Imagine for a moment an election where the Republican Party put forth a reasonably sane candidate as their nominee in 2016: a John Kasich or a Jeb Bush, for example. Someone with a fairly successful track record as governor who could reach across the aisle and work with political opponents to get things done. Someone who didn’t use divisive, incendiary rhetoric to pit different groups of people against one another. Or someone like Rand Paul, who took principled stands against his own party and government based on deeply held beliefs. Imagine for a moment an election where the Democratic Party didn’t rig their primary with 700 superdelegates: unelected, appointed party apparatchiks who individually held more power than thousands of voters. An election where the Democratic National Committee and its allies in the media didn’t conspire against Bernie Sanders and his voters, per the recent Wikileaks releases. Imagine an election where the two candidates could have illuminating debates about different policies and approaches to governance. Imagine an election where the primary strategy wasn’t personal attacks, smear campaigns and divide and conquer stratagems. Imagine an election where people at political rallies didn’t get assaulted, and where campaign headquarters didn’t get firebombed. It was possible, but it didn’t happen. Why? Because the older generations still control United States politics, and they have almost destroyed it in the process.
Both parties had a chance in the primary election to listen to the voice of millennials, and both parties ignored it, to their own peril. Now we millennials are left choosing between the two most unlikable, untrustworthy candidates in American political history. How did this happen? It has taken a long time to get here. It probably began with the establishment’s reaction to the antiwar movement and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. The power structure did not take that uprising by young people lightly. The antiwar and civil rights activists were jailed, disrupted, discredited, and assassinated. Their political movements were co-opted and defanged. The War on Drugs was created to give the government an excuse to imprison anyone they deemed troublesome. The turnaround was stunning, at least in retrospect. The Baby Boomer generation, and Hillary Clinton in particular, came of age promising to correct the abuses of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Vietnam and Watergate. Instead, the remaining members of the 60’s generation sold out in the name of money and power, adopting the values of Johnson and Nixon. They cut their hair and traded in their tie dies for suits and corporate jobs. They became what they hated most.
The establishment wasn’t done, of course. Once the counterculture had been marginalized, they set about the business of destroying campaign finance law, starting with Buckley v. Valeo in 1978. For over 40 years business interests, political groups, lobbyists, and politicians have engaged in the abolition of campaign finance law. This allowed near-total special interest and corporate capture of the government, aided and abetted by the media on all sides of the political spectrum. They accomplished their goals by steadily pumping more and more money into politics while also progressively debasing political discourse, especially at the national level. All sides share blame in this. Divisive political strategies were employed unions, religious groups, think tanks, political action committees, and lobbyists alike. This helped to ruin political discourse in this country, ensuring the population was split. Using social issues as a wedge, this prevented any meaningful reforms from occurring. The destruction of campaign finance law has been disastrous. Since the 1970’s, the resources of this nation have been looted by those in charge, leading to the biggest going out of business sale in history. Politicians and the laws they pass are for sale to the highest bidders and have been for a long time.
The consequences today are staggering and undeniable. The most obvious one right now is the two major candidates running for office and the state of the country during this election cycle. Another is the War on Drugs, which has not only completely failed to stop or curtail drug use, but has also cost billions of dollars and destroyed countless lives. Another obvious disaster are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars have destabilized entire regions, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and cost the United States thousands of lives and 5 trillion dollars. The destabilization of the Middle East has led to the rise of ISIS and put the United States and Russia on a path to direct military confrontation. In addition, profligate spending in the form of corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and sweetheart contracts for the defense and other industries has led to a national debt that now totals near 19 trillion dollars. But wait, there’s more. The healthcare system, for all its advances, fails to provide adequate coverage for millions of Americans, punishing those without insurance with absurd, bankrupting fees and charges. This is especially true for those in our generation caught working service jobs, making just enough to neither receive health insurance or qualify for benefits. The college system, once the guarantor of social mobility, is now a financial instrument whereby the banking interests saddle our generation with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-forgivable debt. Many of the jobs once accessible with a college degree no longer exist. The funds for Social Security and Medicare have been raided by the politicians, putting them both on a path to complete insolvency. Us millennials cannot reasonably expect to access these benefits when we retire, even though we still pay into them every paycheck in the form of payroll taxes. These abuses of power have amounted to economic war against the poor, the middle class and young people.
Notably, these policies and the total disasters they have wrought have been carried out almost exclusively by the Baby Boomers and the generations that preceded them. They have been making all the important decisions for the last 40 years or longer. They have asked Generations X, Y, and the Millennials to fight their wars for them, while they sit at home and comfortably profit off these failed misadventures. They have saddled us with their debts today and far into the future. They have asked us to vote for their candidates and pay their taxes so their profits can be maximized and their retirements guaranteed. Now, in the greatest of American political ironies, the older generations are asking for our help. They are asking us to bail them out this election cycle. The Republicans say we must stop Hillary and the Democrats say we must stop Trump, at all costs. They tell us this is the most important election in history. They tell us this every election, of course. It’s up to us to save the day, they say. The country will go down in flames if we choose poorly, they claim. This is not a friendly gesture on their part, however. This is not a simple acknowledgement of our growing political power. It is a direct, calculated threat. They have put a gun to our head. If we don’t make the right choice this election, not only will the blame be pinned on us, we will be left to clean up the mess after they are gone. What they fail to realize (or maybe they know and don’t care) is that a Trump presidency represents chaos, and a Clinton presidency represents more of the same failed policies that got us here. Either way, the United States accelerates down the path set for it by our forebears. There is no choice. No matter who we choose, those in power will blame us and continue to trap us with debt, imprison us, and send us into wars. Nothing will change. The older generations got us into this mess and they seek to continue punishing us for their abject failures.
Why should we continue to give them our support? They argue we have to, because the lesser of two evils is preferable to disaster. They argue that a 3rd party vote in a swing state is a waste that helps the bad guy win. The Baby Boomer generation says that if the wrong person gets elected, we will be responsible. The truth is that I’m not responsible for the mess we are in today and neither are you. Besides, I don’t respond well to threats. Making an important decision based on fear is never a smart thing to do. Voting for one of their candidates is an endorsement of their broken system. Continuing to play this game will only result in one thing: inevitable decline and dissolution. I think at this point the best thing to do is vote for neither the Republican or Democratic candidate. There is utility in voting 3rd party: it is a vocal protest against the system and it increases the chances another party will be able to compete with the two party duopoly in power today. If a 3rd party’s national candidate receives 5% or more of the popular vote, their party qualifies for matching federal campaign funding. This will increase their profile nationally and allow them to fund candidates running for seats at every level of government. It’s worth thinking about, and I think it’s worth doing. A vocal protest of this magnitude will get noticed. In any case, the time for complaining the situation while doing nothing about it has passed. It’s time to take action and take our country back from the corrupt interests controlling it. I know a lot of people my age don’t vote, but the fact is, change in this country only happens through direct political action or war. Pick one. Don’t be like the Baby Boomers and make the same mistake they did. Don’t sell out and become something that you used to despise. Don’t allow the corruption that took hold of them to take hold of you. Don’t ever compromise your beliefs. To me, the only choice is to vote my conscience, damn the consequences. I hope you feel the same.
Daniel Greene is the founder and editor of greenedata.com and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Hillsdale College.