I have just finished reading an article entitled “Blame Millennials for President Trump” by James Kirchick of The Daily Beast. Link here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/16/if-america-elects-a-president-donald-j-trump-blame-millennials.html?source=TDB&via=FB_Page. This article seems to be another instalment in the ridiculous “blame/threaten Millennials for not supporting Hilary” schtick, which really got cranking when Sanders seemed a real threat, and keeps cropping back up every time Trump starts breaking even with Hilary in the polls.
“Bite the bullet and vote for Clinton” Kirchick urges his fellow Millennials – joining the club of tinny, misunderstanding apologisers that includes Sarah Silverman, Bill Mayer et al. Here’s the basic argument: basically a third of Americans want to vote third party – mostly Millennials – and if they all voted for Hilary, they would smash Trump (only about another third). Thus, If Hilary looses, it will be the third-party favouring Millennials to blame for President Trump.
The reason why Millennials are voting third party – muses Kirchick – is because they are ignorant of the dangers of Trump and strongman/dictator Populism, via our distance from WWII, the Cold War, and the Greatest Generation (Who can do no Wrong, Blessed is Their Name; may our Future be always Manipulated by Reference to Perceptions about what they Would have or Would Not Have Done). Also, Millennials are bitter about Sanders not winning the Democratic primary (remember: Millennials are spoiled and moody, unlike Baby Boomers). The key line that both confuses the issue and ignores the value of the pro-Sanders point of view is this: “a left-wing anti-imperialism that considers her to be a war-monger”. This line encapsulates the whole misunderstanding.
Digging deeper into this line, I find that it both completely misrepresents how I think about Hilary and the Democrats, and it points to a misunderstanding of the entire progressive, third party Millennial conception of contemporary politics, to the point where I think it’s almost a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue and change the subject. It’s a line that both straw-man’s my argument (destroying a weaker parody of my opinion), and attributes my reasoning to something very different to what I’m thinking. Kirchick and the Democrats have saddled me with an opinion that I do not have, and then have dismissed it.
And then Democrats like Kirchick wonder why Millennials are voting for third-party candidates.
Because I do not think Clinton is a war-monger. I am not an “anti-imperialist” because such language is comically out of date and doesn’t apply because it’s not 1848 or 1919 anymore. Any attempt to have a discussion about “imperialism” or “capitalism” or “socialism” or “communism” can only be an attempt to change the subject away from a real discussion of about economics and what we value as a society. That is how outdates these words and concepts are.
Next, Kirchick ascribes a ‘darker’ motivation: “a mix of moral relativism, historical ignorance, and narcissism.” Interestingly, this is how I feel about Baby Boomers (add a line about being spoiled and never really growing up and having everything handed to them on a silver platter and it would be a perfect match). I wonder if this inexplicable and ongoing criticism of Millennials is a sort of meta-criticism of Baby Boomers; one can never criticise one’s self, but when something is painfully close, it makes it a lot easier to criticise; a sort of Lacanian communication. But leaving that aside for the moment, I simply want to point out that Millennials are the most highly educated generation ever; arguments to our historical ignorance because we where not born during the Cold War is both dumbly wrong and again misses the point. Millennials obviously have a different perspective, and it would not kill you – in fact it would really, really be beneficial for everyone – if Baby Boomers, Democrats, the Media, etc, would acknowledge that Millennials necessarily have a different perspective and it is completely valid and valuable.
In a nutshell, the powers that be seem resentful that Millennials are not accepting the received wisdom of the Baby Boomer generation – what a surprise. It’s almost as if things are not going well in the world and in the nation and the Millennials want a change from failed policies that we have received from the Baby Boomers.
As to the narcissism, you can say that about everybody and everything. It’s false because its never not true. The same goes for the line about moral relativism; if there is one thing that is true it is that people will do what they want, regardless of ‘morality’. I think I detect a pungent whiff of a sort of neoconservativism in Kirchick’s argument: a sense that all that is ‘moral’ has already been discovered and proscribed, and all that is left is for Millennials to do is to get in line and follow it. It’s a case of the kettle calling the pot black, to say the least.
Kirchick goes on to list a series of traits about Millennials which he seems to think is bad like: “millennials “perceive the world as significantly less threatening than their elders,” “are more supportive of international cooperation than previous generations,” and “are also far less supportive of the use of military force.” Millennials are also deeply skeptical—like Trump—of American exceptionalism.” I hardly know what to add other then: is this not a good thing? Is this not the way forward? And even if you disagree, you have to acknowledge that it’s a valid point of view to have. As to the line about Trump and American excpetionalism – I hardly know where to start. It simply seems like a clumsy and desperate attempt to link Millennials (which have no interest in Trump and are not voting for him) to Trump himself. It’s a rhetorical trick, and a poor one at that.
Maybe that is the issue. Most pundits and opinion makers simply don’t understand the Millennial perspective: Trump is too much of a gargoyle to take seriously. Millennials are entertained and therefore not afraid. We see Clinton as an extension of the very policies that got us here in the first place. Trump is a product of the very neoliberal ideology that Clinton represents. The failure of the Democrats to get Millennials on board represents not “moral relativism, historical ignorance, and narcissism” but the abject failure of Baby Boomer governmental paradigms and the failure of the Democrats to actual create real and genuine change. Hilary represents more of the same and that is why Millennials are not voting for her.
Lastly, the logic that blames Millennials and third party voters for Trump is fundamentally fallacious. The “lesser of two evils/hold your nose and vote for the Democrat” logic is the problem. It has presented the American voter with a false choice for decades now. And it has got to stop. Blame people that voted for Trump for Trump; blame the Democrats corruption and blatant hypocrisy for not getting voters on board. I am voting for who I actually want to be president in this election – and every election from here forward. And it’s going to be Jill Stein and the Green Party. Maybe a simplistic metaphor might illustrate how Millennials – well, its how I feel anyway. Hilary is like a Honda Civic. Trump is like a Hummer. I want a bicycle; I feel that the choice between a Honda and Hummer is not as different as they appear on the surface. I want real change; something new that neither candidate comes even close to offering. Stop telling me that the Civic is the best and only choice. Because it is not.
I agree with Kirchick on one point: if Trump wins, we will have deserved it. But it won’t be because Millennials only understand Pokemon Go and are ambivalent about democracy. If anything, the Millennial interest in the third parties point that the Millennials understand what is going on only too well; and very much are engaged in the democratic process. The ‘dismissal’ of Trump as a threat is conceived by Kirchick as naive; a sort of digital disconnect from a reality. But the flip side is that Millennials are not buying into the “lesser of two evils” logic which has enabled both of the major political parties to become some hopelessly corrupt in the first place. Trump is too much of a buffoon to take seriously; it’s not that Millennials can’t tell the difference between a reality tv show and Reality (again, this is exactly how I feel about the ageing Baby Boomers) it is that we are all too aware of the actual scam being perpetuated in this election cycle.