Confrontation and conflict are the favorite dispute resolution tools of Baby Boomers, who were born in the aftermath of WWII and grew up in the rebellious ‘60s. In stark contrast, members of the Millennial generation, born 1982-2003, bring a spirit of collaboration and consensus to solving any problem they encounter. A great example of what a difference this generational distinction can make is the cooperative spirit the parents at the LA Unified School District’s 24th Street school, most of whom are Millennials in their twenties or early thirties, used in resolving the dispute over the school’s future.
Located near the 10 freeway and Western Avenue in a predominantly Hispanic, hardscrabble neighborhood, the school appeared regularly on the District’s list of academic underperformers. Beyond poor learning outcomes, the parents at the school were upset by LAUSD’s apparent unwillingness to address major cleanliness and health issues and a tendency for the principal to use suspensions and a police presence as the way to enforce discipline. Before California’s Parent Trigger law gave parents the legal status to challenge incumbent administrators, the parents had organized a protest designed to remove the principal, but LAUSD failed to respond to their request.
So when organizers for the Parent Revolution non-profit that originally conceived of the Parent Trigger law contacted the school’s parents in May 2012, they found a group that was prepared to spend long hours in the grinding work of organizing their peers into a cohesive and unified force that LAUSD would have to deal with. The parents knocked on doors and handed out flyers at the school inviting mothers to come to a nearby park where they met every Thursday after dropping off their kids at school. The “parent union” leaders surveyed all the other parents to determine what they liked or didn’t like about the school and encouraged those interested to attend the Public School Choice programs LAUSD ran to learn more about school reform options. Dissatisfied with what the District’s processes, the parents who came to the park elected a steering committee that met every Monday morning to organize the Thursday discussions.
The discussions led to an emerging consensus on the changes the parents wanted to see at the school site. They wanted to make sure that children with special needs had the right level of support services and the restoration of the preschool Early Education Center the district had eliminated due to budget cuts. They demanded that dead animals and other health hazards, like non-functioning bathrooms, be fixed immediately. But the demand that brought about a real transformation of the conflict at the school and changed its culture in the most fundamental way was their insistence that everyone “play nice” together. They wanted LAUSD’s K-5 24th St. School and the Crown Prep charter school that ran a somewhat competing 5-8 charter school at the same site to embrace a spirit of collaboration to address the needs of the children, not necessarily their individual institutional interests.
On January 17, 2013, about nine months after they were first contacted by Parent Revolution, the parents submitted a “parent trigger” petition to LAUSD, asking that the school be reconstituted under the federal No School Left Behind law’s guidelines for underperforming schools. Unlike other instances in California when such a petition has been presented to a school district’s board, LAUSD, under the guidance of its reform minded superintendent, John Deasy, responded positively to their request. Eight Letters of Intent were presented to the parents from entities that wanted to take over its operations, including ones from Crown Prep and LAUSD.
The parents formed a committee, which met every day from 8:30 AM until 2:30 PM, to review these proposals. They presented all the ideas to the parents at the weekly Thursday meetings and asked each bidder to come to the park and talk to them. On the day of LAUSD’s presentation it rained continuously, but Superintendent John Deasy stayed to talk to the parents as the rain fell about how to find common ground.
Finally, the parents reached a consensus on how to restructure the school. They wanted to retain the college prep focus of the existing charter school, but they didn’t want an organization with little expertise in elementary education taking over K-4. So they asked LAUSD and Crown Prep to establish a collaboration on behalf of their children. If both entities would agree, a brand new LAUSD school with a new principal and new teachers would have responsibility for kindergarten through fourth grade on the campus and Crown Prep would have uncontested responsibility for grades 5-8. Parents wanted both organizations to agree in writing that children would be on a college readiness track when they went to high school and that both organizations would share professional development of the 24th St. School teachers to ensure a seamless environment on the two school campus, including coordination of schedules.
Then a miracle happened. The two competing bidders found a way to agree with the unprecedented request of the parents. They signed an addendum to their bids acceding to the parents’ wishes. The parents voted their approval on April 10, 2013, just about one year after their organizing activities had begun. A newly responsive LAUSD school board approved this innovative new concept one week later and parents became part of the committees that interviewed prospective principals and teachers for their school. The newly reconstituted school opened in the fall of 2013, with a new principal and a new set of teachers who, in the words of one of the parents, “have lots of new ideas and a strong desire to work on behalf of los niños.” The early education center is scheduled to reopen in January, 2015.
When it came time for LAUSD to decide whether to retain the services of Superintendent Deasy, one of the most eloquent speeches on his behalf was delivered by a parent from the 24th St. School who recalled that day in the rain in the park as evidence of Deasy’s commitment to the children of Los Angeles. A school board riven by differences in personality and policy was taught a lesson about how to work in a more collaborative way by the Millennial parents who had embodied this new spirit in everything they did. As Boomers age and fade from their current leadership roles, perhaps more institutions will find a way to embrace Millennial values and behaviors that have already brought “a smile instead of tears” to the faces of the children of the 24th St. school in the City of Angels.
Millennials: Economics of Higher Education
Video from Mike & Morley
Millennials’ student debt is depressing US economy. College
will become part of universal, free educational system
in America when Millennials run things.
Depending on one’s partisan leanings, the desire of House Republicans to shut down the federal government if the Democrats don’t agree to repeal ObamaCare may seem to be either a courageous ideological stand or a kamikaze mission sure to destroy its proponents, if not the country. However, from a generational perspective it is not only a predictable but a necessary step in the country’s search for a new consensus on the role and size of government.
Nor is it coincidental that the current confrontation is coming to a head just as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is about to be implemented nationwde. The roles that the legislation assigns to the federal government, states and individuals in securing every citizen access to medical insurance is such a departure from the existing civic ethos it has become the touchstone for the debate about the nation’s civic ethos in the Millennial Era. Yet, ironically, the law everyone wants to argue about actually provides a blueprint to any politician willing to go beyond their current ideological comfort zone and solve a range of challenges in ways that respond to the beliefs and behaviors of the emerging Millennial Majority in the electorate.
As finally passed by a Democratic Congress in 2010, ACA creates a relationship between the federal government and the nation’s adult population similar to the role Millennials’ parents have played in their young children’s lives. Parents pronounced rules to guide their children’s behavior with consequences (“time outs”) if the rules were broken. Similarly, the ACA requires each individual to purchase health insurance and provides penalties (taxes) for failing to do so, an approach the Supreme Court ruled lawful under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. And, just as parents and other members of the extended community helped Millennials succeed within the boundaries of the rules they established, ACA envisioned a series of state by state health insurance exchanges that would help each state’s residents find the type of insurance they wanted at a cost they could afford. As those exchanges open for business in about half of the states this week, this new configuration of American democracy will be put to a practical test, but the fundamental concept is likely to be recognized in the future as the basis for a new civic ethos as distinct from the Reagan era of limited government as was the New Deal from its laissez faire predecessor.
History suggests, however, that the country must go through a crisis as bad as the one it is facing today before this happens. The New Deal was born out of the perils of the Great Depression. Reagan’s tough love solution of lower taxes and less government regulation required years of economic stagflation before it became conventional political wisdom. Today, neither of those ideas has proven equal to the task of breaking the country out of the economic doldrums of the Great Recession.
Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox. Members of the Millennial generation are as suspicious of large government bureaucracies as any libertarian but as dedicated to economic equality and social justice as any liberal. To resolve the crisis, the GOP should embrace ObamaCare as a great example of how government can encourage individual responsibility and accountability and Democrats should sign up for President Obama’s commitment to creating a smarter, smaller less bureaucratic government. Only when the crisis becomes so bad that a few brave leaders break out of their ideological bunkers and discover a new civic ethos that embodies both collective action and individual responsibility will the Millennial Era civic ethos emerge from the chaos created by a Congress so out of step with the beliefs and behaviors of the future leaders of the country.
Millennials Think Globally, Act Locally
ObamaCare is the model for how Millennials will change
the role and size of government at all levels in the future.
Video from Mike and Morley
The current Congressional debate over Obama’s request to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons embodies the same generational consequences and disagreements as the debate over the United States joining the League of Nations did almost one hundred years ago. The outcome of that vote settled the direction of American foreign policy for two decades, the span of a generation. The outcome of today’s debate may well have the same consequences for shaping the role of the United States in the world for another generation.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson personally led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to convince the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which included the establishment of a League of Nations. Wilson, who firmly believed in compromise and conciliation as the best solution to future disputes between nations, was a member of the Progressive generation, an adaptive archetype similar to today’s seniors, members of the Silent Generation. Wilson told the Senate in July 1919 that "a new role and a new responsibility have come to this great nation that we honor and which we would all wish to lift to yet higher levels of service and achievement". Opposition came from Republican Senators such as William Borah of Idaho, a member of the younger Missionary generation, whose idealist attitudes most resemble today’s Baby Boomers. Wilson’s opponents focused on his idea of a continuing role for the United States in world affairs around Covenant X of the League of Nations, which required all member states to come to the aid of any other member who was a victim of external aggression. The treaty’s defeat caused the U.S. to assume a relatively passive role in international affairs that didn’t end until the Nazi conquest of much of Europe led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to propose the Lend Lease Act, which Congress passed in 1941.
Now, another Democratic President has asked another Congress divided along generational lines as well as by partisanship to authorize the continuation of the United States’ role as the world’s policeman that has been the national consensus since World War II. The very first vote on the issue in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee revealed the generational split that is likely to continue when the full Senate and House take up the issue. The average age of the seven U.S. Senators voting against the resolution was almost eight years younger than the ten U.S. Senators who voted to authorize the President to use military force. Both members of Generation X on the committee, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) cast bipartisan “ no” votes. The most strident opposition came from GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, born on the cusp of generational change in 1963. He happily embraced attacks from his older Republican colleagues, who argued that his streak of libertarianism would return the country to the isolationist path it abandoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, none of the members of Congress who will cast final votes on the resolution are members of the nation’s largest and most diverse generation, Millennials. The debate comes too soon for them to be eligible to serve in the Senate, but their attitudes and beliefs are certain to have an impact on the nation’s foreign policy in the longer term. Millennials are more likely to support intervention by the United States on behalf of causes than on disputes between nation-states. For instance, only 12 percent of Millennials express support for the United States intervening to promote democracy, whereas 42 percent support using the U.S. military to halt genocide. They are also more inclined to support efforts when they represent the concerted action of allies, rather than a go-it-alone decision by the United States. By a three-to-one margin, Millennials believe that the United States should take the opinion of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions, and about one quarter of them don’t believe the country does that frequently enough.
President Obama’s initial reaction to the use of chemical weapons reflected his sensitivity to these generational attitudes. He was spurred into action against Syria because it violated the prohibition on the use of such weapons by the Geneva Accords of 1925--cause enough in his opinion to warrant retaliation by the United States. When efforts to gain support for such action failed in the United Nations and in the British House of Commons the president decided to turn to Congress and seek its approval as a way to build consensus for the strikes. However in doing so, the administration inevitably had to accommodate arguments that such action was necessary to project our power against rivals such as Iran and in support of allies such as Israel in order to win over support from older members of Congress who tend to see the world through a more traditional, balance-of-power lens.
The push and pull of generational and partisan differences will continue to shape today’s watershed debate over Syria in the Congress. Whether its outcome lasts for decades or is simply another step in an ongoing debate about America’s role in the world in the 21st century will depend on the degree to which its final resolution resonates with the attitudes and beliefs of the Millennial generation that will ultimately determine the nation’s future.
Millennials & Foreign Policy
Why elder statesmen have a hard time embracing leading from behind. Millennials' belief in teamwork and consensus is changing America's approach to foreign policy.
The most decisive force in national politics today is the millennial generation (born 1982-2003). Millennials re-elected Barack Obama and will represent more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade. Yet, more than six months after the 2012 elections, Congress has moved fitfully, if at all, to address this generation’s political agenda.
The most promising effort in the current session of Congress to address millennials’ concerns was the bipartisan effort in the Senate that secured passage of a comprehensive, if somewhat overblown, immigration reform bill. Forty percent (40%) of millennials are non-white and Mitt Romney’s ostrich-like approach to this issue helped motivate Hispanic and Asian-American millennials to vote overwhelmingly for the president. Still, in spite of this lesson, two-thirds of the Senate Republican caucus voted against the immigration reform bill. The Republican House is even more hostile to the idea, even with their professed bête noire of border security addressed with massive new funding for enforcement in the just passed Senate bill. GOP opposition to the bill is so entrenched that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to not even bring it to a vote.
Millennials are a tolerant bunch and this continuing display of intolerance by congressional Republicans bodes particularly ill for the GOP’s chances of attracting the generation’s votes in the future. Tea Party-inspired efforts to pass a mean spirited, rather than a means tested, approach to food stamps, helped to doom the bi-partisan Senate version of the farm bill in the House as well. That same body did find the time and the votes to pass, for the 37th time, an irrelevant repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though the passage of Obamacare was another key reason why millennials supported its namesake last November.
But probably the vote that was most out of touch with millennial attitudes and beliefs was the vote this month in the House to further limit abortion rights in this country. Perhaps the Republicans who forced that vote upon their colleagues missed Sandra Fluke’s spirited defense of women’s reproductive rights at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that resonated so positively with the Millennial women, two-thirds of whom voted for Barack Obama last year.
The failure of the current crop of older members of Congress to address the concerns of the millennial generation is not limited, however, to Republicans. The Democratic leadership in the Senate didn’t feel sufficient urgency, for instance, to prevent the interest rate on student loans to double before Congress adjourned for the July 4 holiday. Can anyone imagine them taking the same lackadaisical attitude if Social Security benefits were about to be cut? Even had the student loan issue been addressed in a timely manner, it still would not have dealt with the incredible burden of student debt, now over a trillion dollars, that is preventing many millennials from doing the things that young adults traditionally do, like starting a family or buying a house, that would contribute mightily to the nation’s economic recovery. The problem, however, goes ignored by members of both parties in both houses, most of whom were never asked, as millennials have been, to self-finance the education they and the country need to promote economic growth.
Congress is so out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of millennials that even the nine old men and women on the Supreme Court did a better job of addressing the generation’s agenda in their last session when the Justices declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
There have been other times in America’s history when Congress has stubbornly refused to deal with the needs of the nation’s newest generations. In 1868, one-third of a generation very much like today’s Boomers, the Transcendentalists, were booted from their congressional seats in favor of candidates from a younger, more modern generation. It was the largest generational landslide in the nation’s history — until now. If the current Congress continues to ignore Millennials, it risks suffering the very same fate — an outcome for which it will have only itself to blame.
Baby boomers, growing up in what appeared to be the never-ending prosperity of the 1950s and '60s, were at various times amused, mystified, and infuriated by the economic caution of their GI or Greatest Generation mothers and fathers, often labeling the penny-pinching of their parents “Depression mentality.”
Now, a half-century later, many of those same boomers, perhaps with a greater degree of understanding this time, are watching their own "millennial-generation" offspring (born from 1982 to 2003) develop the same habits of frugality and restraint that the millennials’ great-grandparents did in the 1930s and '40s. This change in attitude and behavior will impact America’s consumer spending and the way businesses and advertisers will need to approach their customers for decades to come.
The notion that millennials are willing to curb their spending might surprise some who have said the generation is self-centered and entitled, but it shouldn’t. The reasons for millennials' financial prudence are clear: Like the GI generation, millennials grew up in a time of relative prosperity, only to face a major economic downturn just as they were emerging into adulthood and the workforce.
Throughout the Great Recession that began in 2008, youth unemployment was almost
always nearly double that for the entire adult population. In January, when the nation’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, it was above 13 percent for those 16 to 30 years old.
In addition, millennials are not only the most highly educated generation in U.S. history, but also the generation with the most-ever student debt. A 2010 Pew report on America’s generations indicates that a majority (54 percent) of millennials had attended college, the first generation to have done that. Unfortunately, college costs and the loans millennials have assumed to pay those costs have risen sharply as well. In 2011, college seniors graduated with an average loan debt of $26,600, up 5 percent from just a year earlier.
As a February Pew report indicates, factors like these have shaped the consumer and financial behavior of millennials across a range of areas, from where they live, to how they travel and how they spend:
Where Millennials Live
More than a few observers have labeled millennials a generation exhibiting an extreme unwillingness to “launch” into full-fledged adulthood. One major reason for this is the economic pain visited upon the generation by the Great Recession. As many as three in 10 people ages 25-34 reported still living with their parents in 2011, something that might have benefitted both millennials and their parents from an economic and cultural perspective but still stigmatized many in this generation among older adults.
Even when millennials have been able and willing to strike out on their own, they have frequently rented rather than purchased their homes, causing some to label them “Generation Rent,” a designation first used in Great Britain, but one that seems to apply to many young Americans as well. As a result of remaining with their parents or renting, according to Pew, homeownership among 25- to 34-year-olds fell from 38 percent in 2001 and 40 percent in 2007 (years when virtually all in that age range were members of Generation X) to 34 percent in 2010.
This is not likely to be the final word on the subject; a 2010 Pew survey of millennials showed that they ranked homeownership behind only being a good parent and having a good marriage as an important value. But when millennials do move toward homeownership in overwhelming numbers, because of their “recession mentality” they are likely to be more cautious about the size and cost of their home and the type of mortgages to which they commit than previous generations have been.
How Millennials Get Around
As illustrated in the 1973 classic film, American Graffiti, at least since the time that today’s senior citizens were teenagers, obtaining a driver’s license and eventually a car and then cruising the city or hitting the highway has been a romantic rite of passage for young Americans. Millennials have become the first generation since the GI Generation for which this is no longer clearly the case. Between 2001 and 2009, young people reduced their average driving per year from about 10,250 miles to around 7,900 miles, a decline of about 23 percent. Economics is certainly a part of it: According to Pew, 73 percent of households headed by an adult younger than 25 owned or leased a vehicle.
By 2011, that number had fallen to 66 percent. As a result, among the households of those under 35, the percentage with outstanding vehicle debt declined from 44 percent to 32 percent between 2007 and 2010. But financial reasons are not the only ones explaining the decline of the car culture among millennials. Car Connection, a publication focusing on automotive research, points to changes in communication technology (the millennials’ preference for social networking lessens the need for face-to-face contact), location (millennials increasingly living in urban and suburban areas where cars are not as necessary to get around) and “eco-friendliness” (millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation) as reasons why millennials drive less than older generations did when those cohorts were the age that millennials are now.
All of this suggests that in the years ahead auto manufacturers and advertisers will have to focus on the values that millennials will bring with them when they buy cars—a desire for high-tech, environmentally friendly, cost-efficient autos that can be customized to the individual preferences of the owner to the greatest extent possible.
How Millennials Buy
In perhaps no other way have millennials imitated their GI Generation great-grandparents financially more than in their attitude toward accumulating debt (other than the student loans that have been forced upon them just to go to college). Pew research shows that the number of young households carrying a credit-card balance has dropped from 50 percent in 2001 and 48 percent in 2007 to only 39 percent in 2010. During that same period, the average credit-card debt declined from $2,500 to $1,700 among those households. As a result, the debt-to-income ratio (outstanding debt compared to annual income) has fallen from 1.63 in 2007 to 1.46 in 2010 within the households of 25- to 34-year-olds. By contrast, among older households it continued to rise slightly during those years (from 1.08 to 1.22). This suggests that for many millennials conspicuous consumption may be a thing of the past. Members of the generation are likely to carefully plan their consumption, avoiding credit whenever possible, buying only those things they truly believe they need, and seeking the best possible value for the things they do purchase.
John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, in their 2010 book, Spend Shift, described how, in the “post crisis” world, consumers would seek products and services that provide both “value and values.”) The millennial generation is driving this change. Businesses and advertisers would be wise to follow where millennials are leading.
at Huffington Post
Millennials (born 1982-2003) are America's most civic-oriented generation, since their GI Generation great grandparents. They believe in collective, local, direct action to solve their community's and the nation's problems. However, a recent report on the state of Millennials' civic participation indicates that the generation's interest in taking part in political activities is constrained by the underlying skepticism of many Millennials about the transparency and fairness of the country's current political system. To address this problem, the Roosevelt Institute's Campus Network (RICN) has just issued a set of recommendations on how to create "Government By and For Millennial America," that should serve as a roadmap for anyone interested in increasing the civic health of America's largest and most diverse generation.
In its most recent report on the civic health of adult Millennials, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), in partnership with CIRCLE, Mobilize.org and Harvard's Institute of Politics(IOP), pointed out that Millennials' volunteering and community service rates are much higher than that of their parents when they were in their twenties. Not surprisingly, they also lead the country in using social media to advance their participation in civic life. But when it came to voting, only half of Millennials eligible to vote did so in 2012 -- a rate not much different than for 18-29 year olds in the '70s and '80s. Even though Millennials slightly increased their share of the overall electorate last year as compared with 2008 and provided President Obama with the margin he needed to win re-election, many members of the generation remain unconvinced that government understands and cares about them.
In an IOP survey of 18-29 year olds taken before the 2012 election, 43 percent of those whose responses suggested they were unlikely to vote said it didn't matter who was elected because "Washington was broken." Of those IOP considered unlikely to vote, 31 percent thought none of the candidates represented their views and a quarter of them said both major parties were pretty much the same. While Millennials strongly believe in an activist government, less than a third believe their voice is represented in today's democratic processes.
The RICN's report advocates a series of policy initiatives designed to change those impressions.
To make voting easier and hassle free, the report advocates online registration be adopted in all the states, not just the fourteen using such a system today. California, which adopted this approach in time for the 2012 election, registered over a million voters, 61 percent of who were under 35, online in about two months. In order to accommodate this potentially large increase in the electorate, the report also advocates increasing the time and hours of early voting, making Election Day a federal holiday, and ultimately allowing people to vote online. The report also suggests an independent commission create a "Democracy Index" to measure the efficiency and openness of each state's election mechanisms, using objective measurements of participation rates and process efficiencies.
But the report's recommendations are not limited to just the process of voting. It contains a wealth of ideas on how government could be a better "steward of the common good," lawmaker and innovator.
Some of its most innovative ideas deal with expanding the space in which democracy operates in order to create more places for "collective self-determination and political education." This could be done at the neighborhood level as is currently taking place in Seattle and Los Angeles, at more open local school board meetings, or through participatory budgeting processes at the city and county level of government. The report also advocates that states should establish and routinely use online town halls to increase the opportunity of citizens to participate in policy deliberations. The Congressional Management Foundation found that such opportunities increase public approval of the elected officials who sponsor them specifically and participants' civic engagement generally.
The RICN's report clearly reflects the values and beliefs of the Millennials who drafted it. Their recommendations also provide a glimpse into the future of American democracy, since more than one out of three adult Americans will be members of this generation by the end of this decade. Rather than waiting for Millennials to stage a hostile takeover of our democratic processes, those in power today should proactively seek to accelerate the transition from a governmental and political process that is at historical low levels of public trust to a democracy that is in line with the vision and ideas of America's next great generation.
Besides his history-making embrace of full equality for gays and lesbians, the most surprising part of President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address may have been the emphasis placed on dealing with the challenge of climate change. The president devoted almost three whole paragraphs, more than for any other single issue, to the topic. His remarks suggested that America’s economic future depended on the country leading the transition to sustainable energy sources and that “the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Different generations reacted differently to the speech. The President’s rhetoric seemed like standard liberal fare to many Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965), who either vehemently agreed or disagreed with what Obama had to say depending on their political ideology. But members of the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) were in almost unanimous agreement with the way the President defined the context of this challenge. It was as if he was channeling the thinking of Millennials such as David Weinberger at the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN) who wrote, almost a year ago, “Millennials view environmental protection more as a value to be incorporated into all policymaking than as its own, isolated discipline. We are concerned with economic growth, job creation, enhancing public health, bolstering educational achievement, and national security and diplomacy. Young people recognize that each of these concerns is inextricably tied to the environment.”
President Obama was also right, from a Millennials’ perspective, to emphasize the need for America to become a leader in sustainable energy technologies. Seventy-one percent of Millennials believe America’s energy policy should focus on developing “alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology; only a quarter believes that it should focus on “expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas.” Similarly, the RICN’s “Blueprint for a Millennial America,” a report prepared by thousands of Millennials who participated in their “Think 2040” project, placed the development and usage of renewable sources of energy at the top of all other environmental initiatives.
The participants’ proposed solutions to the challenge, however, were not focused on the kind of top-down change so common to Boomers. .Instead the proposals emphasized taking action at the community level. No one, the RICN blueprint said , should be asked to “make sacrifices without fully considering the cost to communities” whose “texture” is most likely to be impacted dealing with the challenge.
Many politicians fail to notice this unique Millennial perspective. Members of the generation disagree sharply with their elders on the best way to address environmental challenges, preferring to tackle them through individual initiative and grassroots action rather than a heavy-handed top down bureaucratic approach.
Of course, Millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation in the nation’s history. Almost two-thirds of Millennials believe global warming is real and 43% of them think that it is caused by human activity, levels much higher than among all other generations. But, as Weinberger also wrote, “While environmentalists of years past were primarily aiming to bring clean air and clean water concerns into the national policymaking calculus, environmentalists today are far more worried about solving global problems like climate change by using local environmental solutions.”
Adapting a Millennial approach to dealing with global warming would mark a major change for the Administration. All four of Obama’s first term environmental policy heavyweights were Boomers, whose preference for top down dictates was evident in almost every decision they made. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established new controls on off shore oil drilling that satisfied neither side. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu tried to jump start the development of renewable energy technologies in the United States by funding startups with dubious chances of marketplace success. And most conspicuously EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s plans for regulating smog were rejected by the President. Fortunately , all of them have announced plans to leave their posts. They will follow in the footsteps of environmental czar, Carol Browner, who left two years ago after a less than stellar performance during the Horizon Deepwater drilling disaster.
There is talk within the administration of subtle changes in policy. The departure of this quartet of ideologically-driven Boomers gives the President an excellent opportunity to appoint a new team to execute his vision for meeting the environmental challenges of our time.
President Obama’s new team will have to continue to link the need to develop U.S. energy production to both environmental concerns and economic development. It will need to couch the call for progress on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the context of strengthening, not weakening, local communities and preserving the nation’s natural resources. Just who the president finds to take on this politically nuanced task will say a great deal about his sensitivity to his Millennial Generation supporters’ attitudes and beliefs. It will also foretell a great deal about how successful he will be in matching the lofty rhetoric of his Second Inaugural Address with today’s political realities during his final term in office.
As demonstrated in the presidential exit polls and rehashed in countless articles and blogs since the election, Barack Obama’s decisive reelection victory over Mitt Romney was a triumph for a still-emerging, majority Democratic Obama coalition, which we said in a pair of preelection Next America articles would define a new civic ethos, or consensus on the role of government, for the nation.
The president even more forcefully reiterated his civic ethos vision–that America and its individual citizens advance only when “We, the People” work “together”–in his Inaugural Address. Now, a recent Pew Research survey indicates that in doing so the president is speaking clearly to the policy preferences of his side of America’s two new 21st-century political party coalitions.
The Democratic coalition is centered on the millennial generation (young voters 18 to 30), women (especially single women), minorities, and the highly educated, and is geographically focused in the Northeast and West.
All of these groups gave at least 55 percent of their 2012 presidential votes to the president. In fact, without the support of 60 percent of millennials, Obama would have lost the election. For some parts of the coalition, support for the president’s reelection verged on unanimity.
More than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for him, as did about seven in 10 Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and single women.
On the other side, the groups in the Republican coalition were equally loyal to Mitt Romney. Solid majorities of men, whites, seniors–especially those living in the South and Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states–voted for the GOP candidate.
But the first policy area–gun control–on which these coalitions have clearly reemerged to reshape the political landscape, is one that wasn’t even discussed during the campaign. Social Security and Medicare have long been considered “third rail” issues in U.S. politics–matters so contentious and controversial as to be untouchable by any rational officeholder or candidate.
Over the past two decades, gun control has been such an issue for Democrats. Obama studiously avoided the topic during his first term. In 1994, Bill Clinton saw his party lose control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years after passing a ban on assault weapons. He recently warned his fellow Democrats to be very careful in their approach to this subject.
But the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., made it impossible for the president to ignore the issue, even if he was so inclined, and earlier this year Obama proposed several congressional actions, including expanded background checks for arms purchasers, a resumption of the federal assault-weapons ban, and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, as well as 23 executive orders to deal with firearm usage.
The president enters the fray this time with the full support of his coalition on this issue and, as suggested by his Inaugural Address’s reference to the safety of our children, is willing to mobilize and use that coalition on behalf of his proposals.
Pew’s basic gun-control question asks respondents if it’s more important “to protect the right of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership.” In a mid-January 2013 survey—fielded a month after the Newtown shootings—a 51 percent to 45 percent majority favored emphasizing control on gun ownership rather than protecting the right to own guns.
Two years earlier, a 49 percent to 46 percent plurality took exactly the opposite positions. It is the rise of the Obama Democratic coalition that underpins this new majority support for gun control.
The majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics, and college graduates, as well as those who lived in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast and West, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners’ rights.
As in the 2012 election, the Obama coalition is opposed by a coalition of males, whites, those with incomplete college education, and rural residents, the majorities of whom prefer to protect gun owners’ rights.
It is uncertain how many of Obama’s proposed gun-control measures will ultimately be enacted by Congress and what form they will take in the legislative process.
The Pew survey indicates that gun-ownership-rights supporters are more politically active; 42 percent of them, as compared with 25 percent of gun-control advocates, have contributed money to an organization, contacted a public official, expressed an opinion on a social network, and/or signed a petition about gun policy.
However, one of the most often repeated, but inaccurate, memes of the 2012 campaign was that Obama’s reelection chances suffered from an “enthusiasm gap” that would retard participation by the president’s supporters. By Election Day that gap had fully closed.
Gun control is only one of the legislative initiatives promised by Obama for his second term. In his Inaugural Address, he briefly referred to immigration reform, climate change, protecting the middle class in entitlement adjustments, infrastructure development, education, and revamping both voting processes and the federal tax code.
The president seems intent on mobilizing his coalition to enact his policy agenda. If he is successful, the nation will see the enactment of an array of domestic policies as sweeping in its scope as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but aligned this time with the ideas and beliefs of another president and his winning 21st-century coalition.
President Obama’s comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence in America is to be commended. The focus for policy makers shouldn’t be to try and sort out which of his ideas are politically feasible but rather which ones will work to accomplish the goal of preventing gun violence of all types, while preserving the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
Linking the ideal outcome to a focus on the pragmatic steps we can take now to make progress toward the ultimate goal is how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) approaches this type of challenge and, in this case, it holds great promise for actually fixing one of the most intractable problems facing the United States.
As with many other social issues, Millennials have a much more liberal perspective on solutions to gun violence than their older siblings--members of Generation X, who grew up when Ronald Reagan was president. By a 55% to 36% margin, Millennials favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. Only seniors, normally more conservative on these types of issues, approach this level of support for government action to make our cities and neighborhoods safer. By contrast, Generation X, born 1965 to 1981, is the one generation which , even after Newtown, believes it is more important to protect gun ownership rights than to control the use of firearms (by a 48% to 42% margin).
A recent report from the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN), underlines both Millennials’ support for taking on the issue and their focus on pragmatic steps to do so. Starting with its title, “Young People’s Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America,” the report analyzes each side of the debate solely in terms of what solutions are likely to work. The recommendations correctly focus on steps to decrease access to semiautomatic weapons and any ammunition clip with more than ten rounds. It strongly endorses the creation of comprehensive databases that would have to be accessed for any gun transaction to take place, with a special emphasis on ensuring the names of those with serious mental illness are included in the database. With special insight, the report, by a group of progressive Millennials, properly dismisses the distracting idea of making the current debate about culture or media coverage, as opposed to taking action.
There is plenty of evidence in the nation’s successful efforts to reduce crime to suggest that this Millennial approach to the problem will work. As Simon Rosenberg, has pointed out, violent crime, with the sole exception of gun violence, particularly in country’s largest cities, has dropped dramatically since 1993. The principle reason for that decline was the introduction of the CompStats process by Bill Bratton as police chief of New York City, which led to a 77% decline in crime in that city alone since then. Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative, recognized the efficacy of this program and spread knowledge of Bratton’s approach to police chiefs across the country. This is one of the key reasons why there has been a continued decline since then in the nation’s crime rates. Despite economic hard times, major increases in our juvenile population as Millennials became teen agers, and a series of other societal developments that traditional sociologists and criminologists had predicted would cause an increase in crime, the progress continues.
CompStats uses current, accurate information to analyze where crimes are being committed and by whom. The goal is to get bad guys off the streets and to flood high crime areas with police resources. The gun violence analogy to this simple and effective approach would be to keep people who lack the intention or ability to use guns responsibly from buying firearms and to heavily penalize those who use them irresponsibly. A comprehensive assault weapon and ammunition clip ban of the type the RICN advocates has proven to be effective in other countries in limiting access to guns, and a fully developed and federally mandated background check for all gun transactions should be instituted to keep the wrong people from being able to buy guns.
This still leaves the problem of existing weaponry, but buy-back programs both in the US, and elsewhere, have been effective in further reducing gun violence. The attempts of NRA supporters to short circuit such efforts by trying to buy the guns being offered instead of letting the police destroy them testifies to the ultimate effectiveness of this approach to reducing the nation’s stockpile of unnecessary weapons. And the success of the state of Virginia, a gun lover’s and seller’s paradise, in reducing gun violence by making it clear that criminals who use guns will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law has proven its value as the right public policy approach to go after those who should never be allowed to use a gun.
CompStats and the RICN report provide one further valuable lesson to keep in mind as the debate over President Obama’s proposals heats up. When Bratton first introduced the concept to his leadership team, its members told him he could never accomplish his initial goal of reducing crime in NYC by 40% within three years. Their argument was that since the police had no control over the causes of crime—poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, or educational levels--it was not possible or even fair to hold the police accountable for its reduction. But Bratton made it clear that it was not necessary to address the underlying causes of bad behavior to reduce it substantially by simply focusing on the individuals committing crimes and eliminating places where they might be tempted to do so.
Similarly, it can and probably will be argued ad infinitum whether or not violent entertainment creates a fascination with guns that leads to gun violence. And an equally unproductive debate can be held over the media’s role in glorifying those who commit such acts. But no matter who is right, there is no reason to have that debate delay the country from doing something to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them improperly. With technologies much less sophisticated than what is available today to sift and sort big databases, Bratton’s CompStats process was still able to pinpoint where to direct efforts to take bad guys off the street and dramatically change the safety of our cities.
The nation’s consciousness has been stirred by the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. But as Newark Mayor Cory Booker correctly points out, gun violence takes the lives of more than thirty people, about as many who died at Virginia Tech, every single day. Now that Newtown and the President’s proposals have focused the nation’s attention on the problem of how to end such senseless slaughter, attention must be paid to the Millennial Generation’s ideas on how to meet this challenge. More than any other generation, it is their future that is at risk if we fail to do so.
California’s demographic trends provide a first glimpse of what all of America will look like in the future, including the country's new attitude toward finding the revenue to pay for a more activist government. The passage of several ballot propositions last November, coupled with the increases in income tax rates just passed in Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff, ” suggest that the anti-tax revolt, which was born in California, is now coming to an end to be replaced by a more civic-oriented attitude on the part of voters.
In 1978, Proposition 13 was passed by the voters of California who were fed up with inflation-driven, double digit, increases in property taxes, sparking a nation-wide tax revolt that Ronald Reagan rode all the way to the White House. At that time, Jerry Brown was in his first incarnation as governor of California and the Democrats controlled a two-thirds majority in the State Assembly. Proposition 13 was not only designed to limit future property tax increases for existing home owners but to limit the ability of Democratic legislators to continue to raise taxes. It did so by imposing a new constitutional requirement that a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature would be needed for lawmakers to pass any type of tax increase in the future.
Now, fast forward to November 6, 2012 when Democratic Governor Jerry Brown bet the fate of his return engagement as California’s governor on the passage of a ballot proposition designed to balance the state’s chronic budget shortfall by raising an additional $6 billion through temporary increases in the state sales tax (by one-quarter of a percent) and the state income taxes on high income earners. The measure, Proposition 30, passed easily, (by a 54% to 46% margin).
A ballot proposal to raise a billion dollars by closing a loophole in the way the tax liabilities of out-of-state corporations were calculated passed by an even wider, twenty point, margin. And over 80% of the 140 local school bond proposals on ballots across the state that day also were approved by voters. Not only that, but when all the votes in California were finally counted, the Democrats had won two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, not just in the Assembly, but, for the first time since 1883, in the State Senate as well.
As Tony Quinn, a California Republican political analyst put it, “the anti-tax zealots who for years have been tail-wagging the old flea-bitten Republican dog. Well, now, there is no dog. Only fleas.” By the time of the 2012 election, Republican registration in California had slipped to less than 30%, from 35% just eight years ago. The state adopted an online registration system this year, adding over one million new people to the voter rolls. Only 20% of those registered as Republicans, reflecting the high proportion of young people who not only availed themselves of the opportunity to register to vote easily, but also rejected the GOP.
According to CNN exit polls, 27% of California voters this year were under thirty, up from 20% in the Obama-mania year of 2008. They voted for Proposition 30 by a 2:1 margin.
Latinos made up 23% of this year’s California voters, compared to only 18% in 2008. The Republican Party and its positions have continued to lose support among this rapidly growing segment of the electorate ever since Governor Pete Wilson used his support of Proposition 187, which was designed to deny all public services for undocumented immigrants, to ride to re-election in 1994. Fifty-eight percent of Latinos voted in favor of Proposition 30.
Right now, the state’s demographic makeup is more diverse than the rest of the country. Only 55% of the California electorate in 2012 was white compared to 72% nationally. But with the country becoming less and less white each year, it is likely that the anti-tax revolt that started in California will begin to die out across the rest of the country as these demographic trends accelerate almost everywhere in America.
The state’s election results signal the arrival of a new demographic alignment, one whose civic ethos will call for a stronger role for government and for the taxes to pay for it. If California lives up to its reputation as a national trend setter, this will soon become the majority viewpoint in the entire United States, not just in its most populous state.