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"Millennial politics" makes no sense because "millennial" is meaningless as an organizing principle

From the Atlantic:

Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They're for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they've heard of. They'd like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn't run anything.

That's all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials' political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, "totally incoherent," as Dylan Matthews puts it.

It's not just the Reason Foundation. In March, Pew came out with a similar survey of Millennial attitudes that offered another smorgasbord of paradoxes:

That's a very clear result, confirmed by two independent studies: Reason's, and Pew's: "Millennial politics" are "incoherent" or "paradoxical." (The Atlantic then goes on to discuss "millennial politics" is if the concept were neither, but that tells you more about the utility of empty signifiers than it does about politics.)

Politics is about concrete material benefits and values, material benefits first. It's been the genus of the legacy parties over the last generation to take material benefits out of the equation by consistently degrading them, no matter which party was in power. Hence, values, hence identity politics. At some point, however, the failure of the political class to "deliver" will lead to a reversion to the mean, and I think sooner rather than later; the universal signs of crapification are all around us, at least if we look up for a moment from our death screens cellphones.

And politics, organically and over time, is about class first and identity second. The great distinction is between those who own capital and those who do not.[1] ("Follow the money.") That's not to say that identity politics -- gender, race, religion, age, in that order (ranked on a power curve, with age being far down the tail) -- is not important (especially tactically[2]), or does not represent important values; it may. But ceaselessly shifting terrain on which parties, factions, institutions, movements, and groups contest politically is structured ("organized") by capital, no matter the (intersecting[3]) identities of the contestants. ("You gotta know the territory.") In this framework, identity based on age is tenuous to the point of nulllity as an organizing principle.

If you think "millennial politics" is a concept that's useful for anything other than distraction, do this: Go find the millennials' lobbying office on K Street. (If there is one, you'll find it's something like Pete Peterson's AstroTurf "The Can Kicks Back," nothing organic. You won't find the boomer's lobbying office either, because "boomer" is no more a political concept than "millennial" is. (You will, however, find the AARP -- corrupt though it is -- because people age into needing the concrete material benefits it provides.)

Think about Maslow's hierarchy, which is a way of structuring concrete material benefits: Food and shelter at the bottom, self-actualization at the top. Let's imagine a genie is offering a gift-wrapped box, and inside will be either (#1) "successful identification as ____" or (#2) "free shelter for a year." And let's say the genie's making the offer to 100 people, 10 of whom hire the remaining 90 (because the 10 own the capital, so all there is for the 90 to do is hire out their labor, mkay?) How many of the 10 owners would pick #1, and self-actualize? I'd say darn near all. They're owners; shelter just isn't a concern for them. Now consider the remaining 90. Some would no doubt choose #1 and self-actualize, if they considered their situation safe and stable enough. But the vast majority would pick #2, the concrete material benefit -- as they ought to do, if they have families or dependents.

NOTE [1] I've leaving differences between capital structures and forms of ownership. For example, the slaves of the Confederacy, and the value of that capital, along with the social relationship that embodied that form of capital, was destroyed in the Civil War (which we might also call the real American Revolution, the first one being a civil war among the English-speaking peoples). So imagine that the Confederacy had won; identity politics would be very, very different in the South -- and in the North! But fundamentally, they would all be structured ("organized") by capital. And similarly for other slave societies, former or not.

NOTE [2] One oxymoron not often reflected on is "Democratic strategist."

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