The Coming Storm

Thomas Kedsall points out an interesting development in intra-party Democratic politics:

David Leege, an emeritus professor of political science at Notre Dame, wrote in an email to The Times that younger Democrats “are products of a totally different environment and culture than their grandparents.” As a result, he said, “there is a vast difference between the communitarianism of the elders and the individualism of the younger liberals.”

In the future, Leege argues, “the combination of unanchored and individualistic electorates and the post-Citizens United political arena can make elections perpetually close.”

Money, in Leege’s view, will likely trump the demographic trends favoring Democrats.

I think there’s a lot in Mr. Kedsall’s column that just isn’t quite right. For example, I don’t believe that young people are notably less “communitarian” than their elders. It’s just that their communities don’t align with the neighborhoods they happen to live in or their legislative districts. By the magic of Facebook and Twitter their communites are smeared all over the country and throughout the world. The implications of that for government legitimacy or policy whether here or in China or in Sweden haven’t been realized yet.

44 comments… add one
  • Tim

    As a “young” (not that young, but Gen Y so I probably count by this definition) “liberal” (not really a liberal, but I share concerns and perspectives that liberals have more often than conservatives), this also rings false to me.

    A lot has been written about “millennials not being joiners,” which is ironic because they have probably been members of more organizations by the time they’re 18 (from soccer clubs to student government to Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Office Products) than the two previous combined.

    As they get older, they’re not joining some of the organizations that they “should” – especially unions and professional organizations – but that, I think, has more to do with declining appeal in general rather than a lack of willingness to be a communitarian.

  • Modulo Myself

    The liberal vs conservative breakdown that would make sense to someone who came of age during the 70s has not reproduced itself for those who grew up during Iraq and the financial crisis. Looking for similarities in polls about distrust of government or taxation is not very helpful.

  • Modulo Myself

    The communitarian thing is a perfect example. A twenty-five year old now would be shocked at the blatant fears and prejudices of a twenty-five year old in 1965. The idea that there could be a sense of community in someone who thinks that women should not have jobs, or that blacks and white should stay apart would be a joke.

  • PD Shaw

    What I believe he is saying, is something I’ve observed, which is that the progressives are quite libertarian in many respects — left libertarian. They are driven mostly by social issues and enjoy mocking authority. The article points to polls showing less support for progressive taxation, more confidence that hard work pays off, and less hostility to business; all of which suggest that the left has become more emplaced in the framework of college students and graduates.

    What its source, I don’t know; but he may be holding the wrong end of the stick. This sort of “New Left” has been around for generations, but perhaps the question is what happened to the”Old Left” instead.

  • I also think that the proposition “give me the voter at 18 and he’s mine for life” is controversial at least as it applies to political parties. While I acknowledge that there’s some scholarship which suggests that’s the case, I’ve also seen contradicting scholarship which suggests that political views are malleable through life.

    What is further suggested is that one’s political views are influenced by one’s experiences and, in particular, crisis points through life. That rings true to me.

    The more thoughtful question then is how will the crisis points throughout the lives of people born from, say, 1984 to the present influence their views as the events of adulthood become increasingly more factors in their thinking? It might be as simple as “Why would anyone but an old straight white man vote Republican?” Or not.

  • Modulo Myself

    I would say that young left-liberals are tribal and empirical more than anything else. The big cut-off for entrance into the tribe is the obligation to perform interpretive labor, i.e. the viewing of one’s own actions through the eyes of others, and the ability to describe oneself as an object. Stereotypically, doing interpretive labor is what servants in a house do. They have intimate knowledge of how they are viewed by the house’s owners, but the owners have absolutely no knowledge of how they are viewed by the servants.

    So in the liberal tribe, you can be in an open relationship, but you can’t find trigger warnings absurd or act promoting weakness. Or you can believe in hard work, but you understand that hard work functions as a code for something else, something other than hard work. What’s really not acceptable is finding it incredible that your actions are misinterpreted or misunderstood on a consistent basis. In the left tribe, these are your actions.

  • PD Shaw

    I’ve seen some studies that purport to show that people become more conservative over time, but I am kind of suspect of such longitudinal analysis in politics: the issues change over time, as do their relative importance. And the political parties change as well.

    I can see that with age comes greater skepticism. They do seem to become more skeptical of the use of the military.

    Also, current issues might seem less important. The state cuts funding for busses. An older person says I walked to school and loved it. A younger person assumes bussing is needed because that is the way it has always been, and everything from design of the access to the school, lack of crossing-guards and teacher supervision on the playground and racial equalization assume it.

  • michael reynolds

    Younger people always seem disturbing to older people. Older people always write think pieces about how and why the young are disturbing. Those writings are always wrong.

    A young person today has 100 years of life ahead of them. I have perhaps 20. What they see spread out ahead of them is a life of possibilities. I see a much more limited set of possibilities. They have not learned fear, I have. They want to demonstrate capabilities, I want to avoid losing same.

    They are behaving rationally, so am I. But results will vary according to the mileage on your odometer.

    As to the specifics, yes, their world is very different from ours. They will never be lost. They will almost never have a question of fact they can’t answer with a few thumb swipes. They will never be out of touch with the people they care about. Within a few years they will be able to hold a conversation with anyone in any language.

    They do not care about race, they consider gender as a spectrum rather than a simple M/F dichotomy, and our generation’s obsession with these things just seems ludicrously anachronistic – because it is. They will not be as nationalistic, they will not be as angry, they will not be as criminal or as violent. They are not hesitant to seek psychiatric/counseling care when necessary.

    Our categories do not fit them. That’s not their failing, it’s ours. I like them. I think they’re better than we Baby Boomers were, and rather than wonder why they aren’t more like us, we should probably be trying to figure out how we can be more like them.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    The Baby Boomers thought they were going to bring about peace and harmony. Remember “flower power”?

    Humans will not evolve for a long time, and until then, humans will want to be part of exclusive groups. This natural tendency will ensure that there will always be various animus between various groups, and this natural tendency will be exploited for profit and gain.

    Politicians will especially use this tendency to gain additional voters, and the wonderful kumbaya world will revert to the regular old pre-modern variety,

    I predict that because of the last 2 – 4 years race issues have been set back at least a generation. If I am correct, things will not get better, and they will begin to worsen.

  • michael reynolds


    Race is about age. Old people have a problem with race, young people don’t. Old people die sooner than young people. It’s a problem with a built-in solution.

  • I think that’s unduly pessimistic, TastyBits.

    I picked up with the black woman cook at Tiger Mart a couple of months ago.

    When she asked me how I was doing I said, “Not well.”

    “What is it. Don’t tell me you have man trouble.”

    “I do. But it’s not what you think. My brother is dying.”

    “Listen to me baby, keep this in your mind: ‘We aren’t here to stay.'”

    We aren’t here to stay. Doesn’t that resonate as a bereavement phrase?

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    The old racial animosity was slowly dying out due to the old folks dying, but I predict the use of race for political gain will have profound ramifications. If I am wrong then, things should get better.

  • I don’t see a profound use of race for political gain being the base of Obama’s presidency. I see a profound distrust of near political dynasties being at the root of Obama’s presidency. We’d just been through one.

  • McCain was an unrepentant warmonger, his VP was a twit, and so, what were our choices?

  • And, I have to admit, I thought a black president might shake this country up. And it did.

  • michael reynolds


    I don’t doubt that white panic will remain a problem, but again, it’s a problem like arthritis that afflicts primarily the old. The next generation will have their own b.s. to deal with, but it won’t be race. Talk to some people under the age of 30. They just don’t see the world that way.

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    I specified the last 2 – 4 years. It was deliberate.

    As a warmonger, I can assure Sen. McCain is not a warmonger. He is a half-assed military interventionist. A warmonger has no qualms with battlefield nukes.

    Also, the world looks is a lot different behind the desk in the Oval Office. President Obama was supposed to be a peacenik, but he is terrorizing the terrorists.

  • Do you remember that I voted for Gary Johnson last election? He was the only one I could find who had a clue?

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    Time will tell.

    For me, it does not matter. I tend to scare my demographic anyway. I get along better with working class folks, minority folks, less educated folks, and the like.

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    I cannot stand hippies. They are dirty, and they smell.

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    If I were pessimistic, I would be waiting for the Four Horsemen to arrive. I have been assured that the reelection of President Obama would usher in end times.

    You can also expect to hear the predictions of martial law being declared by President Obama, and he will then remain as a dictator for life. The NSA, Google, chem-trails, baby diapers, American Idol, etc. will all be part of the conspiracy.

  • Modulo Myself

    Michael’s right. There’s going to be a whole lot less panic in this country. Panic came from a flawed privilege that ended up devouring itself in the Bush years. Caring about stuff far away framed through television and top-down political organizations–sexual revolution, abortion, America’s place in the world, terrifying black youths in the cities, the budget, etc.–has nothing to do with reality. It’s like growing up in the 80s, and then hearing about it retold through the lens of the Reagan Revolution. The gap is so severe, and all the advantage is to the side of the one who was alive, versus the robot human who ‘experienced’ the end of the Cold War and Ronald Reagan.

  • My brother has always been a project of VietNam. Two years in the Army starting in ’66 and he still can’t stand for the zip on his khakis and the button line on his oxford shirt to be out of plumb.

  • So, I also have a thing with this cute black grocery checker at Brookshire’s. I have a name but I won’t tell you.

    “Here’s my card.”

    “You’re buying more than you usually do.”

    “It’s a good sale.”

    “How are you. ”

    “I was stopped on my way into work.”

    “What for?”

    “I was at this intersection in a turn lane, and I was in a hurry. And I got pulled over.”

    Yakka, yakka. We started our conversation when she said I laughed like her aunt.

  • Life is just not that hard.

  • steve

    MIchael is mostly correct. Young people, by and large, don’t care so much about race. Some still do, it is still an issue in coal country, but it is fading. Same thing with gay stuff. However, far as I can tell they are just as bad as us older folks in wanting stuff but not wanting to pay for it.


  • I have seen that, too. Like maid service, and laundry, and food on the table.

    It might take some strong language, but they can be put in their place. Plus, they have no real credit. Revoke the cards.

  • I’m sick to death of fwcking around with overpriviledged kids. You had ’em. Deal with ’em.

  • And believe me, you won’t be a hero anymore. Be prepared.

  • Was that sharpish? My brother always told me I was too intense.

  • I’m pretty proud of my electric bill this month. It comes in at $75 for Lucy and me.

  • Y’all just shot up, or what? I do something in concrete and y’all can’t pass the bump?

    Do I need to adjust my medication again or what?

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    I just got my electric bill, and it ain’t pretty. If I could ever get new windows, I could lower it.

    After the storm, I had insulation put in the outer walls, and the attic insulation replaced. I also had a radiant heat barrier installed in the attic.

    The bill is a lot lower than before the storm, but I have a lot of windows.

  • I’m in 600 sq. ft. now. If I remember, you’re in about 1800?

  • TastyBits

    It lists as 1650, but they include everything attached. For the price we paid, we could have gotten a lot bigger house, but because of the location, house prices have not dropped.

  • In the house in Vidalia, 2100 sq. ft., I think we paid for 13 windows, Atrium vinyl, (people in LA recommend vinyl because of the humidity), and they came in at about $5,400. Place out of Alexandria.

  • They came in and changed those windows in 3 hours, no muss, no fuss, and hauled away all the trash. Of course, they took those aluminum frames and copper sash supports to recycle, too.

  • TastyBits

    We have 5 double (side-by-side), 1 picture, 1 sliding glass door, 2 small, 2 regular, 2 long regular. The low estimate was $6,000, but that did not include the sliding glass door.

    I also decided I would like to get the hurricane proof ones. I am too old to be bothering with boarding windows.

  • What about trading the sliding glass for a French door?

  • Down at the coast after Ivan, our estimate was $8000 for two hurricane-proof sliding doors.

  • TastyBits

    The wife wants French doors, and she usually (always?) gets what she wants.

    My wife took me to the VA last week, and I was talking to the nurse fishing for a vein. I was telling her I appreciated all the VA folks did for the vets, “except those a-holes getting bonuses.”

    I looked at her and said. “I know they’re not giving you all any bonuses.”

    Before she could say anything, I said, “don’t say anything. I don’t want you to get in trouble, but you can shake your head. You never know who is listening.”

    She started shaking her head, and I added, “they need to start sending some of that money down this way.”

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