The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The recent economic crisis hit the American middle class hard. But for the youngest adults trying to gain a foothold in the good life, it’s been devastating.

So why did so few millennials, the huge cohort of 18- to 29-year-olds, vote last November? Only 21 percent bothered.

Let’s dispense with the excuse that they don’t feel their elected government cares about them. You don’t get served till you enter the restaurant.

The result of this passivity may soon be apparent. President Obama has issued proposals to restart the middle-class escalator in ways that would be especially helpful to millennials. They include free tuition to community college, expanded tax credits for child care and a tax break for middle-income working couples.

Because these things would be paid for with higher taxes on the very rich, many will be a tough sell to the expanded Republican majority. As we know, the conservative electoral gains were a gift from older voters, who turned out in relatively high numbers.

Many of these folks spend their leisure hours marinating in the glow of Fox News Channel, where they are told what exemplary Americans they are and how younger people without jobs or savings are basically bums. The median age of the Fox News viewer is almost 69. For Bill O’Reilly’s show, it is 72.

Give these older conservatives credit. Their sense that government doesn’t care about them is precisely a reason they vote. They vote whether they like or dislike the president. They vote if it’s raining. In sum, they are doing what they’re supposed to do. Vote.

Much blame for the voting age gap belongs with the various spokesmen purporting to represent the young, generally progressive electorate. They often sympathize with the group’s reasons for not voting rather than telling them to toughen up and dive in.

I wish the TV comics dishing out news kibbles amid the bleeped-out F-words would stop telling the kids not to trust anyone, above all the traditional media. The traditional news media, for all their warts, remain a last holdout for grownup coverage. Actually, serious government reporting, once you start following it, can be fascinating. Toilet jokes not needed.

This trashing of the more reliable sources drowns news consumers in the chaos of social media, where well-written lies and propaganda swirl among the honest reporting. Ironically, the older folks still read the newspaper, even as they often curse its viewpoints.

A poll of millennials conducted last spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics blamed decisions not to vote on a “decrease in trust” in government institutions and a rise in cynicism. Really? Few distrust government more than the older Tea Party folks, who correctly see the voting booth as the remedy for their discontent. They understand that you end up voting for the preferable of two choices, not perfection.

The younger voters, the Harvard pollster went on, “need to feel like they’re making a difference.”

The most obvious way to make a difference would be to vote, would it not? And by the way, it’s truly cracked logic to say that once good leaders magically get themselves elected, we’ll start voting for them.

There are two coherent ways to deal with unworthy politicians. One is to throw them out of office — or keep them out — through one’s vote. The other is to submit to them and not vote.

Too many young Americans choose the submission route. Should the conservative Congress shoot down proposals to help them advance economically, they’ll see the price of going limp.

The politically powerful know they need only one reason to vote: It’s Election Day.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Penn State news via Flickr

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

The House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package early on Saturday morning, taking a first step toward the enactment of the new administration's top legislative priority.

In the narrowly divided House, the final vote hewed closely to party lines, 219-212, with two Democrats opposing
the leadership. (Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Jared Golden (D-ME) voted against the bill.) Having passed the House,
the relief legislation will now go to the Senate, where a provision increasing the federal minimum wage is expected to be stripped out of it. Last week the Senate parliamentarian ruled against including that provision under the reconciliation process, which Senate Democrats are using to pass the bill with a simple majority vote.

Once it passes the Senate, the bill will return to the House for another vote before it reaches Biden's desk for his signature.The bill advanced by the House includes $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually, an increased child tax credit, billions in direct funding to state and local governments, funding for schools, and additional support for vaccine distribution as the Biden administration seeks to fulfill the targets set for its first hundred days.

Keep reading... Show less

Close