Faulting Obama for millennial cynicism

Published: March 18 2014 | 8:16 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:46 am in

In case you hadn’t heard, young people these days — aka “the millennials” — are the most cynical and distrusting generation recorded. Only 19 percent think most people can be trusted. According to a big study from the Pew Research Center, they are less attached to marriage, religion and political institutions than Gen Xers, baby boomers and the other demographic flavors journalists love to use. They like their friends, their digital “social networks” and their toys, and that’s about it. Not even a majority will call themselves “patriotic.”

I should say I often find generational stereotyping pretty annoying.

Honor, glory and respect are earned individually, not collectively.

Politicians pander to young people, and lots of young people fall for it. And that speaks well of neither.

Barack Obama won the youth vote by huge margins in 2008 (66 percent among under-30s) and 2012 (60 percent). He did this in no small part by pandering to the vanity of young people. Sure, he addressed “youth issues” such as student loans. Yes, he also mirrored their views on some social issues (though not same-sex marriage in ’08). Obama’s ambivalence toward seemingly cliched patriotic gestures (remember the endless controversy about whether he would wear a flag pin?) sent an important signal to young voters raised on the snark of “The Daily Show” and weary of talk of “freedom fries.”

But the overall gestalt was more about fostering a sense of inclusion in a “movement” of some kind; “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” and all of that nonsense. Obama promised that government could be the vehicle that would carry us to the sunny uplands of history. He took the aesthetic of a Pepsi marketing rollout and pasted it onto a presidential


But, as Mario Cuomo once said, politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. And the prose of the Obama years has been an incoherent and disillusioning run-on sentence. His signature achievement, Obamacare, was designed from the outset to screw young people, overcharging them for products they don’t need in order to subsidize older Americans.

“Idealistic” Democrats have spent the Obama years circling the wagons around parasitic teachers unions at the expense of poor minority kids (rich people have school choice already). The shovel-ready jobs were a fraudulent talking point used to justify pouring money into constituencies that already have jobs. Obama is hellbent on raising the minimum wage, which will help people with jobs — particularly well-paying union jobs that tie compensation to multiples of the minimum wage. But it won’t help young people get their first jobs.

It’s true, millennials remain more liberal and look more favorably toward big government than other age groups. But people grow up.

The hot embers of their ardor for big government may cool as they realize the poetry rarely gets translated into prose. And for that, Obama will deserve a fair share of the credit. For nothing breeds disillusionment and cynicism more than the failure to deliver.

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