As I emerge from my post-election funk, the blood slowly returning to my face, I survey the damage done to the world by Fox News and half a nation gone nuts, and ask the only appropriate question… “WTF?”

We’ve elected to the Senate a guy who publicly condemns the Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act; we have put in Congress a passel of people who believe that Obama–the centrist’s centrist–is actually a covert Muslim/Communist bent on world domination, and we’ve emboldened an Alaskan female, secular version of Elmer Gantry into thinking she has a chance at becoming president.

So what on earth is there to be thankful for?

Culture Wars

If you believe, as I do, that the culture war is the 500-pound aardvark in the room–the reason that ostensibly sane voters would elect utterly unqualified people to lead the country, the reason for the Tea Party’s successes, and the reason for the strange disconnect between Americans’ self-interest and their votes, then raise a glass this Thanksgiving for Generation Y,  AKA the “Millennials.”

On almost all the culture war/wedge issues, the current crop of Americans under 30 are trending far more progressive than X-ers or Boomers did when they were pups. When it comes to reproductive choice, acceptance of homosexuality, role of government, the environment and race–this group is turning out to be Pat Buchanan’s worst nightmare.

Nowhere are this generations’ progressive leanings more evident than in its acceptance of homosexuality. According to the 2010 Pew survey, Religion Among the Millennials, 61% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 51% of Americans aged 30-49; 48% of ages 50-64 and 35% of those over 65. Though every modern generation of young Americans has increasingly turned its back on bigotry, the Millennials seem to be running from it at light speed.

Staying Power

With this group, the old, “sure, they’re liberal now, but wait until they get older” bromide doesn’t wash. Hard data and the nature of today’s young adulthood suggest that this group’s rejection of socially conservative politics is different than that of earlier generations, and is more likely to last. Additionally, their desire for more government services suggests their progressive leanings may not be limited to social issues.

According to the L.A. Times’ “Walking Away From Church,” young people are leaving their churches at five times that of previous generations, and the number-one stated reason for leaving is the conservative political orientation of their church. It’s not that they are running out to dance with the Devil, mind you–Millennials tend to hold on to their Christian faith–they just can’t stand the us vs. them poison spewing from the pulpit and from older parishioners.

This phenomenon is not lost on the Christian press. Drew Dyck writes in Christianity Today, “…the life-phase argument may no longer pertain. Young adulthood is not what it used to be. For one, it’s much longer. Marriage, career, children—the primary sociological forces that drive adults back to religious commitment—are now delayed until the late 20s, even into the 30s. Returning to the fold after a two- or three-year hiatus is one thing. Coming back after more than a decade is considerably more unlikely.” Though Dyck is probably correct about losing young people for good, he misses the fact that Millennials’ commitment to religion is still very much alive. They’re just taking it away from what they see as non-Christian influences.

Young Americans to the Rescue

So this Thanksgiving, think of your turkey’s  wishbone as the letter “Y” and give thanks for the Millennials. Yes, four years with our new ultra-right House of Representatives will be difficult to stomach, but remember there’s a whole new crop of young folk out there who have refused to drink the conservative Koolaid and will soon be flexing their political muscle. Like a lethal gene diminishing within a family line, the old, intolerant, Calvinistic mentality seems to be heading for well-deserved extinction.

Who knows, after a few years of seeing this new Congress in action, the Millennials might even become politically active (be still my heart). But for now, I’ll be grateful for their votes.

  1. Rosemary says:

    I feel the same way, and I sure hope you are correct.

    My only hope is in the younger generation. I hope they are smarter, more educated, more sensible , less bigoted and more progressive in their thinking, regardless of political affiliations.

    My experience has been that many of the so called WWII “greatest” generation resists leaving their cold war paranoia mentality behind, along with their ignorant, hateful bigoted views, and are responsible for much of the divisiveness and polarization of our culture.

    That being said, I hope Sarah Palin runs for President on the Repug ticket and chooses John McCain as her veep. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?? The Republican establishment and the teabaggers would drown themselves in their own bloodbath. That would make it a much easier win for Obama.

    The old Democrat ( and Repugs)hangers-on need to retire and bring in the new blood of that generation to take over to restore the party(s) to some sensibility and better leadership. Charlie Rangel is a good example of someone who stayed at the party too long. Love the guy, but he is an example of that old party politics for which an overhaul. s long overdue. They stay too long, thinking they can use slogans and charm to lull people into complacency over their misteps. It’s really a shame, after all the good he has done, to become so sloppy, delusional and narcissitic. He should have owned up early on or resigned. It was an embarrassing spectacle to watch.

    I just hope the younger generation can take over before we are completely entrenched as a corporatocracy or corporate oligarchy. It’s like climate change… just because you don’t believe it is happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

    The courts, the legislature and the executive branch are all in collusion to keep the power structure as it is… and that is our biggest problem. Good luck to the millenium generation. And my apologies for leaving them such a mess.


  2. Russ Buchanan says:

    Hey Rosemary –

    Yeah, the Rangel thing was like watching a once-terrific chanteuse showing up on stage drunk, with a bass-like face job, repeatedly trying and failing to hit the high notes. Embarrassing, indeed. The old guy looked dazed and disoriented.

    A buddy just wrote to me about this “Millennials” piece, wondering how and why the “ARCH-right” (his words) is so deluded.

    My reply:

    Fear, greed, bigotry, gullibility, intellectual laziness and a well-oiled propaganda machine taking advantage of all the above–the partial answer to what makes the ARCH-right tick. I am convinced that the seeming insanity of American voters is rooted in basic issues that make old, white dunces and duncettes feel comfortable. Half the country is still fighting the Beatles, Jane Fonda and long hair on men, for god’s sake. Homos and minorities are inferior, as in “I may not be much, but at least I’m better than ______” Same idea with American exceptionalism and military might–“I may not be much, but at least I’m an American who can bomb your Commie/Islamic/Brown butts into the Stone Age if I want. Or religion– “…be much, but at least I worship the proper God.”

    I swear, if that half of America ever allowed themselves to fully understand what their exceptional country did in Iran in ’53 or Chile in ’73, for just a few examples, it would be a such a terrible blow to their “America-right or wrong” psyches they’d all become raving revolutionaries. But they won’t. Just like they won’t let themselves realize that crony capitalism has rendered obsolete any semblance of a free market. To understand that, they would have to admit that they’ve been played for suckers all along, manipulated into supporting deregulation and privatization by business interests that don’t give a damn about Americans’ common good.

    We will float along, watching our middle class go the way of every other foundered society’s middle class until campaign finance laws change and/or the dunces die out. Since I’m about the same age as many of the dunces, I’m afraid the latter won’t happen while I’m still in an upright position. So, in the meantime I shall pray for campaign finance reform and continue to write pissed-off essays. ta da


  3. Rosemary says:

    amen– well said. We see through the same glasses… and they “ain’t rose colored.”

    Watching a documentary of the same name and based on Thomas Frank’s book– “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” ( 2009) if you haven’t seen it, you can rent it if you don’t catch it on LINK TV. This documentary really hits the nail on the head about the schism with truth and knowledge in this country.

    My brother lives in Kansas and is part of the problem. He is a V-N veteran, retired officer and 12 years older than me… He thinks people who think like me (/you) are the problem. I learned things about my brother in this last election, I didn’t want to know. I feel the same way about the way this country is going.

    I hope in my next life I come back as a house cat… sleep eat and lay in the sun or someone’s lap being stroked with no regard for the rest of the world…

    Keep writing.


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