A party divided
The rise of support for socialism among millennials is having an immediate impact on the Democratic Party. Many left-leaning Democrats rightfully detest the kind of modulated crony capitalism epitomized by Hillary Clinton. This could precipitate a civil war among major Democratic donors – notably in Silicon Valley – who may embrace progressive views on cultural and environmental issues, but have little interest in having their massive wealth threatened by regulations or hypertaxation.
“They don’t like [Bernie] Sanders at all,” notes San Francisco-based researcher Greg Ferenstein, who has been polling Internet company founders for an upcoming book. Sanders’ emphasis on income redistribution and protecting union privileges and pensions violates the favorite notions of the tech elite. “He’s an egalitarian liberal,” Ferenstein explains, “these people are tech liberals. Equality is a nonissue in Silicon Valley.”
Although maybe not an issue among the tech oligarchs, class and inequality are not “nonissues” for many progressives of all ages. In blue bastions like San Francisco, grass-roots progressives regard tech billionaires, and their employees, with about the same regard evangelicals have for abortionists. To many old-line Bay Area liberals, the tech moguls – with their tax breaks, special employee buses and expensive tastes – are transforming their once-diverse city into an unconscionably expensive, class-ridden enclave. In many ways, as the Who sang, “the new boss” turns out to be as remarkably oppressive as the “old boss.”
This division will become clearer as the Clinton machine, and its media apparatus, go after Sanders. The Vermont senator was better treated before he posed a serious threat. Now that he is challenging the gentry liberal consensus, the mainstream media, increasingly under the sway of tech oligarchs, are mounting increasingly strident attacks on Sanders. These attacks have been led by the Washington Post, owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, whose fortune and sometimes brutal business practices would fare far better under Clinton than Sanders.
Indeed, the defense of crony capitalism is implicit in the Clinton appeal. After all, she is running with funds collected from financial, technology and other crony industries. Some of these same people have also been quite generous toward the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary’s ethically challenged holding company.
Future of capitalism
Some conservatives – particularly given the chaos of the Republican race – might be tempted to revel in the new Democratic lurch to the left, which conceivably could drive the party too far from the mainstream, at least for older generations. But millennials are the future, and, if the GOP retains its reactionary ideas on key social issues – notably the mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants, legalizing marijuana and gay marriage – its chances of reaching millennial voters may be minimal.
Ultimately, the future of capitalism depends on making the system work for the majority of people, including millennials. The current system, frankly, is producing few benefits for the vast majority of Americans, giving the free market a bad name and turning off millennials. Fully half of them, notes a recent Harvard study, already believe the “American Dream” is dead. More than 10 million millennials are outside the system, neither employed nor in education or training, a population that seems ripe for leftist agitation.
Simply put, to change millennial views, capitalism also needs to change from its current trajectory. The predominant system of crony capitalism, most ensconced in blue states like California, clearly favors the already affluent. At the same time, nonsocialists need to do a better job of explaining the past failures of state control; most millennials, as the Reason Foundation has pointed out, do not even associate socialism with a state-centered economy, which most of them say they would strongly oppose.
And, to be sure, there are elements of millennial attitudes that push back against socialist practices. Millennials, for example, tend to distrust all institutions, including government, according to Pew, and half consider themselves independents, far more than in any other generation. They may be alienated from large financial and corporate institutions but may not remain permanently in the tank for ever more intrusive government.
Ultimately, reality, not knowledge, changes attitudes. Until capitalists focus more on jobs and upward mobility, and less on asset inflation, young people have little reason to change their minds. Unless capitalism or its crony offshoots can create a credible future for the young, there’s little reason to expect that this generation will abandon their determination to change the system that, for all its faults, has created more prosperity over time for more people than any other.
I really blame a lot of this on the education system in the USA, but I also blame parents who decided to never say no to their kids or who fought to make sure their kids got trophies for showing up. This is what happens when kids grow up thinking they are owed everything because they exist and are never taught the value of a dollar or where all that stuff mom and dad got them when they threw tantrum actually came from. These are people who don’t understand that just because you want it doesn’t mean it never gets paid for. Someone has to pay for it, and they’ll be paying along with everyone else who knew better, only they still won’t make the connection. And then we’ll be dealing with a bunch of people who are screaming and hollering because their taxes are so high but pitch a fit whenever someone proposes cutting services and other “free” crap they are getting. We never taught our kids the value of a dollar, cause and effect, etc. And now we are stuck with a candidate that should have the poll numbers that O’Malley has now threatening to be the nominee of the dem side.