May you live in interesting times, says the Chinese curse. We are living in an interesting and dangerous era. We are in the middle of a crisis the likes of which we have not seen in recent memory. In the midst of this deep crisis, our young people are asserting themselves politically. They are adopting politics, that from the current American elite view are radical. They are not. They are a reflection of their life experience though, as short as it may be. One that has pushed many of them to advocate for a return to an older social contract. One most of us should at least partially remember. Ergo, it is hardly un-American.
Our youth wants to see a free, or almost free college. Many of their parents, and in many cases grandparents, forget that this was the reality in the 1950s and 1960s. In some states this extended to the early 1990s. The older generation forgets that they attended school and were able to graduate mostly debt free. Somehow this concept is seen as unaffordable and radical by the same people who benefited from such a system. It is not.
This is what nations interested in their collective future do in order to create a prosperous society. These nations, many of them in Europe, invest in the education of the next generation. Our youth graduate with large debt burdens, keeping them tied down at times to low paying jobs. They need to pay the loans, and the good paying jobs are not there. Yet, we keep telling them that their ticket to a good life involves at least four years of college, and employers require these degrees even for jobs that used not to require them.
There are other policies these young people advocate for. I would hazard that if you removed partisan labels, those in the older generation might agree with them. Among them there is medical care which should be conceived as a civil right. In the mind of many in the youth, the United States should join the developed world and implement universal, single payer, heath care. They understand, they are not as naive as older people believe they are, that this will lead to the loss of jobs currently held by millions of Americans. These are the people involved in the health insurance industry. This industry, understandably, opposes this. Their model relies on a private system, where they can charge exorbitant amounts for their services.
Over ten years, it would save money. Mostly it is in the administration of the program where the savings come. And the irony is that a Koch brother commissioned study found this.
In our private system if you have the means, you will get the best health care in the world, If you do not, you might as well curl up and die. This is the reality for many Americans, who face the loss of the Affordable Care Act, which the right is attacking.
There are other things that these young men and women are running on, They include preserving and expanding the safety net we have. First thing in their priority list is to preserve Social Security, and as we said above, expand medicare. They understand that income inequality includes poverty levels not seen since the Great Depression. In this respect, some right of center organizations that are masquerading as progressive, are proposing the further privatization of the program, by the implementation of individual savings accounts, and other right wing economics. Among them are the Center for American Progress that says 401Ks are a good idea. Never mind Chile tried a version of this that led to more poverty and less security in old age.
They also seek to kick money out of politics. Why? They see the corrupting effect of big money in the political process. They know that as long as corporate money is seen as speech, their needs will not be met. Corporate power has taken over the political system. Many in the younger generation, and for the record, older Americans as well, do not understand the full corrupting power of money. They know something is very wrong, because their interests are rarely, if ever, voted on. Things that matter to them, such as mass shootings in schools don’t have a prayer. They have correctly diagnosed the problem, and even pointed to the most obvious carrier of this dangerous corrupting influence, the National Rifle Association.
Running against big money is a recipe for a lot of money to be poured against them in campaigns. They know it. And many of them are running without taking big money donations. They are following on the example of Senator Bernie Sanders (V-I) who led the way. And many of them are raising a lot of money from small donors, at times more than big corporate donors are sending their opponents.
They are winning elections. In spite of the odds, they are doing well by running on issues the people care about. All these are the kitchen table items that Americans want solved: College, healthcare, jobs, Social Security, the climate. Yes, the climate and the future is becoming a big item, because their generation will suffer the brunt of climate change.
So what is the American right doing? They are tapping into an old tactic. This one goes back a long time, well before the modern political system took shape. Modern day Republicans and Neoliberal Democrats did not invent it. This is red baiting. It has worked in the past, but the Berlin Wall fell more than a generation ago. Why socialism is not the boogey man that it is with them. The youth actually would like to give European style Social Democracy, or New Deal Democracy, a try.
BUT THE FAR LEFT!
Yes, that one is back, and not just limited to the TV machine. If you spend any time in Social Media, you will see Republicans and right wing Democrats use it. The American Right is worried that the people are rejecting their privatizing project. They know that the looting may be coming to an end. The pendulum is swinging, and trickle down economics may be on the way out (again). The age of lean government may be coming to an end.
Let’s make a couple things clear. The United States does not have a left…but the Democrats! This is a myth, the popular boogeyman. Democrats, as currently constituted, are not a left wing party. They are a center right party dedicated to privatizing everything not nailed down as Republicans. They are just less obvious about it. In fact, acceptable American politics are to the right of the global political system.
What is worrying the right, and this means BOTH PARTY ELITES, is that some in the Democratic base are to their left, and closer to a real center than they are. ,They are changing the nature of the party into at best case, a center left party. This would not unlike what Democrats were during the New Deal. This was a party of the working class, that seemed to expand access to government and the safety net. And yes, in case you wonder, the right of that era called that socialist, even communist as well. At least back then people knew the difference.
Center Right Democrats know that power is starting to slip away from them. The age of Clintonism is coming to an end. This is part of normal party evolution in the United States. We do not have a multi-party system, thanks to the winner take all in the Constitution. We have two dominant parties. Both major parties have within them factions that in a multi party system would be different parties. This is why the progressive, New Deal youth who are taking over the Democratic Party apparatus are feared.
Right wing Democrats are in many cases former center right Republicans. When their party went so far to the right, they left. Their choices were to remain independent, join a third party or join the Democrats. Many chose the third path. In time they moved their former political enemies further to the right than Democrats have been in over seventy years.
It is critical that we challenge anybody who says that many of these policies are radical. Republicans doing it is expected. But many center right Democrats are are well, because they are in the political right. These policies will lead to an expanded role for government. It means the expansion of a frayed safety net and a change in spending priorities. It also will involve working together to solve serious problems, including climate change.
And yes, this will ultimately lead to further taxation for those who have received a lot and do not pay their fair share. It will lead to living wages, and starting to close the income inequality in the country. This is why you and I need to push back on this divisive language. It is time we stop enabling this attack on we the people.