One of the most remarkable impressions of election night was seeing, in places like Times Square and the Obama campaign stadium in Chicago, crowds of young people, cheering, laughing, dancing, crying with joy over the result. Since these are the people who will have to live with the consequences of this election the longest, it is worth asking: what is it exactly that they are cheering? What do they believe?
They must believe that their future is bright, that it has been saved from the ravages of the evil, uncaring, racist and homophobic Republicans with that rich, white vulture of the weird cult at the top of the ticket. Their free education, free student “loans,” and free health care including contraception and abortion services are now secure. The fact that so many college graduates can’t find work today is George Bush’s fault, and that circumstance will soon be resolved by the wise policies of the revitalized Obama administration.
What do they believe about Republicans? They must believe that the 48% of Americans — half the country — hate women, gays and minorities, would force all women to have invasive ultrasounds, gays to be burned next to witches, and blacks sent to the back of the bus if not back to the cotton fields as chattel slaves. They must believe that Paul Ryan wishes to commit a Texas (or is it Wisconsin?) chainsaw massacre upon the entitlement programs that they are counting on and that those programs will now be solvent with no sacrifice required on their part.
What do they believe about America’s role in the world? They must believe that a foreign policy of apologizing for American Imperialism, bowing to Saudi kings, supplicating for a “reset” of relations with Russia, leading in reverse gear in Benghazi and throwing Israel under the bus, is completely adequate to the challenges of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, China’s expanding Pacific navy, the global Jihad network and the rest of geopolitics for the next four if not forty years, as long as we don’t have a warmongering president with an itchy trigger finger looking for another Iraq to invade unnecessarily. They must believe that it is a good thing for Obama to have greater “flexibility” with Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood in his second term. And they have to believe that the United Nations is a greater force for good in the world than America, and that America’s exceptionalism should be subordinated to the international “community.”
What do they believe about the economic issues? What little economics they have been spoon-fed in our schools and universities must be of the pseudo-Keynesian variety, whereby all good things come from the government and nothing good comes from greedy capitalist one-percenters. The fact that the federal government consumes a higher percentage of GDP today than at any time since World War II is not seen as a problem, because government tax revenue and spending is what brings about prosperity. They must believe that it was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that bankrupted the nation; that fat-cat pure-capitalist bankers caused the financial crisis by redlining minority communities; that increased social spending such as on Obamacare has a positive multiplier effect on the economy. They must believe that entitlements and unfunded defined-benefit pension liabilities for unionized government employees are sacrosanct contracts that must be honored above any rights accorded to private-sector taxpayers yet to be born; that the federal budget deficit and the national debt are abstractions, old tin cans that may be kicked down the dirt road. They have to believe that there are fifty million people in America without access to health care who will now get it free of charge with no impact on the already-insured, on unemployment, on public finances or any other sector of the economy; that high-earning individuals and successful small businesses pay little or no taxes; that businessmen get fat in their sleep. They must believe that corporations are chauvanistic to the point of utter stupidity, preferring to hire and pay men 30% more for the same work that women willing to work for 30% less are perfectly capable in every way of doing, in spite of being driven by greed and greed alone. Any budget shortfalls can always be made up by raising taxes just one more time on the rich; after all, the 1 percent of income earners that now pays 40 percent of the taxes can always afford to pay a little more, with no harm to economic growth or unemployment.
It is difficult to tell what they believe about socialism, communism and capitalism, because it is doubtful they have any real understanding of the significance of those words, what are the histories of the nations that have attempted to implement them, and of the peoples who have lived under them. If they possess any understanding at all of what socialism is, they will deny that they are socialists while agreeing with at least 90% of the principles that animate European political parties that have no qualms about using the word in their names; and they will zealously strive to implement the same policies here under the labels of Hope, Change, Fairness, Justice and Forward.
Or perhaps they are not terribly concerned with any of these things, because espousing a purely self-interested point of view they have the expectation of being on the inside, of having government careers and/or belonging to unions whose power will insulate them from any crises; that their salaries, job security and pensions will be protected from any general economic conditions as long as they can hold off attacks by barbarians like Scott Walker and Chris Christie. They do not blame the United Auto Workers for the economic devastation of Detroit and the industrial Midwest, but celebrate its clout in the auto bailout. They do not blame collective bargaining on the part of employees whose salaries are paid by taxpayers for the bankruptcy of Michigan, New Jersey, California and cities across the fruited plain. Or they don’t care, because the point is not do what’s right but to get what one can, to work the system for one’s own and one’s (preferably protected) group’s benefit.
These cheering, sunny-faced young people will be left to deal with the real-world consequences of these beliefs and policies on their own for thirty years after this author and his cohort are gone. May God help them.