Jay Bookman attributes such a change in attitude to the different “historical experience” of the 18-29 demographic who do not even remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those under age 40 have lived their adult lives “in a world in which communism was no longer a grave threat to capitalism.”
According to Bookman, the capitalism they have seen is a more ruthless capitalism than that of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations:
After 1989, with its competitor [communism] vanquished, capitalism in effect began to exert its monopoly power. It became rougher, less paternal and more aggressive. If income for the already wealthy soared while the pay of working class Americans stagnated or even declined, well, too bad. It was justified as Darwinian justice, a form of justice much different from the concept of economic justice that had been in effect prior to 1989.
With the decline in family cohesion, religious faith, and community, today’s young conservatives are likely to adhere to a Darwinian style of capitalism. They reveal a resentment of Baby Boomers, and even blame them for “ruining their lives” with overspending. College sophomore Sarah Westwood, in the Wall Street Journal, recently lectured her Republican elders about updating “Grandpa’s adage of tax less, spend less” and breaking with the “gay-bashing and Bible-thumping fringe.”
While Ayn Rand-style fiscal conservatism may appeal to some young adults, others educated in a system that emphasizes emotional empathy for the “oppressed” are likely to reject it as mean-spirited and hateful.
Going back to the reflective and reflexive responses to the election loss, it seems that such analysts are putting the cart before the horse. There might be some truth to their assertions that race, ethnicity, and age determined election outcomes and that these groups need to be courted to win future elections.
But are demographics political destiny?
We can look at the case of Allen West, a black Tea Party member of Congress, who lost the election to a younger white man. While the media is quick to vilify on the basis of perceived racism or sexism, no such discussion has entered debates about Republicans. In my own state house district in Georgia, a black female Republican candidate was able to win only 25 percent of the vote against the entrenched white female Democrat, who did everything to shut her out from community debates where she has a virtual monopoly. It is said she is courting a young white male Democrat to be her replacement when she soon retires. Or consider the case of Mia Love, who attempted to become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. Her opponent, Jim Matheson, is white and male, and supported by liberals who otherwise raise the flag for racial and gender “diversity.”
Among the statements that have made Allen West a pariah among liberals, both black and white, are his charges about communism against progressive members of Congress — who are in fact members of communist and socialist parties. West is charged with “Red-baiting” in insulting profiles, like the one by Tim Murphy in Mother Jones last summer.
The societal shift allowed President Obama, in the third debate, to ridicule Mitt Romney’s fears about Russia: “The Cold War’s been over for twenty years.” Such implied charges of paranoia about communism obscure the very real threats now coming from Putin’s resurgent dictatorial regime. But Obama’s ridicule is typical, and it is intended to cut off discussion.
The Pew Poll reflects my anecdotal observations in the college classroom over the past twenty years. Students automatically associate communism with the “red scare” and “McCarthyism.” Any charges of communist sympathies are likely to be seen as “red-baiting.” Their knowledge about communism, if they have any, is sketchy and slanted.
This is because their history lessons focus on the movements of the 1960s, namely the civil rights movement, which is presented as a triumphal victory of good over evil. The leader is Martin Luther King, Jr., whose method of taking to the streets is now seen as the preferred method of political change. In this morality play of history, those who did not wholeheartedly take up the cause and “march” are presented as evil bigots. Those who did, the same radicals who have shaped our education system, are presented as avatars of good.
Left out of this history, however, are those like George Schuyler and Reverend Joseph H. Jackson, who promoted a patriotic and economic method for overcoming discrimination. Black advocates for civil rights such as Homer Smith, who wrote a book about his experiences in the Soviet Union, are simply ignored.