The kids are not okay and the center can’t hold it anymore

Across the West, young people are losing faith in the future.

The recent French elections provide a case study. In the first round of voting, voters came close to favoring President Emmanuel Macron, the epitome of the “enlightenment” elite, over Marine Le Pen, the ruler of French fascism. . While those two are at odds, it’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a grizzled former Trotskyite with a contrasting agenda, who comes in first among voters under the age of 35, followed by Le Pen, in when Macron had fallen as far back in the group as when forming the parties of the left, the center and the right had all collapsed.

Students at the Sorbonne, many of whom support Mélenchon, are taking to the streets to protest the choice between the far-right Le Pen and the elite technocrat Macron, who is now seeking to win them over by declaring a net zero emissions agenda, based in large part on nuclear power.

Much of the alienation of youth is also evident here. Ahead of a likely rematch between 81-year-old Joe Biden and 77-year-old Donald Trump, American politics seems to be looking very old and sclerotic. And the pandemic has only made things worse. Young workers are especially vulnerable to job loss, as they make up the majority of high-risk service industries, Pew noted. And now they’re in the throes of inflation, most notably as rents have risen 17% in major cities this year.

Despite the notion that young voters will remain trustworthy Democrats, Biden has lost a majority among young people, the same troubled generation that helped elect him. Biden has seen his approval count among twenty members of Generation Z plummet from 60% to 39%, Gallup noted. Among Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – he’s dropped from 60% to 41%. Other polls, including a new one from Quinnipiac, suggest a similar move.

Here, as in France, it turns out that young voters are not the certainty many progressives had hoped for. Pollster Sam Abrams has found that the majority of students refuse both political parties; only 18% think the Democrats are on the right track, which looks good compared to just 10% who think the Republicans are doing so. According to the Pew Research Center, most young voters are not liberals, are not interested in cultural issues, and are not conservatives either. Most think the country is going in the wrong direction.

Why so shunned? Start with economics. In the United States, the share of middle-income earners moving to the top of the income ladder has fallen about 20 percent since the early 1980s, meaning youthful faces are dwindling prospects. A study by Deloitte predicts that Millennials in the United States will hold only 16% of the nation’s wealth by 2030, when they will be by far the largest adult generation. Gen Xers, the previous generation, will hold 31 percent, while Boomers, entering their 80s and nineties, will control 45 percent of the nation’s wealth.

It’s no surprise that many young people — and not just in the United States — are deeply pessimistic about the future, and express much more pronounced anxiety than other generations. In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that poll respondents in France, the UK, Spain, Italy and Germany were even more pessimistic about the prospects of the next generation than in the United States. Ky. Similar sentiments are also shared in countries such as Japan and India, where many recent university graduates are unable to find suitable jobs.

There are two main problems that alienate young people and create a stark generational divide: the lack of stable well-paying jobs and the rising cost of housing. In previous decades, young people could confidently assume that, especially with a university degree, they would be guaranteed secure employment. But a recent analysis of Federal Reserve data found that young Americans with college degrees today earn, on average, the same as their uneducated Boomer grandparents around the same age.

More than 40% of recent college graduates are in jobs that don’t normally require a college degree. Indeed, a 2020 survey found that only a third of undergraduates believe their education has enhanced their career goals, and only one in five think a bachelor’s degree is worth the cost. expenses spent.

In 2018, half of recent college grads make less than $30,000 annually, and as they age, many of these workers may never actually enter the workforce. high-end job market. Your local Uber driver or Starbucks Barista is unlikely to be a successful entrepreneur in the future, nor will a part-time teacher in gender studies work for a low salary. Indeed, a recent study found that most often underemployed graduates do.

This certainly explains the appeal — here and in Europe — of neo-socialists like Mélenchon and Bernie Sanders, who easily voted for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. combine among voters under the age of 30. A poll conducted by the Communism Memorial Foundation in 2016 found that 44 percent of US Millennials support socialism while 14 percent prefer fascism or communism. There are growing calls to requisition wealth to fund an expanded welfare state.

Expect those calls to be amplified by progressives — though not their tender allies — ahead of the 2024 election, which will mark the moment when more and more Millennials and Zoomers are finally coming. eligible to vote as the long-term dominant Boomers — and as Bernie Sanders, who will be 83, “won’t rule out” another run if Biden doesn’t seek re-election.

Young people, especially educated ones trapped in low-paying jobs, could spur a new rebellion to emerge among increasingly anxious workers. Most of these workers do not have college degrees and are underpaid, while living with precarious working hours and few benefits.

Amazon’s recent vote in favor of a coalition in the company’s high-pressure and technology-monitored warehouses could be a premise. Other major players such as Starbucks, Apple and Google are also under pressure; Even in the fields of communication and technology there are increasing organizational efforts.

Demographics can add to Millennials’ leverage. Labor force growth has slowed, with birth rates falling sharply and immigration falling. The consulting firm EMSI notes that over the past decade, new entrants to the workforce have dropped by 2 million. Nearly 90 percent of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce blamed the economy’s slowdown on labor shortages, more than double the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The other big generation divider is assets. In 2014, French economist Thomas Piketty produced a widely referenced analysis of inequality in the world. Soon after, Matthew Rognlie of Northwestern University found that almost all of Piketty’s increase in inequality was due to an increase in property values. In the United States over the past decade, the share of real estate assets held by the middle class and by employers has fallen dramatically while assets controlled by the rich have increased from less than 20% to more than 28 %. With property wealth now growing much faster than incomes and interest rates rise, leaving home ownership beyond the reach of the unattained, the gap between haves and don’ts, once Furthermore, it is growing dangerously.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is on the hunt for single-family homes, driving up their prices even further, with the goal of renting them out, especially to the pricey Millennials. This does not support the renters but the renters — which Piketty calls the “enemy of democracy” — which guarantees them steady profits by collecting rent while the middle class The population loses its independence as home ownership rates stagnate or decline, especially among young people, in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

Home ownership has long been an avenue for neighborhood stability and financial security. According to the Census Bureau, home owners have an average net worth of more than 40 times that of renters. Valuing most Millennials and Zoomers out of home ownership would leave many, if not most, propertyless serfs, even if they hold decent jobs.

The shape of our future politics will be determined by these forces. The left could offer free college, universal health care and rent control for generations where few could afford a home of their own. The show – powered by old warhorses of the left like Sanders and Mélenchon – will likely appeal to both urban connoisseurs and the large serving class of low-paid workers. .

The growing labor shortage could, in the short term, revive traditional – as opposed to fashionable – remains, by helping to empower workers to claim the kind of benefits that industrial workers enjoy. , like workers at auto factories, enjoyed for decades.

It could also accelerate the end of Boomer-led globalization and support mass immigration. Currently, Le Pen in France and populist and nationalist parties in Sweden, Hungary, Spain, Poland and Slovakia have performed particularly well among young voters. In fact, many right-wing nationalist parties, some with some racist elements, are led by Millennials and generally appear to be on the rise in a continent plagued by inflation and growing pessimistic.

The trend here is toward a politics that imposes far-right young people in rural areas, suburbs and small cities against a hard-line urban population determined to go further towards the far right. described, with both groups defined by alienation and openness to dictatorial maneuvers. . Each person will be angry not only with the system, but also with each other. One may want to use power to shrink the state, at least in areas that do not harm their interests, while the other aims to expand it.

Pollster Abrams suggests the better solution is for parties to focus on the real needs of the next generation and deliver less ideology and more results. To take advantage of that opportunity, Republicans need to move away from social positions away from their relationship with the younger generation and from Donald Trump, who is very unpopular with young voters. Democrats, whose leadership bias is pro-democracy, need to add something more than signaling and suppressing virtue if they are to keep the young population at bay.

This is not just a partisan issue, or an American problem alone. Whatever their politics and partisanship, the older generation needs to address the sources of alienation and anger among young people, especially if they value continuity of core institutions. A civilization that no longer offers the prospect of better times for its descendants cannot be sustained and certainly will not thrive. The kids are not okay and the center can’t hold it anymore


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

Related Articles

Back to top button