Friday I went on Huffington Post Live during lunch (on the east cost) and talked about a topic that came up around young people turning more libertarian. This was sparked by a conversation from a DK blog post I shared on a listserv I moderate about youth and politics.
Among the issues we debated, a few things struck me as interesting when it comes to ways in which young libertarians are trying to re-frame what libertarianism is so as to broaden themselves to match their own desires.
- Young people are libertarian because we're selfish and we want what we want when we want it, and
- Rand Paul will win the Presidency in 2016 because he has cross appeal and will stay true to libertarian values.
Video on the flip:
First off, I am so tired of engaging on panels with only white men who "is the way they is." I roll my eyes at the FoxNews "commentator" who is so dismissive. I couldn't decide if that was because he was a conservative or because he was a self absorbed entitled Yankee. Before it all began he let us all know he wasn't wearing pants and you could defiantly see the outline of the turtle. He snagged his professional grade microphone he uses for his interviews and dissed HuffPo saying no one really watches these. I guess the comfort there is in knowing saying things like that to people who actually work in politics will make it uncomfortable for them to do more appearences with him. He'll get a reputation - republicans find this kind of thing unnerving. They're conservative. Bless their hearts. I digress....
The first point is the most important. Young people aren't selfish or self absorbed and anyone who presumes that technology, social media and the litany of other tools available are indicative of a kind of selfishness is in need of an intro to anthropology. We have cultural shifts that make up who we are. This evolution between generations and the lack of understanding for why someone does what they do makes these folks look judgmental, ignorant and incapable of looking outside of their own narrow understanding. If one presumes young people to be selfish and self absorbed, maybe it's that they are selfish and self absorbed. Maybe the only people in someone's social circle are selfish and self absorbed. Lucky for me, that isn't my experience.
The fact is, young people are notorious for being the "volunteer" generation. When I first began researching the Millennial Generation in 2007 I wasn't surprised to see the commonality between Millennials and our grandparents (The Greatest Generation). We were THE generations when it comes to volunteering for causes. And when it comes to giving, young people are the generation that donates the most. They disagreed because old people give tons of money to churches and republicans and conservatives give huge gobs of money to their churches.
Here's what they misunderstood when I said the word most: amount doesn't necessarily equate donors. When you have a generation that has the highest unemployment rate, the highest student loan rate, and for that matter, debt level, you don't generally have a lot of people with a lot of money. Still, the number of people giving in the Millennial Generation is greater. The amount - the actual dollar amount is greater among older people. Because, older people have less debt and higher salaries and more access to give and donate more money. It's a numbers game. The other part of that, is that the Millennial Generation is the largest generation in history (80 Million Strong), so there are more people giving because there are simply more people. It's really just a numbers game.
The more meaningful thing about young people is that we volunteer as much as (the Greatest Generation) and more than other generations. But even this is a numbers game too. Most older generations don't have time because they're more likely to have children. Still, it's a reality. Young people give and volunteer out of a "desire to make the world a better place to live" (at least according to these people). In fact, Millennials are more likely to respond to messages that encourage a positive global impact with an organization's work. Other generations, however, give when they feel its a service the government doesn't provide. Which is a little bit of a more conservative ideology. Free market and all that...
The second part of their concerning arguments was about people like Rand Paul being capable of winning a Presidential Election. To which I say - yes, good, ride that wave, and a blessing on your house. Rand Paul should run and run hard and I will sit back and laugh. If you notice, the Libertarians spent the first half talking about how young people really connect to the authenticity of the Paul's. And then they turned around and said Rand Paul is playacting to the right wing to get through a primary before moving more to his true libertarian values after he makes it through. Now that's the kind of authentic pandering the Republican Party can get behind!
A few hours after the Huff Po Live thing I saw this article on Salon.... Rand Paul's code switching: Why the libertarian senator likes gay marriage one minute and hates it the next. Mmmmm Rand Paul's authenticity tastes like chicken...
So, in the end, no. Young people aren't going more Libertarian. But at the same time, they're not too keen on Democrats right now either. I was shocked no one wanted to talk about that. It isn't that young people are turning to Libertarian ideals and signing up for the Ron/Rand Paul Revolution and leaving Democrats. It's that young people have always been very independent thinkers and independent voters. They've historically supported Democrats, but look at the alternative. If young people identify issues like jobs, the economy, the environment, ending the war, etc... as issues that matter to them not to mention civil rights, human rights, gay rights, and women's rights... it turns out Todd Akin, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin aren't going to get your vote whether they're a D or an R.
Most power players in the Republican Party see the writing on the wall. And that's how I knew the FoxNews commentator wasn't really on the inside with his own party regardless of his 15 minutes of fame. Professional republican operatives get the numbers game. You see people like Pete Peterson and Karl Rove dropping a huge amount of money into youth organizing. Comparatively, Democratic funders don't give to youth groups they give to issue oriented groups and candidates. We were lucky, the Obama campaign prioritized voter registration and mobilization among young people. That was the saving grace of the last 2 presidential cycles.
Unfortunately, we don't see that kind of organizing and mobilization during the midterms because no other candidate or democratic party committee prioritizes it, so we lose the youth momentum.