous

    #Chris Suits: i too will probably vote Democrat instead of Plutocrat. However, I agree with Jim that we have a one-party, corporatist (fascist) party that throws up social issue red herrings to conceal their unity over the basic course of our economy and governance. Of the people, by the corporations, for their corporate best interests. Sad but true. So we are reduced, in a way, to sifting for crumbs of progress, rather than addressing the big issue, which is: government in America is supposed to be by the people, for the people, and of the people. Anything else is a perversion by selfishness. There is plenty of money to be made without having to resort to buying the government and legislating yourself a sure profit. But corporations have become so arrogant that they’d rather just take the easy way out: buy the government, and legislate yourself to an obscene profit, regardless of the consequences on the environment and the people you are supposed to serve. Such a process will fail of its own weight; it is just a question of when. It has already over-stayed its welcome, and serves nobody other than an amoral elite.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Shumer is a servant of Wall Street. I suppose it is also bad etiquette for me, as a Jewish person, to point out that Shumer is Jewish and thus unelectable. Sad but true.

  • Lauren Steiner

    Warren-Grayson

  • Anonymous

    Good choice, Lauren S.

  • Pete Joachim

    Obviously there are exceptions, not all baby boomers are Fat Cats for sure – and I don’t know how old you are – but your missing the larger point. The baby boom generation grew during a period of time when gov’t polices and the tax culture were aimed at the middle class success – which THEY were part of at the time. Now that many baby boomers have moved up the ladder on those polices, they’ve been working hard to dismantle those very same policies. So today’s middle class – ever since the 80s – haven’t been able to thrive – given the more conservative capitalistic/individualistic tax/gov’t policies that have pushed to the right ever since . That’s why you are NOW taking care of them financially.

    You say the parents of the “texting generation” day-cared their children to death – making them lazy and not hard workers – well what generation do you think those parents are part of? A lot of them are baby boomers (born in late 50s/early 60s). They had the money to give their kids everything – cause the 50s/60s the tax/gov’t culture was geared towards making them successful. They were able to build a nest egg that today’s generation can’t.

    It easy to say “when its tough, get going” – but each generation is trying to do that in a very different period of time, and today’s time is very anti-middle / lower class.

    That was the point of the article and the reason why today’s politicians (from the baby boom generation) are failing to see why they will need to deal the growing rift from the younger, more liberal, youth.

  • david h

    None of this is important because a new dynamic will be present in the future where America will learn a lesson the hard way like Europe did in the great war where everything that made their society was broken down and taken away to start over in poverty with nothing so is that destined to be laid upon America and the world again not thru war but thru greed and the catalysis will be technology the end of the fossil fuel age thru technology and the panic and fear on those with money trying to dump their stocks bonds and securities all at the same time an hour to save themselces from the gandwriting on the wall with wall street in flames from it and bankrupt corportions and business getting rolled away, think it cant happen *rev. Ch. 18) they will come with speed swiftly and as horseman so shall the run everyone in its path they will sneak it the window like a thief. As a thief in the night you gave done set yourselves up for the economic disaster at your gate your whole economic kingdom is fossil fuel banking and debt to the producers distributors and the buyers of energy industrial complex of all the earth, and then out of nowhere fite falls out of heaven permanent field high voltage static field motors appear making powered magnetic perpetual motors. That dont need fossil fuels to make electrical power portable on demand power. Just we have no need of the steam engine anymore the fire that will make you start over The Kamp of Jerusalem its judgement for your wickedness and greed of those in power

  • SophieCT

    I think her best accomplishment as SOS was NOT waving around a vial of yellow-cake uranium. What were you expecting her to achieve?

    Your comment about “wasn’t she for bombing Syria before she was against It?” is just plain ignorant. Go do your homework and come back with the correct answer.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget Robotics, many basic manufacturing jobs are now accomplished by machines. As well as the computer programs that no longer need the human input that they once did.
    High unemployment is here to stay. So, how will we adjust to the fact that there will simply not be enough jobs to go around? Given that our society has so long been based on a consumerism model that will no longer work when the bulk of the population has no cash or credit?

  • Anonymous

    Embrace it, Hillary; it’s your way in and our way out.

  • David L. Allison

    IMO, a great article that explains a lot of what I have observed over the past decade but never really understood. There are members of both the House and Senate who reflect many of the political shifts of the millennials. There are, as well, many of us who support those politicians on the right and the left who espouse the views and positions of people like Representative Alan Grayson and Senator Warren as well as some of our Libertarian friends on issues like women’s right to choose and stopping the incessant war, including the war on Drugs..

    Many of us in our 60′s and 70′s share much of the millennial’s economic themes and recognize, in our parents, aunts and uncles, their escape from the depression. That is the same escape that the young are now seeking from the center-right governance that took us into the tech, banking and housing bubble bursting recession that they have suffered through.

    The breeze of real change is finally beginning to waft through our politics and governance and, though the author provides us a good clue, it still doesn’t take a weatherman to see which way the winds are blowing.

  • azlib

    Great article. As a 67 yr old baby boomer hippi liberal with radical right wing parents and 6 right wing siblings, this explains the little liberal niche that began when I was 16 years old, supporting civil rights, fighting against the Viet Nam war, grieving the murders of several liberal leaders and our president’s murder. Thank you for giving me hope for the future, knowing that the Dreamers and other young people I am meeting and working with will succeed where my generation was unable to.

  • Anonymous

    Neoliberalism is a euphemism for fascism.

  • Anonymous

    Sanders-Cruz.

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t care for any of them and I don’t care for my generation either, for one thing they are too focused on federal politics which in my view are irrelevant, state and local politics are the only venue for real change.

  • Anonymous

    Elizabeth Warren for President!

  • Jim

    Ralph Nader has pointed out that there have been times in the past when
    3rd parties have forced the mainstream parties to take a position more
    favorable to the public even though the 3rd party candidates didn’t get
    elected. They merely got enough votes or looked like they would get
    enough votes to make the mainstream parties worry about losing.

    Many elections are won by just a few percentage points. If just a few percent of the left wing of the Democratic voters started voting for the Green Party or some other progressive candidates, the Democratic Party would need to start to worry about not winning at all & might need to shift their positions at least somewhat against their corporate masters. Some years ago I visited a friend who had become a part time farmer. He took me to the barn for a tour. He said a pig needed a shot & tied a piece of twine to a post & tied a noose on the other end. He walked up to the pig & slid the noose over its snout. The pig didn’t like it & backed up until the twine got tight. Then it just stood there motionless with its desire to get away from the noose exactly balanced by its desire not to have any more pain from pulling harder on the twine. My friend gave the pig a shot & it didn’t even flinch. My friend said it worked every time & the pigs never figured it out.

    Our corporate masters have put a noose of social issues on our collective snouts & we have backed ourselves into a corner where we cannot bring ourselves to vote for non Democratic or non Republican candidates for fear of what might happen with these social issues even though the Democratic & Republican parties are leading us on a path toward the destruction of our banking & financial system, the destruction of our economy, the creation of a US police state, & more multi-billion dollar wars of aggression.

  • Anonymous

    Does that include CEO wages?

  • Anonymous

    Who let this Rightie in?

  • Anonymous

    The rightie is still here!

  • Anonymous

    Right!

  • DavidW

    Have you moved your money into a Credit Union yet? Are you invested and shopping at a consumer owned Food Co-op? Can you figure out a way to build economic democracy in your community?

    All of these things will also indirectly make more fair our political democracy. When people are not working multiple jobs to make ends meet they will have time to learn about the issues and become informed, participatory voters. Once we have decent economic justice, there will be that need to be a part of it.

  • DavidW

    We can fight this coming economic totalitarianism by fighting money with money. Cooperative enterprise can be a way to push the ownership culture down to the rest of us and if we start our own local businesses we can put a dent in the cash flow that’s being directed to the corporate overlords and their wealthy masters.

    Move your money into a Credit Union. Find Worker owned businesses to patronize. Shop and invest in a consumer owned Food Co-op. Get up to speed on this changing economy and we can help speed up the coming transformation.

    Read Gar Alperovitz, Economist and Historian out of the University of Maryland.

  • DavidW

    Time to make a change to learn about cooperative enterprise. I too have been tossed about by this recession and have been underemployed for a few years now.

    We can each help the change along by moving our money into a Credit Union, finding and shopping at a consumer or worker owned Food Co-op, and championing this model built on the ideas written down by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844.

    Imagine a place where many local businesses are owned by the people in the towns and neighborhoods across the country. A bulwark against the economic totalitarians and corporate overlords by keeping as much wealth we create local. It can deprive these “royals” of their “royalty” payments and add a new dimension of fairness to the market.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Baby Boomers are not parents of millennials. I’m 66 years old. Most of my friends are the first Baby Boomers born in 1946 like me. We are now grandparents. The generation of so-called Baby Boomers born in the 50s and 60s (The DayCare Generation) were not the ones who took it to the streets to fight for Civil Rights, Women’s Equality or became the war protestors and Viet Nam vets. Some of the generation you mention did not live through 1963 and 1969 that saw one assassination after another.

    There is NO growing rift between Baby Boomers and the millennials. The reason is simple. The millennials are living the same lives as their 60 something grandparents.

    The millennials don’t have it as easy as their McParents ages 40 to 50. These are the parents who waited till age 30 to become adults, parents and then made their wants bigger than their wallets. People my age knew you didn’t take out a loan on a home you couldn’t guarantee your paycheck would cover. This is the McMansion Generation. People my age see that 40 to 50 something generation as spoiled, selfish and expecting it to be easy 100% of the time. Now that the economy is down, they can’t handle it.

    Neither can they learn to live on the salaries they are paid for longer than 12 months. Don’t wonder why my generation is getting fed up with the whining. The point here is that The Reagan era had a recession in the 2nd term that Clinton, a baby boomer my age exactly got the country out of.

    I’m fed up hearing the whining from those who refuse to stop their ostentatious spending. No one has to have a 4 bedroom McMansion. No one has to own a gas guzzling SUV that eats up $100 a tankful.

    The millennials are the future. They will have to do what MY generation did…find their own way in life without help. When they can do that, they will have bested their McParents who waste more money pretending they are never going to grow old than they do facing reality. The only 40 to 50 somethings who are not egotistical, ostentatious wasters are the kids who were raised in successful single parent homes…Like President Clinton and President Obama. MY point is: expecting more than your paycheck can manage is stupid.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    What a bunch of BS. Did the millennials parents hog up the kinds of moolah for salaries in the 80s and 90s?

    There ARE jobs. That’s so much BS it’s impossible for any dullard lacking ambition to figure out. I have a full-time and 2 part-time jobs. NO there are no blue collar jobs in the US in manufacturing where you work 9 to 5 and then collect a pension and healthbenefits. So what? Does that make it the end of the line for life on this planet? Or do you pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off and try to plot a whole new course that fits into the hi-tech era. If all the millennials know is doom and gloom, go dress up in that black Goth mantle of self-pity and see how far that will get you when you try to find a job. If you can’t find a job, you make one. That’s what MY parents and MY generation did. Sitting back and waiting for it all to come to you is stupid.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    I am old…still working 3 jobs. And….I am helping to pay for millennials college educations …I’ve paid into SS and Medicare for almost 4 decades …all while the younger hot shots couldn’t manage on the 6-figure salaries they earned. Now that era is over and all we older 60s people hear is whining.

    My generation is taking care of sick elderly parents, our kids and grandkids…How much more would you like the 60-somethings to do for millennials? How about the millennials get their butts moving and get out of bed without texting their lives away? Who told them to get useless college degrees they knew couldn’t insure they’d have a job? In the 80s, robotics was already a big future direction. So why did most of the McKiddies in college then take liberal arts courses when they should have faced the fact that hi-tech IS the future? Because…it’s always “easier” to nail a degree in liberal arts than robotics…that’s why.

    Easy is what the Mc40 and 50s want and their millennials. The joke is that no one my age expects our kids to support us because our SS and Medicare is supporting them instead. When they labeled my generation “Forever Young,” it wasn’t because we wanted to always be there for our kids who can’t seem to grow up into adults. Now, MY generation has to give up the idea of retirement because a younger generation is too stupid to learn to live within their means.

    And please, don’t even go there with how high price are…You don’t buy what you cannot afford. Period. The middle aged today have champagne appetites on beer pocketbooks loaded with their parents SS handouts.

  • Anonymous

    Bernie will be 75 by election day, Ms. Warren will be 67.
    Where’s the new Bernie or Elizabeth that has some great ideas that can be sold to a jaded electorate? (Hint: Think Disney World)

  • Anonymous

    Hey! She’s a year older than me! LOL Her age will be reassuring to baby boomers who may not vote for a “young whippersnapper”, her sex will be welcome by 1/2 the voters, and her enthusiasm and ability to cut to the meat of the argument without a bunch of BS, like a bulldog, will be welcome by those with a brain. I don’t see Bernie as VP, but more as a trusted advisor. His age would defnitely be a deterrent in a voted position.

  • Edward Rink

    Lets clear some things up. First, my parents are your age. Second, they don’t pay for my education. I pay for my own education. Third, I graduated just as the economy went into recession. I was looking for work when unemployment was 10 percent. Where I lived it was 15 percent.

    For your age group, an unemployment rate of 10 percent means 10 percent unemployment. For my age group, it means 30 percent unemployment (or more). The entry level jobs I sought were all being filled by people nearly twice my age with 10+ years of experience. I was jobless, nearly homeless, and my only choice was to go back to school. Not because I wanted to go back but so I wouldn’t be on the street.

    From where I’m standing, if you have a job and can help your kids pay for college, you are filthy rich. And all you do is moan about it. Our generation is the first to be poorer than our parents. That’s why you’re in the position of having to support your kids. At least you’re able to do that! And if you have the same attitude toward them that you do on this message board, they probably hate you anyway.

  • Betty Caron

    Azlib, I feel the same way. I would vote for either Clinton or Warren. I am over 60 also and wouldn’t vote for a GOP if my life depended on it.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t suggesting she would be too old to run and win… just commenting that she’s a bit older than I had imagined. Bernie IS too old IMO to endure a national campaign and he may well be the first to say so.
    My concern is that with the notable exception of Rep. Grayson, I see few if any people on the national stage now that would have the gravitas to inspire both the intellectual and fiscal support of this so-called millennial generation. Raul Grijalva is older than Elizabeth and Keith Ellison is totin’ some major election baggage. I had hoped Al Franken would grow into his role but he has instead decided to exhibit zero leadership or initiative but instead keep begging me for money. Perhaps Mr. DiBlasio will show something to those of us in the hinterlands that will cause some excitement and generat some hope for the party.
    Or perhaps I’m being too myopic. After all, I’m a Boomer….. my old liberal eyes ain’t quite what they used to be.

  • Anonymous

    “…other people’s money…”, Ado, didn’t “run out” in the fifties, sixties & seventies. They in fact profited enormously from the labor of a functional, equitable economy. What ran out was the willingness of the children of the uber-wealthy to maintain what their parents had built. The chose instead to enhance their inherited holdings even more. Shipping industry to China and profits to the Caribbean became the new paradigm for the capitalists.
    Tax rates plummeted along with the financial potential of the middle class.
    Thank your friend Mr. Reagan. The wealthy elected him and they got their reward.

  • Anonymous

    I’m 71 and an active member of Move To Amend. Control of our destiny has been wrenched from citizens by the corporate culture where wealth equals right. It’s a plutocracy not a democratic republic. For the past 2 years I’ve immersed myself in learning how this has happened and I’m furious! We must mobilize students, graduates, boomers, elders, the ‘have enoughs’, the poor and unemployed and work together to take charge of this country. If we don’t there well be less and less for coming generations.

  • Anonymous

    We can’t wait that long!

  • Anonymous

    More than embrace it, she will have to prove to me that she will appoint people to carry out our programs that are not tied to corporations and wall street. Actually, the reason I voted for Bill Clinton in the first place was HER proposal for universal health care.

  • Brenda Duffey

    Your article confirms my belief that different generations need to come together and understand what a democratic government is, what a republic is, what capitalism, socialism, fascism are and then get out of their “generational block” that keeps them mired in their own thinking so they can move forward into the 21st Century and truly take democracy to all the nations of the world. We need a total redirection of the way American history is taught in public schools. Most American history teachers glorify our nation’s past instead of teaching the truth about what happened. They then use their classroom as a podium to teach their own political viewpoint not help their students develop critical thinking. Until that happens, we will continually have this stonewalled nation.

  • Anonymous

    Now that you have raised your children use your time and energy to support one or more progressive causes with actions, as I am doing. To my comments of “I wish …” my mother replied “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.” Some truth there. Only the actions and perseverance of the majority will bring the changes we wish for.

  • Anonymous

    How about a Clinton/Warren President /VP? Guaranteed 16 yrs more of Democratic control.

  • Anonymous

    If I’ve learned anything in the last 70 years it’s to not put faith in anything SAID by administrative appointees, politicians or political party spokespersons. Look to what they do, have done and where their fortunes have come from.

  • Anonymous

    If you bothered to really read this article you wouldn’t have written you 2nd, 3rd or 4th sentences.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed.

  • http://about.me/fixer Fixer

    I think the author misses the obvious point made in the data, that Millennials lean towards Libertarianism more than Socialism.

    of note in that Pew Research poll the article is based on, reactions to the term Libertarian is more positive than to Socialism (50-49) and less negative (28-43) in the 18-29 age group.

    I believe the big error is in trying for force the data to fit the current two party power structure and assuming today’s youth will take business as usual without challenge.

  • DavidW

    There is a way, the way of Cooperative Enterprise. We fight money with money, capital with capital, we pool our resources and start our own community owned businesses to compete with these corporate overlords. Look to Credit Unions and mutual insurance companies and one model and then Food Co-ops that are worker or consumer owned as another model.

    The finance Co-ops (Credit Unions and insurance companies) can be a financing arm while the Food Co-ops take capital and turn it into worker or consumer owned enterprise, with the primary focus of bring products and services to a community mutually looking for economic, cultural and social needs to be met.

    We need more people who can bring other sectors of business into this model and we can build the economic democracy that should be the base of every political democracy. Someone not working multiple jobs will have time to get educated and informed to be motivated to participate in our governance. Someone toiling to make their nut will be motivated only for their own well-being and separated from society with “more important” things to do.

    Competition is something these oligarchs understand, let’s give them some and change the market by taking their share of it. It will reduce their influence by cutting off some of their revenue. Oh, they’ll understand that, when more of the wealth we create circulates in our local communities benefiting the rest of us, isn’t that what an economy is supposed to to?

  • DavidW

    Not the Occupy Wall Street vision of “direct” action I hope. They think that getting oneself handcuffed to a bank desk accomplishes direct action, well it does get on the news.

    I think we should push the ownership culture down to the people and show where the real power and authority is, with capital. Cooperative Enterprise can build our communities, if a corner store in a poor neighborhood were owned by the 500 families who use it. Think how difficult it would be to sell out, would 251 families vote to sell to another owner. Imagine the stability for a town or neighborhood because when sole proprietors die or retire, unless their heirs are there to continue the business, it gets sold to another operator.

    The Food Co-ops of today are where the energy and talent are, where the future cooperative leaders of other businesses will come from. Meld that with the young leaders in the Credit Union sector and we can finance future cooperative businesses to take market share from the economic totalitarians.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    I read the article. I also have excellent reading comprehension skills. If you bothered to read the article and read why it was written, you’d see that I stand on the courage of my convictions. Sorry if the truth cuts too deep. There more to reading than just reading words. It’s important to also cull from articles the essence and meaning without twisting it into some pity pot sob story.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Same old male ideas that women can’t be anything remotely superior to men? Grow up. Hillary IS the most traveled Secretary of State in US history. Did she spend her term of office as SOS for you to bash everything she did or does? As I recall you bois of the Gingrichian Regime had a shot at making sure the US healthcare situation didn’t get to the out of control mess it is now by bashing Hillary’s proposals for healthcare reform when her husband was president. I am soooo fed up with the Great White Angry Middle Aged Fat Guts out there who live off the help of senior parents until they aged out of the McMansion at 35 and instantly discovered superiority in their adulthood. I am not impressed with that superiority routine. If you guys were that superior, why did you fail the entire country in September 2008? Why did it take a TX buffoon with a Harvard MBA yet to miss a meltdown he had 8 years to see coming? Do try and prove how superior you Middle Aged loonies are when you change those diapers.

  • Anonymous

    I love this idea. Where do I sign up?

  • DavidW

    Talk to these folks – http://publicbankinginstitute.org/
    Find the Food Cooperative Initiative online to learn more about start-ups in your area. Go to http://www.usworker.coop to find out about the US Federation of Worker Co-ops. Go and learn and then share what you’ve learned.

    We can change the system by giving corporate america some real competition. Taking market share away from them is something they’ll understand.

  • Pete Joachim

    Eleanore – I think at the end of the day we are saying the same thing – just that now that we have differentiated between early Baby Boomers – you and your friends (born in 40s / early 50s) vs the late Baby Boomers – born in mid/late 50s & early 60s).

    And this is why you took exception to my initial post which grouped all baby boomers together. I agree those born later (the McParents generation) built their wealth and their expectations on those that fought for a better life and lived through much harder times. This is the group that made their wealth on your backs and have been trying to tear down that structure ever since – to preserve their lifestyle – thus putting the millennials in their current desperate situation.

    Agree – don’t live beyond your means and keep your expectations in check with long-term reality (not TV non-reality). Make the most of your opportunities and just be reasonable. We have seemed to have returned to the gilded age of the 20s and many today don’t know any better. History is something that is easily forgotten and often repeated.

    Just an f/y/i – I am 48 – technically born in the first year or two of Gen X. Born & raised in urban setting (2 parents) definitely part of the lower middle class. Today – assuming no major life changes – I should be able to retire comfortably in 10-12 yrs (and I don’t mean w/2 houses, 3 cars and international travel every 4 months), irregardless of social security, mainly cause I have lived within my means (like my parents – age 75) and just as you have described.

    So there are exceptions to the rule for some of us 40s – 50s year olds that you correctly despise….lol

    Cheers.

  • thisismattia

    The author conveniently left out the fact that de Blasio was Hillary’s campaign manager for her successful 2000 Senate run. Here’s what he had to say about their help in his mayoral campaign:

    “They both offered extraordinarily helpful advice,” Mr. de Blasio said, adding, “I am proud to come from the Clinton family.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/nyregion/clintons-endorse-de-blasio-in-new-york-mayors-race.html

    Yeah, sounds like the dawning of a new post-Clinton era to me :P

    BTW, I can’t wait for Hillary’s election in 2016. Her liberal cred sits just fine with me.

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree with this model for economic democracy.

    One of the reasons it is so hard to ‘fight capital with capital’ is that there is such an imbalance of wealth and it is growing! The corporations and wealthy 1% will continue to outspend us to create rules for doing business which favor them.

    I drank the Kool-Aid when Clinton was pushing for NAFTA and unions were vocally opposed, saying to myself, “lets give it a try.” Well, we have seen how that turned out! And the TPP will be even worse. Only the very wealthy corporate controllers of what were US companies, but are now international companies, will be better off.

    SCOTUS decisions over 150 years have gradually given corporations the rights of human beings and until we change that democracy stands no chance.

  • DavidW

    Well, this model may be just the alternative we need, as unionization can only do so much. OWS can parade in the streets and bring ideas to the parade field. While we continue to work the political side, we should also work the economic side by taking market share away.

    We grow and expand Food Co-ops, we move more money into Credit Unions, we vote with our dollars to minimize the impact and revenue of these capital intensive corporate overlords.

    When they have to run their businesses to keep market share, they won’t have the time or money to keep up the lobbying efforts and we have a chance to grow minds and open eyes.

    We start worker Co-ops and we take care of our own economies by start more businesses with this model. Let’s share this and get ourselves started on this road to economic self-reliance and democracy and justice.

    usworker.coop
    foodcoopinitiative.coop
    cuna.coop

  • Pete Joachim

    A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post–World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    I was born in 1946. My son was born in 1964. We are both Baby Boomers. Every generation wears the patina of the era in which existence and environment defines them as adults. As a first year Baby Boomer, I can tell you there is a huge difference in the ideals of those my age and those my son’s age. The reason is simple. By the time my son became an adult, there was far more opportunity, far more advantage in the 70s, 80s and 90s…The Millennials are not this privileged group.

    It would be interesting to study the variables between the people my age and those in my son’s generation of Boomers.

  • http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com/ John Bailo

    Climatic change + Generational Schism = Elizabeth Warren?

    Only in the convoluted mind of a Liberal.

  • Pete Joachim

    I certainly agree. And those variable likely determine one’s outlook on politics, the role of the gov’t , social attitudes, etc. It would be helpful when people are debating their current differences of opinion on any topic if they understood some history behind the other person’s/ group’s thought process – but I find this to be a rare occurrence. And remember, not EVERY group in our culture reaped the opportunities and advantages that came about in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Thus the rise in income inequality today that rivals the 1920s.

  • Anonymous

    First, I’d point out that socialism is more popular among the youngest in that poll and in fact is more popular than unpopular. To be more accurate, Millennials lean toward both libertarianism and socialism, assuming one wants to be accurate.

    Second, there is no ideological opposition between libertarianism and socialism. Many people are simultaneously both such as anarcho-syndicalists. Historically, they arose together in the same working class movement more than a century ago in Europe.

  • http://about.me/fixer Fixer

    Positive or Negative reactions to a political term doesn’t really mean popular, and the numbers do clearly show that more 18-29 year olds had a more positive and less negative reaction to the term Libertarian than to the term Socialism. Just because the summary chose to present liberal vs conservative and socialism vs capitalism doesn’t change the raw numbers, does it?

    There are many branches of Libertarian thought, some which fully protect private property rights and some which do not, notably the GeoLibertarians who believe natural resources are communally owned since they are not created from the work of an individual. Real Property held for private use should be rented from the community (Land Value Tax).

    Socialism believes all means of production (which are products of someone’s labor) are to be communally owned, which seems to me to be a concept in complete opposition to Libertarian thought. There is some overlap potential since Libertarians would allow for voluntary agreements to share in the ownership of means of production, but Socialism does not allow for the voluntary, it is a requirement by definition.

  • Anonymous

    More positive will mean more popular as the older Cold War generations die off. The younger generation are more open to both libertarianism and socialism. Maybe, unlike older people like you, they know the history of these ideologies and know that there is no ideological conflict between them.

    Your understanding of socialism leaves much to be desired. The right-wing straw-man argument about socialism isn’t the same thing as socialism itself. Socialism is a broad category of political views including both anarchism and libertarianism (e.g., anarcho-syndicalism). One of the most famous political thinkers alive today, Noam Chomsky, is an anarcho-syndicalist.

  • fmendoza

    OPEN LETTER TO HILLARY CLINTON. IF HILLARY CLINTON WANTS TO EGNITE THE PASSION, HOPES, AND DREAMS OF THE MILLENNIALS. SHE WOULD HAVE TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE MAJOR CONCERNS THAT HAVE. DISSALUTIONED THE MILLENIALS. THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONS UNLEASHING THE N.S.A. INTO EVERY ASPECT OF AMERICAN LIFE. CREATING A WORLD WHERE NOTHING IS PRIVATE. THE BEGINNING’S OF A TOTALITARIAN SYSTEM. NEXT SHE COULD PROMOTE A FREE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM. PAID FOR BY A STOCK TRANSACTION TAX OF 9 CENTS. PER STOCK TRANACTION. AND PROMOTE THE LIVING WAGE. WHICH MILLENINNALS SEE AS A BRIGHT FUTURE. OR A DEADEND FUTURE. THE LIVING WAGE $15MIN. AN HOUR. WILL UPLIFT MILLIONS OUT OF ABJECT POVERTY. AND WILL BE AN ECONOMIC BOOM FOR OUR STAGNET ECONOMY. PROVIDING A MASSIVE ECONOMIC STIMULUS. WITHOUT ADDING TO THE DEFICIT. AND FINALLY THE MYIRA HAS TO BE A GOVT. RUN FUND. INVESTED IN THE STOCK MARKET. AND THE FEE FOR RUNNING THE FUND. AFTER ADMIN. COST. WILL GO INTO THE SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND. ONCE FUND IS ESTABLISHED. WRITE INTO THE LAW. IT WILL TAKE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO CHANGE OR END PROGRAM. AND FUNDS MAY NOT BE USED FOR TAX CUTS. IF MS. CLINTON DECIDES TO ADRRESS THESE MILLENIAL CONCERNS. I WOULD BE HAPPY TO VOLUNTEER. FOR HER CAMPAGN. WITH SMALL STIPEND OFCOURSE.