Bernie beat Hillary nine to one among voters under 30 in the Iowa caucuses, according to the chatterers on NPR. Tricky Dick and the Gipper both achieved legendary electoral landslides with roughly 60% of the popular vote, so that’s a drubbing.
Sanders is right about the Democratic Party winning when voters actually turn out and losing when they don’t. Voter turnout in the United States has an extremely strong correlation with age. This correlation is strong enough that it should be embarrassing to anyone below retirement age. The elderly may go to Portland and be duly honored for their citizenship by Tri-Met, but surely the rest of us are dishonored by our government because we are dishonorable about our barest civic duty. Hell, in some states voting requires nothing more than filling out, sealing, and submitting some multiple-choice questions on a sheet of paper. Permanent absentee balloting is the only option in Oregon and available on demand to any Californian who checks the bitch-mail-me-that-shit box on the voter registration form. As it happens, these are both Democratic-leaning states whose governments sincerely encourage high voter turnout, as opposed to certain states, often south of the Potomac, that are eternally begging for federal occupation. The latter states, incidentally, are also more prone to use fishy voting technologies with fishy chains of custody. Surely Rod Serling looks down and knowingly smiles.
You do realize what voting is, I should hope. It’s a periodic opportunity to tell the government what to do for you. Does the government listen? Uhhhhh…. Still, though, it won’t have the opportunity to listen to your grievances, or tell you to stick your grievances up your freshly redressed ass, if you don’t take the five minutes away from Kardashian/Odom gossip to fill out your ballot. It takes me more like half an hour in general elections, but that’s my idealism problem, not yours. I’ve voted in Starbucks, and I have the Humboldt County Elections Department mail me my ballot in Oregon, where I usually get it in time to vote, in spite of occasional derp derp involving my mail after it has been delivered. It’s some cool shit. I follow a few honored-in-the-breach types who conscientiously boycott elections, and that’s the one area where they really don’t make any sense. Seriously, all you need is some passing ties to California, and as long as you’re able to find postage and then drag your ass to the nearest mailbox, you, too, can vote at Starbucks. It’s a great way to run some low-level Bloody Kansas game on a great state that has recently come to be misgoverned by vectors of ethnic and class cleansing. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have to stay there, but I do have to live there.
What I really have to do is find a way to register in Sacramento, the city, not the garbage-ass banlieue where I currently live, so to speak, and do my part to turf out the Johnson-Rhee bougie patronage machine. I’ve never given a shit about Rancho Cordova politics. You probably shouldn’t, either.
That’s the thing. It’s exceedingly rare for anyone to stand his ground and aver that civically engaged young people can be low-class, too. Or civically engaged old people, I guess, but AARP and friends smoothly elide that unpleasantness. I’m not trendy and affluent enough for the hip young things in Midtown, but I don’t give a shit. Sacramento has a bitchin’ plant collection, which I sometimes dream of one day tending as a SMUD utility arborist (they’re called dreams for a reason), and the bougie redliners have no right to keep me out. If I can’t be part of their neighborhood, I can at least be part of their electorate. I don’t need to leave the government of my first home state’s capital city to supercilious trendsetters who want to give the poors the bum’s rush and build a new basketball arena on credit. I may not be able to afford to stay there, but, as P. J. O’Rourke’s ghetto friend from Anacostia put it, “I lives here. Can I come in?”
I know, I know. I live by the light rail station in Rancho, and I have a Eureka voter registration. But these cities are lost causes as far as I’m concerned. So is my native city of Palo Alto, in a very different way. All three of these are plainly drowning in the bullshit. Sac is more like balls-deep in the bullshit, not in over its head, and that’s an improvement.
That was a digression, but not by much. What Sacramento’s current civic leaders, elected officials, and trendsetting hangers-on are currently doing is a microcosm of the voluntary disenfranchisement scam that powerful elements have been running on Americans as a polity, especially young Americans. That would literally be the Millennials. Figuratively, too. I’m over 30, so maybe you can’t trust me as much, but who are any of us to go stand athwart the future, yelling “STOP!” like a drunk William F. Buckley?
I reckon I’m that impertinent bastard, if no one else is. I lives here. Can I come in? It’s prudent to be leery of anyone claiming to give voice to the voiceless when the voiceless in question are perfectly articulate. There’s a difference between a mute and someone who has stopped speaking for the time being because he can’t get a word in edgewise over the people presuming to speak on his behalf. I’m youngish, too young and withdrawn for Gen X, anyway, and I do not appreciate all these shady, well-connected assholes who go on public platforms to speak for everyone under the age of 25 or 35 or whatever. We’re told that the Boomers keep talking over us, and there’s some truth to this, but the people putting in this kind word for us are talking over us themselves. If they had different personal interests, they might speak on behalf of cute animals or unborn babies, but they’ve chosen us, probably because we have more discretionary income than your slutty neighbor’s first-trimester fetus or Michael Vick’s dogs.
It’s our lot because we’re young. Every rising generation in the West since at least 1950 has attracted these uninvited marketeers masquerading as youth advocates. First it was James Dean necking some not-quite-slut in the back of a ’57 Impala with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, then the Summer of Love hairballs, then the Valley Girls, then the emo/grunge mall rats, and now the current crop of beleaguered neurotics desperately trying to maintain a game face and be compulsorily sociable. The beat changes, but the song abides.
Every one of these stereotypes has been of below-average eloquence and thoughtfulness. The Valley Girls were especially egregious, a slur upon the entire Los Angeles Basin. That was like dragging some mentally retarded psychotic guy out of the De Anza Hotel and saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, behold: typical Santa Clara County.” It was flagrant bullshit, but it more or less worked. Then again, none of the others were worth a pot of shit intellectually. Late Gen X came a bit less short of the mark, maybe, while the Woodstock crowd wasn’t nearly as profound as it may have appeared at first glance. Wow Much haight Many ashbury. The Millennials, as popularly construed, are absolutely fucking insufferable. I want no part of them, but the feeling may not be mutual, as much as I hate to admit it.
It’s worth keeping in mind that at no time was the young American public as a whole nearly as idiotic and thoughtless as its pop-cultural representatives. I’ve run with some dumbass fucking pitiful bastards in my day, so I do not reflexively hold my fellow Americans in high esteem, but the stereotypes we’ve been given for young people, generation after generation, have been extremely unfair and misleading. If nothing else, there is a vibrant diversity of ways to be young and stupid, not a single uniform model. Duh. More importantly, though, there have always been young people who knew better than to fall for the shit dumped in their lap by the media conglomerates, and who did what they could to resist it. The powerful have never wanted them (or, if I do say so myself, us) to speak. It has much preferred to act as our representatives.
There has always been an enticing fuck-you-pops element to these youth culture tropes. Mom and Dad have always been too stolid, immoral, rapacious, clueless, or whatever for the cool young things. The elders have always been cramping our style, so maybe they should just, like, get out of the way. The most recent iteration of this propaganda has been that the honored citizens are making us pay into government pension plans that will not be available for us to draw when we reach retirement age, QED Securitas Socialis delenda est. (Wow Many Cialis.) In earlier times, the complaints have been that the ‘rents won’t let us borrow the car to go neck with our girlfriends out by the quarry, pay our way to Altamont, or let us stay at the mall until closing time and then hang out in the Dairy Queen parking lot until midnight. It’s by turns unbelievably petty and stunningly evil.
They’re always after our money in some fashion. In the old days, they wanted us to pimp our rides, go slumming with dirtballs and listen to live tunes, or cash-bomb Abercrombie. These days, they want us to do business with venture capitalists catfishing as jitney cabbies and entrust our retirement savings to privateering frauds. That’s who we are as Millennials, after all. Millennials don’t use cash/dig food trucks/don’t have faith in the solvency of Social Security/love the sharing economy Wow Such uber Omg want. These are presented as descriptions, but their purpose is very much prescriptive. Those of us who consider food trucks little more than preening wankery, conduct two thirds of our transactions with cash, want Uber brought to heel by regulators, and probably will in fact try to expatriate to Canada if the US Social Security system gets into serious trouble politically just haven’t gotten with the program.
As Nick Gillespie beautifully put it, “Who’s us, Kemo Sabe?” That was in reference to Boomers and their five-decade erection for the Kennedys, but it applies just as well to Millennials and the scams and rackets we’re supposed to find so groovy. We’re being told who we are. We’re being told who we’re supposed to be. Consequences for noncompliance lurk ominously in the shadows.
Except it isn’t going as planned. Hillary, always hellbent on being all things to all voters, made an ostentatious show of being hip to the youth lingo and cultural memes, as one’s Abuela does. So far it hasn’t worked. An extreme supermajority of Iowa’s young voters caucused for the meshuggah with the yellow legal pad. In coming weeks your Abuela will ramp up an equivalent stunt with black voters in South Carolina.
It’ll be disgusting, but there’s no guarantee that it will work. Bernie’s an authentic cracker, and as Sam Dotson might attest in a candid moment, the Community likes its crackers authentic. So do I. So do many young people of all races. The Clintons have a reputation for delivering the goods to black voters, but now that the goods include a notorious carceral state disproportionately caging African-Americans, the bloom is a bit more tenuously attached to the rose.
The feminist shtick is getting desperate, too. At the debate last night, Hillary mocked Bernie for daring to suggest that she’s establishment because she’s a woman. Yes, she actually said that. How can someone accuse me, running to be the first woman president, of being part of the establishment? I was floored, and I doubt I’m the only one.
Some of us are wandering away from the veal pen. It’s about fucking time.