Anyone who has to consult Pew or some other national opinion poll to discover that the vast majority of Millennials and a healthy majority of Gen Xers “disapprove” of the Trump Administration probably doesn’t know anyone younger than fifty-four. The country needs to start taking these voices seriously.
Political scientists slice and dice the electorate (there’s no stopping them), but one thing is abundantly clear regardless of the cut: the majority of voters (Gen X and Millennials, together, are 54 percent of the electorate) are ready for post-baby boom leadership. Indeed, it is long overdue. And whereas then-Senator Obama promised a post-baby boomer presidency, Senator Kamala D. Harris will in fact deliver it.
Yes, the 46th President currently represents the Nation of California. Where Obama was professorial, Harris is prosecutorial. Where Obama signaled a cosmopolitan world, Harris is poised to lead that world. While it is hard to read Obama’s affection for Joe Biden as unrelated to his documented father issues, Harris will choose Senator Sherrod Brown as her running mate for his Yale B.A. in Russian Studies and eighteen electoral votes. (Covering bets, she will express a desire to see Gov. Kasich at Foggy Bottom.)
This scenario tells you all you need to know about the emergent Gen X/Millennial ideology: there isn’t one. G-Lennials despise ideology as much as phrase-coining, which are both correlated with societal dysfunction. The not-so-old electorate are pragmatists, one definition of which is “despises ideology.”
In their respective formative years, Gen Xers watched Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford engage in extreme personal recklessness, cataclysmic warmongering, paranoid criminal machinations, and efforts to sweep it all under the rug. Millennials observed 41, Clinton, W., and Obama engage in a potpourri of calamities foreign and domestic, from Iraq (twice), Bosnia/Rwanda/Monica, to The Deporter-in-Chief.
Of course, the current president is a reality sui generis, an inflatable enfant terrible capturing something of the marvel. Gen X and Millennials will first unite, not to elect a Harris/Brown ticket, but to restore basic sanity to political life. They will this fall send a majority coalition of Democrats and democrats into Article II offices. This wave–less a blue wave than a pragmatic anti-f-word wave–will set the stage for a generationally informed, realist, hard-nosed, no-nonsense executive administration. No Drama Kamala.
The Harris/Brown Administration will prioritize climate crisis, nuclear proliferation, and globalization. Al Gore was not wrong to predict that climate crisis would become the organizing principle of civilization. President Harris will focus on nurturing Modern Culture 2.0, which will require unprecedented global cooperation and qualitative, not incremental, change. She will also reinvigorate efforts to contain the genie that is nuclear weaponry, and position the United States, not as hegemon, but as a fair-dealing partner with other nation-state and NGO actors in the work of promoting global sustainability. Thus shall we become a populous version of Canada with greater class and cultural divisions, i.e., California.
Mention of Canada invites review of the next Administration’s cabinet, for, in step with its militantly pragmatic, anti-ideological orientation, HHS Secretary Bernie Sanders will lead the Canadianization of U.S. health care and become America’s Tony Benn. New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo will take a turn at Treasury (why not), while New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand will ensure that the Pentagon doesn’t continue to put women on Gen. Kelly’s pedestals (where they might be more easily shot). Connecticut’s Chris Murphy is the surprise A.G.–one word: guns—while Robert Reich reprises his stint at Labor in disguise as Frances Perkins, and G.M. CEO Mary Barra settles in for a long ride as Secretary of Transportation.
All leading presidential aspirants find a role: Bullock to Interior, Schultz to Commerce, Booker to HUD, and Patrick to Education. Old-timers, however, are respectfully shown the door: Biden to the Court of St. James, Warren to Paris, Jerry Brown to Japan, Granholm to Canada, and Holder, the toughest of them all, to Mexico City, from where he must try to convince Latin America to once again forgive and forget.
The new Administration demotes the VA, Trade, DNI, UN, OMB, DCI, EPA, and SBA to sub-Cabinet status, and does its best to eliminate Homeland Security altogether. If that move proves too costly, politically or otherwise, then the United States pays the U.K. for rights to Home Office. No nation dedicated to liberty and the advancement of true democracy can long abide the insidious volkischness of Homeland Security.
If floating Governor Hickenlooper as Chief of Staff helps to secure his purple mountains majesty, then Harris does it. If prominent House Dems, like Schiff or Castro, want the U.N. or National Security Advisor, done. If rational Republicans like Corker and Flake want ambassadorships, then Berlin and Madrid await. The mix of personnel is secondary to the larger aim: government that functions to address, analyze, and effectively pursue solutions to a panoply of vexing problems. Bold, probably experimental, solutions.
Let’s hope there are thousands of the Harry Hopkins, Rexford Tugwells, and Milton Eisenhowers to staff this enterprise. The Harris/Brown Administration will need people of the highest caliber and competence ready to do what needs doing to restore confidence in government’s ability to help administer complex twenty-first century society. And let’s hope that other nations afflicted like our own by what is euphemistically described as authoritarian “populism,” find their own Kamala Harris et.al. The people of the world must sing from similar hymnals, place their backs into common obstacles, and pull with the weight of billions on the intertwined rope of sustainability and peace. It’s the pragmatic way.
This is how the majority of the majority of U.S. voters see things. This is what they want, alongside racial justice, an end to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, an end to xenophobia, and so forth. They will not support a return to 2016, 2012, or 2008; they are looking forward and to their own. President-to-be Harris was born in 1964. She appeals to Gen Xers and Millennials, if perhaps more to the former than the latter, but enough to both to carry the Democratic nomination and the White House.
The Gen X/Millennial coalition will not the fade from the scene. They know that long-elided problems are legion and that there is plenty of mopping up to do. But with the assertion of their impatient pragmatism, The United States and its allies will again live in a mostly rational reality, where science matters, and does common sense morality. Babies will not be stripped from mothers. Fresh water will be protected. We will not waste resources on Mars. Air Force One will retain its traditional soft palette.
Steven P. Dandaneau is Executive Director of the Reinvention Collaborative and Associate Provost at Colorado State University.