Submission by Floyd Gardner
There seems to be a clash brewing between older, established Democrats and younger members of the party. The younger people seem to be far more liberal in their politics than the more centrist older members.
While people with certain progressive bona fides lead the Democratic Party, they are not progressive enough for many potential Democratic voters. This is most evident among younger, more liberal-leaning voters who are viewed as uninformed by the party leadership. This opposition to newer ideas may turn out to be self-defeating for the Democratic Party.
That our youth should lean more to what we now consider the left is understandable. They carry the brunt of our 40-year march to conservatism. America followed the piper and cut taxes, pared our regulatory authority, destroyed our ability to direct and control our healthcare system, and watched as our businesses were rewarded for moving overseas by giving them Citizens’ United. Collectively, these events are the seeds of progressive politics.
No one should be surprised that people raised in a democratic society would want to use that political power to move away from circumstances that harness them with a disadvantage. Our elementary educational system is being gutted to accommodate tax cuts that went to the top 10% of income earners and to the business community they control. These same tax cuts saddled our college students with debt that will burden them for many years, while at the same time providing a mediocre education that does not give them the edge they deserve.
Regulations that protect consumers from financial rip-offs were gutted, causing the crash of 2008. To save us from the full impact of that crash, the nation ended up doubling its debt and our youth will pay interest on that debt as an ever-increasing burden. Those who control our banks and financial systems have gained wealth beyond imagination at the cost of our children’s future. Perhaps the most telling example of the power of business since Citizens’ United is the extent of control the National Rifle Association wields in our government. In the face of overwhelming opposition, State and Federal legislators continue to liberalize gun laws. Our youth notice this and aren’t fooled by it.
Insurance companies have worked tirelessly to reduce consumer protections originally found in the Affordable Care Act. The pharmaceutical sector has ignored all reason and continues to price critical medications out of the reach of a larger and larger portion of the people.
Younger voters don’t seem wedded to the two-party political system. The Green Party and Libertarian Party found significant support in 2016, and will likely show even greater strength in 2020.
We would be wise to pay attention to the recent sudden rise in politics of real liberals such as New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. We can also take a lesson from the unexpected results of several special elections in formally conservative strongholds. These surprising outcomes came mostly from minority and youthful voters.
We must admit that our kids and grandkids know what they’re doing. Witness the highly effective political performance of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students as they changed Florida gun laws and registered countless young voters nationwide. Few of these new voters will be conservatives because, most of all, they seek relief from suffocating conservative practices.
A wise Democratic Party would find a place for these gutsy youth before they go their own way.
Founder of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus