There’s a wonderful lyric in the tune Thoughts and Prayers by The Drive-By Truckers that strikes a genuinely optimistic note in an otherwise depressing as hell song:
The powers that be are in for shame and comeuppance
When Generation Lockdown has their day
They’ll throw the bums all out and drain the swamp for real.
Truly a nice thought. And recent studies would seem to support this rose-colored view of the future.
Polls show growing support for stricter gun control laws among Millennials and Generation Z, also known as Generation Lockdown. Similarly, young voters overwhelmingly support action on Climate Change, while large majorities of young people back government run health care. By all accounts the younger generation is more tolerant of people’s differences as well as more critical of hyper-capitalism. They are less trusting of institutions like the military, police and religious institutions. Union membership is growing for the first time in decades.
Therefore, if you believe the polls, America seems to be headed toward a golden age of peace, prosperity and tolerance. Heck, if things continue in this direction the USA could, in a few generations, have a quality of life equal to that in Nordic Countries.
All we have to do is get through the next forty or so years, till us Neolithic Boomers and Gen Xers have died off.
Time for a reality check.
The problem with this pollyannaish thinking is that it completely ignores the fact that we live not in a functioning Democracy where the majority rules, but in a Corporatocracy, Oligarchy, Duopoly, call it what you will, where a small ruling class calls the shots. Therefore it will not matter a hill of beans what the majority of Generation Lockdown wants.
Think about it. We live in a nation where the person with the fewest votes can and does become president. Where an undemocratic body like the U.S. Senate (the 50 Democratic senators represent 41 million more Americans than the 50 Republicans) has outsized political influence equal to that of the president. Where billionaires can buy up the nation’s largest newspapers, television news networks and social media outlets and spend millions to defeat pro-union, pro-democracy political candidates. And where Super PACs can spend millions to buy politicians and elections. Ours is a dualistic political system where the two parties—which are all but indistinguishable from each other—have successfully crushed all attempts at forming alternative parties.
Theoretically, we don’t have to wait till us Boomers die off. The fact is that right now the majority of Americans want health care for all. The majority of Americans want common sense gun laws and climate change action. The majority of Americans want Roe v. Wade to remain in place.
If we lived in a true democracy these things would be the law of the land. If the voters had any real power these things would have been accomplished long ago.
If anything, there may be even less reason to be optimistic that things will get better in the coming decades. Today fewer Americans are earning college degrees and college degrees are absolutely associated with progressive voters, voters who demand things like gun control, health care for all and climate change action.
So it’s hopeless then? It’s impossible to fix the political system?
The thinkers I respect most, like the author Chris Hedges, insist the Corporatocracy is not going to be reformed therefore civil disobedience is all we have left. We must rebuild movements and carry out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It’s worked before, and it can work again.
But we can’t wait for Generation Lockdown to lead the way. By then it will be too late.