The politics of loose gravel, part 2.

Buried somewhere in the middle of a gen x article I recently read was some off the cuff remark about how conservative our politicians are.  The first thing that I thought of when I read that was Generations predicted that would be the case twenty years ago.  The second thing I thought of was I wonder if it’s true, so I started digging through some links over at jennx67 to see what’s been written about our generation and politics during the last few election cycles.  It looks like there might be a trend…

As odd as it seemed to me when I first read it in the late 90s, it probably wasn’t all that hard for Strauss and Howe to predict we’d be an overall politically conservative generation.  They probably even mentioned Alex P. Keaton somewhere in their book.  And some of the articles written about the newly elected congressmen of 2010 even make that connection.

How did we end up this way? Children who have already learned not to trust their parents realize they can’t trust their government either with the Vietnam War, impeachment, and the oil crisis filling the news.  So they learn to trust money.  Money is reliable: it always gets them what they want.  And the first president in their life who ruled during a time of relative stability loved money and hated government.  Those kids grew up loving money and hating government.  And when some of them ended up as politicians, well, this article says it much better than I ever could:

“This group’s political ideologies and programmatic policies might not stand up much to scrutiny. But think of them as the middle finger of a generation — my generation — flipped at the Baby Boomers who selfishly ruined the world, just like we always said they would.”

But wait, you say, I’m not a Republican.  You’re also not likely a politician.  This is what has happened with those of us who have cared enough to get into politics.  Those that cared enough cared because they hated it.  They wanted to tear down those unreliable institutions.  The rest of us?  The rest of us don’t care.  The rest of us are the first generation to be mostly independent.  We might not understand why the Republicans can be so hateful, but we don’t trust the Democrats enough to change that by investing ourselves on the other side of that equation.

I am a perfect example.  I once voted for Jack in the Box for president.  It was a write in vote.  I trusted the manufacturer of an ecoli infested hamburger more than I did the main presidential candidates.  I’ve voted for both Democratic and Republican candidates for president, though I’ve voted third party about as often as either of those.  And most of the time when I’ve voted, it wasn’t for someone it was against someone else.

But surely there has to be some progressive voice from our generation, you say.  In fact there is.  Their names are John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  And what do they do?  They hate on the haters.

None of us, it seems, are taking politics very seriously.  None of us trust it.  Either we back the formal hatred of the government by going along with the intractable Republicans.  Or we try to step outside of the system and point and laugh at the Republicans as they mess things up.

This does not bode well for our future.  In ten years, the Millenials will likely be making an early foray into politics, dislodging the stubborn old fools from their game of king of the hill as congressional district boundaries are once again redrawn.  And all we’ll have to show for it, as far as the history books are concerned, is a brief swath of stubbornness under the rule of a movement with an unfortunate nickname.


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