Get Away Kid, Ya Bother Me

My interview with the Daily Caller about the “Youth” has generated a lot of blowback from young people, the aging babyboomers who fetishize them and liberals who use them as easily manipulated props.

Here, for instance, is what Andrew Sullivan thinks is a sharp analysis from a twenty something. Under the headline “Hating on Millenials Ctd” Sullivan approvingly reprints this letter:

As a 23 year old, let me be the first to say that that Jonah Goldberg video, and to a lesser extent Matt Labash’s mini-rant, really pissed me off. I get it, we’re young, you guys were young once, you like to think you’re cleverer now (better than facing the possibility that you haven’t actually progressed in life), hence we’re stupid. How very clever of you.

But try for a second to look at in from the perspective of us youth. To us, the Goldbergs of this world are from a generation that has royally f*cked everything up. The debt, the economy, global warming – when was the last time a generation could say that they were leaving the world worse off than they themselves inherited it? If you were born between 1950-1970, you are the product of the ‘greatest generation’ that defeated fascism, created peace in Europe, and started the biggest economy boom in the history of the world. And what did you do with it? Pissed it away. And whilst you look forward to your gold-plated retirement benefits – Social Security, private pensions, Medicare – which you’re sure as hell not gonna give up, my friends and I will struggle to find jobs at a time when employment for 16-24 year olds is the lowest since records began (48%).

And, despite this monumental f*ck up, you have the balls to chide US just because we can use a technology that you can’t, or (gasp) we entertain the idea of voting for policies which haven’t been responsible for the aforementioned f*ck up?

Screw you.

First of all, as is clear from the video, I’m referring to young people generally, not merely millennials. Indeed, I’ve been pounding my spoon on my highchair about youth politics since I was an officially recognized young person myself. It was one of my great peeves in college and again when I first came to Washington in the early 1990s.  I’ve probably written two dozen columns on the subject over the last decade and a half.  Here’s me complaining about youth politics in 1999. Here’s a piece I wrote twelve years ago for the magazine on the stupidity of “Generation X” – my generation, btw. (Behind digital firewall, but I’ll post an excerpt separately).  Here I am again in 2004 and so on.

In The Tyranny of Clichés, after explaining, among other things, that are plenty of serious and smart young people (on the left and right) I write:

With those caveats in mind, let me just say I find the political fetishization of youth and the whole effort to create a “youth politics” or “youth movement,” alternately ludicrous and repugnant. Youth politics are the cheapest form of identity politics. They are the fake Rolex of ideological causes. At least with the identity politics of race and gender the categories are for the most part permanent. If you hire a black guy, he’s going to stay black for the rest of his life (Michael Jackson being a notable exception to the rule). Young people aren’t nearly so reliable.

Ever since the 1960s, young liberal activists have been working to convince themselves and everyone else that it is a requirement of youth to be liberal. This is a very old notion. Recall that famous line from Churchill about how if you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain. Despite my almost unhealthy admiration for Winston Churchill, I’ve never liked this formulation, perhaps because I’ve always been a conservative of one flavor or another and I like to think I have a heart as well. Also, I’ve never understood why liberals are so eager to embrace this notion. “Yay! People who are ignorant and overly emotional support us! People with experience, maturity and intelligence agree with them.”

In short, I’m not “hating” on millennials because I’m older now, I’m hating on the cult of youth because I have a reasoned conservative argument against the cult of youth (heck I even edited a book dedicated to helping young conservatives). If my refusal to pander to the shallow vanities of the sorts of young people who take pride in the year some doctor delivered them, makes said young people sad or angry, that just proves my point.

Indeed, this 20-something’s feelings are hurt because I say something about youth that great thinkers have been saying for thousands of years (“Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication,” explained Aristotle, “because youth is sweet and they are growing”).

As if to illustrate the point, he shows that he’s letting his passion overtake the facts. This kid’s demographic innovation notwithstanding,  I am not in fact part of the generation that screwed everything up as conventionally understood (though Sullivan is). I am part of the first generation to come after the great wave of screw-uppers. I’ve never been eligible for a “private pension” in my entire life (I’m assuming he means a defined benefit pension). I had absolutely zero to do with driving our entitlement system toward a cliff. I have instead advocated policies I think would reform our entitlement system.

Which is the crux of the issue, really. The culprits aren’t identifiable by their age, they’re identifiable by their ideas and actions. This generational stereotyping and collective guilt stuff is logically absurd and emotionally immature.

By the way, when I was this guy’s age, Gen Xers were saying the exact same thing about how the older generation had ruined everything and we weren’t going to get our Social Security benefits (Anyone remember “Lead or Leave”?). The problems with our entitlement system have been obvious for at least two decades and while there’s blame to be apportioned in all parties, it has been the Democratic Party (including its ranks of young liberal voters) who’ve been the most steadfast and reactionary supporters of the status quo.  

But the really telling part is when this kid goes full on brat:

And, despite this monumental f*ck up, you have the balls to chide US just because we can use a technology that you can’t, or (gasp) we entertain the idea of voting for policies which haven’t been responsible for the aforementioned f*ck up?

Screw you.

This guy thinks young liberals are voting for policies that didn’t cause this “f*ck up”?  Really? President Obama – who got over 2/3rds of the youth vote in 2008 – has added $5 trillion dollars to the deficit and refuses to recognize any reforms to Medicare or Social Security that might make it solvent for this kid’s generation. Instead, Obama and his party look to Europe for inspiration where such policies have created charts like this:



Oh and by the way, how low is this kid’s self-esteem that he cites his age cohort’s facility with electronic gadgets as a major component of his identity? Back off man, people my age are good with doodads!  And how does he know I’m not good with “technology”? Why on earth does he think I resent young people because they are quicker at hooking up a printer? Talk about balls.

It’s like a vain school girl who thinks everyone hates her because of her beautiful hair. No, it’s worse than that because at least it’s the school girl’s own hair. This kid is taking credit for the (alleged) attributes of others. It’s sad. 


Most Popular


The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More