Monday, June 04, 2012

Jonah Over The Hill

Here’s a story where the headline buries the real lunacy within:

That headline actually misrepresents what Jonah Goldberg says, which is that conservatives should “beat out” of youth the (apparently popular) idea that socialism is better than capitalism. It’s a staggeringly broad, ignorant and meat-headed thing to say, but it seems to me more metaphorical than literal.

No, the real lunacy here is that Goldberg says the voting age is too low at 18 because teenagers are “so frickin’ stupid about so many things.”

I guess he would know. Goldberg has long been considered a voice of young conservatism. Even now, his Los Angeles Times bio touts him as “one of the most prominent young conservative journalists on the scene today.” Yes, at 43, Goldberg counts as young in the GOP. So when he says the voting age should be raised, well, chalk that frickin’ stupid thing up to youthful naivete.

When the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1971, it wasn’t because Richard Nixon thought he could mine a new demographic of socked-to-me youth votes — it was because someone noticed you could get drafted for three years before you were able to vote. Whoops! If you’re old enough to die for your country, you should be able to vote for the leaders who ship you off to war. That’s exactly the kind of discrepancy that deserves a constitutional amendment.

But it’s no surprise that Goldberg disagrees. Conservatives often place value judgments on what they see as youth issues. They don’t want to raise the minimum wage because, they say, only teenagers and uneducated people earn it. They disparage the youth vote by saying they’re too stupid to know what they want (until they start voting Republican, that is). This mentality insists that anyone who votes against old-school, aristocratic conservatism is an idiot and doesn’t count. Republicans know they can’t appeal to youth with what they’ve got, and they’re fine with that.

The GOP today is a collective of rich, white, older, ultraconservative males interested only in maintaining the status quo. They have the wealth and the power and they want to keep it that way. They are not interested in youth because the future does not matter to them. They scoff at environmental issues, education, poverty, infrastructure — the very problems U.S. youth will have to address in the years ahead. And the next generations will do so with an undercurrent of progressive thought. Yes, you will always have conservatives, liberals, libertarians and other ideologies in society, but they will coexist under more progressive norms than past generations. We care more about the environment than we used to. We cannot fathom segregation. A college education isn’t a rich man’s trophy. We’re more wired to the world. This isn’t idealism; it’s already happened and will continue to happen. No wonder older conservatives want no part of this.

They want you to think that age alone brings wisdom. Older people have experience and wisdom, sure, but they also tend to be set in their ways and resistant to new ideas. Conversely, young people may lack experience, but they have more expansive imaginations and thus some the best, outside-the-box ideas. And they’re much less likely to say things like, “outside the box.” Also a plus.

Everyone hits an age — it’s different for each person — where they start shaking their fists at “the young people.” It happens when the person realizes they’ve emerged from the anus of the youth chrysalis, or otherwise when they feel they’ve earned some wisdom that comes only with hard knocks. In any case, they fervently embrace the idea of mature adulthood and put away childish things. And they become absolutely insufferable.

At 32, I’m old enough to have succumbed to this many times over. And at times, I have (albeit mostly in the form of being aggravated when kids have no sense of time or space in crowded public places). But I adamantly refuse to subscribe to the notion that an entire age group is inherently stupid, or automatically smart. I know 22-year-olds I’d trust with the keys to this country right now, and at least one 43-year-old I wouldn’t.

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