Teenagers and young adults, we love you, but we are letting you down.
Are you safe in your schools? Do you have health care on which you can count? Can you afford an education, a family and a home? Is there a retirement plan that will work for you? As interest payments on the ever-increasing federal debt grow, will the society in which you live be able to make investments that benefit everyone? You may not want to think about those things right now, but you know the answer. These are public policy decisions. And those decision-makers are elected and re-elected by voters. It is obvious where the ultimate responsibility lies. So you see we love you, but we are not looking out for you beyond your immediate needs.
Why is this? We older adults have all sorts of reasons that sound good. If honest, most of us would say that we just don’t want to bother with it. Often we don’t even vote. We neither teach nor demonstrate civic responsibility. If we do vote, we allow political parties and special interest groups (SIG) to form our opinions with misleading ads and rhetoric.
Key economic and cultural policy decisions are not about what the American people want but what we will put up with. Most politicians do what they think that they need to do to earn political party support, SIG support, and campaign contributions.
What can you do? First, talk with your family. Second: Don’t turn away from party affiliation. Become leaders in your preferred party and promote independent thinking. Long-term success requires enduring and hard-working organizations. NRA member? OK, but let them know that there are limits to your support. Remember, policymakers know that energy and passion about issues disappear as time passes and other breaking news hits the headlines. This predictable pattern is why things don’t get done, and no one gets called on the carpet.
Have you noticed that, around the world, neo-liberal autocratic movements focus on discrediting public institutions and the press? Don’t buy into it. Parties change platforms, and political leaders fade away. Trust our institutions and make time to read the mainstream media. While not without fault, (What human enterprise is?) they are the cornerstones and watchdogs of our democracy. They are here for the long haul.
Remember that we love you, but it is unlikely that we will lead the change that you need. It is up to you. You can expect that we will have your back.