How Trump awakened the millennials
© Getty Images

The biggest political divide in Britain today is age, The Economist reports. “Forget Brexit, class and education. This election has pitted the young against the old.”

In this context, as goes Britain, so goes Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE’s America. So how do “the young” in America feel today about their president?

In their popular study of generations, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy — What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe explain that a significant generation rising to power as the millennials are today will often ignore their dominating parents generation (the Clintons, the Bushes, Trump) to seek the wisdom of grandparents.

That is what we have seen in the sudden, sensational appeal to young voters of Vermont Independent Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDe Blasio headed to Iowa to speak at political fundraiser Yes, spills happen — but pipelines are still the safest way to move oil Why sexual harassment discussions include lawmakers talking about Bill Clinton’s past MORE, 74 when he ran for president in 2016. We see the exact same pattern in Britain this last week where 18 to 24 year-olds furious at Brexit threw their weight behind Jeremy Corbin, age 68, “the British Bernie Sanders.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Britain’s results should give us a hint of what to expect ahead in America. We are seeing a generational culture clash emerging which could resemble Britain’s “bloodless revolution” or Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which England determined what kind of country she would be in a cultural context.

 

The Lincoln “revolution” may have been a definitive moment like that here as well. It will be this rising generation that makes the calls on future history and it is not that difficult to see the direction millennials are taking.

I had four at home when Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE was running for president and brought the two youngest to meet him at a political gathering here in New Hampshire. 

They spoke to him as easily as they would their next door neighbor. They grew up with the Obamas as their formative experience in the White House. 

Ask them — actually, ask any millennial at all — who would she or he prefer to be stuck in an elevator with for twenty minutes, Barack Obama or Donald Trump?

Ask them about globalism and nationalism, the central issue to Trump’s America and May’s Britain today. 

Would they prefer a world that followed nature’s rhythms and history’s contours — “no country ... and no religion too” — where they could feel at home anywhere — Paris, Singapore, South Africa, Grand Cayman, Montreal — or would it be best to remain behind in Kansas to cultivate their own garden?

A new batch of world politicians speaks specifically to millennials: Emmanuel Macron, the new President of France, whose new party just won a landslide victory in legislative elections, is at 39, the youngest president in the history of France. Justin Trudeau is the second youngest prime minister of Canada. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) is almost certain to run for president in 2020, possibly against United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. And soon the aging Benjamin Netanyahu will leave the stage and yield the future of Israel to the dynamic and capable Ayelet Shaked, 41, Minister of Justice, or Naftali Bennett, currently Minister of Education, 45.

These and others — Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada — will be advanced by the new generation.

There will be a lot of women in the group. In the British election this past week there were for the first time more than 200 female MPs.

May’s nostalgic Brexit and Trump’s retro presidency are the panicked efforts of an age struggling to remain relevant as twilight approaches. Winter is coming. They rage against the dying of the light. In the British race UKip, the “guard dogs of Brexit” whose former leader Nigel Farage actively campaigned here for Trump collapsed.

It received only 2 percent of the vote and its voters appear to have moved to Corbyn’s Labor party, not to May’s conservatives as expected. And here in the U.S. remaining Tea Party candidates are said to be on the run. In Kansas, a bellweather, the Washington Post reports that Republicans are predicting the beginning of the end of the Tea Party.

These two movements of Brexit in Britain and Trump in America have brought us to a turnstile and on the other side we will find ourselves in a new era.

But comparisons between Britain and America may not accurately predict our future. 

They are old, we are new. 

They are small, we are vast. 

They are historically one, we are many. 

We evolve from different traditions and different premises.

Renegade poet/historian Donald Davidson, a founding member of Tennessee’s circle of conservative dissident poets known as the Southern Agrarians in the 1930s, had visualized America as Leviathan, a political culture dominated by the Northeast which acts imperially within its own borders giving the South, the West and the other sections of the country the status of “colonies.”

Ironically, this might have changed in the last decade and it might be said today that the Eastern “occupation” of the West and other regions — if indeed there ever was such a thing — has yielded intentionally or otherwise as liberal states and regions today begin to act independently of the federal government. As California Gov. Jerry Brown so vividly illustrates this week in Beijing with China’s President Xi Jinping.

“In the wake of the presidential election, as Democrats realized that Republicans will soon control all three branches of the federal government, progressives disinclined to secede from the Union rediscovered another exit strategy: states’ rights,”

Jeffrey Rosen, the president and chief executive of the National Constitution Center, wrote in December, 2016 in a New York Times opinion. “Mayors in several so-called sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago and New York, immediately reaffirmed their commitment not to work with federal immigration officials in detaining and deporting illegal immigrants.”

Many other cities and states have since joined in with this spontaneous, ad hoc “resistance” to Trumpism. This could be the world we begin to glimpse through a glass darkly on the other side of the turnstile; the millennials’ world and our world just ahead.

And this time, no one in Washington seems very much to care. 

Bernie Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.