June 25, 2018
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Millennials have progressive roots, conservative tendencies — and no need for Democrats or the GOP

Contributed photo | BDN
Contributed photo | BDN
Alex Steed
By Alex Steed, Special to the BDN

In a recent New York Times essay, David Leonhardt speculated that my generation, the millennials, could end up exploring conservatism, despite having progressive roots.

He argues that half of millennials will only have memories of the Obama administration. As these young ideologues age, they will react against progressive politics and mature into embracing middle-aged, conservative values.

Leonhardt is totally wrong. Millennials will embrace neither. We’ve had it with electoral politics as we know the game today.

The political parties on the left and right are generally unbecoming. We’re abandoning the Republican Party because it no longer represents actual conservatism, though tenets of it — particularly personal responsibility and measured libertarianism — resonate with us.

Things don’t look so hot for the Democrats, either. (After all, the party can’t skate by on “Hey, at least we’re not Republicans” forever.) On the whole, party identification is on the decline among my generation. Why?

Together, Republicans and Democrats have given us unending wars, resultant debt, failed states, state-sanctioned spying, secret drone wars, the collapse of our financial system and the questionable killing of American citizens abroad.

We are extraordinarily underrepresented by the political class and, being young, we are suffering at the hands of bad policies and those who have passed their burdens onto us.

Fortunately, we are a generation with a high technological aptitude. We’re community minded, and we have demonstrated time and again that we know how to create, organize and take action. In the near future, we will not need to rely on the increasingly obsolete parties to carry out our political will. We are in the midst of developing an alternative system, components of which are already in place.

When we fully realize a political alternative, the parties as we know them will — thankfully — be rendered obsolete. How do I know this?

Fed up with corporate secrecy about our food chain and how animals and the environment are treated, a young journalist named Will Potter devised a plan to use consumer drones to investigate the agribusiness industry. Through crowdfunding, he raised $75,000 to get the project, which kicks off soon, off the ground.

When down and out, we innovate, we organize, and we force paradigms to shift.

In Maine, Mike Tipping, a liberal activist and Bangor Daily News blogger hoped to raise $4,000 through crowdfunding to promote his a book about the LePage administration. His goal was met three times over.

We decide what we want to do — what we want to see done — and we get that goal funded.

Outraged by the collapse of the financial industry, and all of the false promises that were made on its behalf, we occupied Wall Street and demanded change. Criticize the tactics and approach all you want, but that act inserted the concept of income inequality, corporate welfare and financial crime into the dialogue in a way that hasn’t happened in this country in nearly a century.

We move, we mobilize, and we change dialogues.

Inspired by the successful careers of independent trailblazers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Angus King, young people are shedding the baggage of the monopoly parties and running without them. Pennsylvania-based Nick Troiano is running for U.S. Congress as an independent candidate. The Maine Green Independent Party, sort of an anti-party party, is running a number of young candidates for local and statewide office this year.

It used to be that we needed parties to come to consensus about how to proceed. It used to be that we needed the parties to organize people to action. It used to be that we needed the parties to raise and distribute funds. It used to be that we needed parties and their apparatuses to help us run for office.

This is no longer the case.

So for what do we need these two out-of-touch, money-hungry behemoths anymore?

As we have proven our tendency to fabricate, realize and execute viable alternatives to a broken system, imagining which political camps we will gravitate toward in the future — as Leonhardt did — is the wrong way to go.

Faced with two parties that have failed to watch out for our best interests and failed to represent us — a generation 90 million strong — we are on the precipice of imagining, conspiring, organizing and funding into existence a viable millennial alternative.

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager and is a former candidate for the Legislature. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Cornish.


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