America’s youth are learning that time has a way of changing one’s perspective.
On Nov. 7, 2012, The Christian Science Monitor reported voters between the ages of 18 and 29 comprised 19 percent of those who went to the polls, and 60 percent of them voted for President Barack Obama.
The Monitor concluded if GOP candidate Mitt Romney “had received at least 50 percent of the support of this age group in … Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, 80 electoral votes would have gone his way, winning him the presidency.”
As Sheldon Cooper might say, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”
Many young Americans are sensing the hope and change they thought they were getting is actually something quite different.
A report from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics reveals more than 50 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of the Affordable Care Act and believe it will increase their health care costs. The report said 41 percent of those surveyed said they approved of Obama’s performance as president while 54 percent disapproved.
“This is the lowest approval rating we have reported since the beginning of his presidency,” the report said, “… and a drop of 11 percentage points since our last survey was released in April 2013. … Less than one in five (14 percent) young Americans in our poll indicate that the country is headed in the right direction, 49 percent believe it’s headed in the wrong direction …”
The poll indicates a large number of young people are acknowledging that hope is not a credible governing strategy.
Young voters are often more brimming with optimism than information, and even the most knowledgeable frequently permit hopefulness to overrule facts and historical lessons. This is not unusual. The baby boomers were captivated by incompetent presidential candidates like George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy. (Full disclosure: I cast my first vote for McGovern.)
The millennial generation is examining the nation it will inherit, and as the picture comes into focus its fears are rising. According to the Harvard report, health care is not the only topic troubling young America.
The report said Obama’s “approval rating for the way he handled Iran is down 10 percentage points to 37 percent … his performance on handling the economy is down nine points to 33 percent, and approval of the way he is handling the federal budget deficit is down eight points to 28 percent.”
Perhaps President Obama has done the nation a favor by demonstrating the negative impact of a genuinely liberal government.
America has become, in many ways, a juvenile society. Reclaiming maturity will take time and, regrettably, Americans are not a patient people. A mature society would understand the nation is in a state of imbalance. Washington is failing because it’s trying to do more than it is capable of doing. Equilibrium must be re-established between local, state and federal governments, and all must concede politicians cannot solve every ill; neither can our civilizing institutions such as the family, houses of worship and charities. All need to work together.
If there is reason for hope because young people are questioning the wisdom of Washington overreach, there is also reason for pessimism because change in America has often been the result of responding to a catastrophe, not from thoughtful debate.
It took the Civil War to end slavery, and Social Security and unemployment insurance were reactions to the Great Depression, not the result of conversations over how to address economic uncertainty. Will America reject the policies of the left due to calamity or consent? Will it reject them at all?
In “The Good Life and Its Discontents,” Robert Samuelson observed that today’s big government and big business would shock America’s founders, as would the entitlement society that developed to harmonize those institutions with the nation’s belief in individualism and liberty. The mechanisms of entitlement were intended to direct the power of America’s institutions to work to satisfy the people’s desires. But the dominance of our institutions and our adherence to our beliefs are in conflict.
Samuelson warned, “A culture that celebrates the individual exists uneasily with the modern welfare state and the modern corporate world. As long as we believed that our beliefs and institutions could be made thoroughly compatible we remained oblivious of the deeper tensions of postwar society.”
America is floundering because its institutions are in conflict with its beliefs and Constitution. The path we are on will not successfully resolve that inconsistency.
Joseph Bell was communications director for former Congressman Rob Simmons, Conn.-2nd District.