A survey released this week by the ominously-titled Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation offered a godsend to Beltway media outlets facing another week of impeachment coverage: Millennials are apparently just a bunch of Godless socialists.
The annual poll, conducted in partnership with YouGov, found that 70 percent of millennials would consider voting for a socialist political candidate. Only about half of millennials hold a favorable view of capitalism.
Someone call the Chamber of Commerce! The Reds have brainwashed America’s youth!
We are under no obligation to read doom-and-gloom into these findings. Millennial interest in socialism has perfectly understandable roots reaching back to the defining catastrophe of the Great Recession.
If there is any surprise in the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation survey, it is that so many young people still view capitalism favorably. In the past two decades alone, young Americans have seen their upward mobility evaporate under a $1.4 trillion mountain of student debt. Home ownership is a fantasy when real wages haven’t moved in decades but housing prices are soaring.
Millennials aren’t even safe if they secure a rare full-ride athletic scholarship to a great college. In a recent tone-deaf Tweet, Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (R-N.C.) incomprehensibly threatened to tax those scholarships as income. Such a cruel concept would make it even more difficult for low-income students to attend college while generating negligible federal revenue. Republicans have finally discovered a group they aren’t afraid to tax.
Forget settling down and starting a family — most millennials and “Gen-Z” Americans struggle to secure basic health care in a marketplace distorted by special interests and powerful corporations. While many young people find themselves trapped in a gig economy without insurance benefits, companies like Humana are celebrating record $1 billion quarterly profits.
Of course, millennial voters aren’t stupid. They understand that Republican condemnation of “socialist policies” doesn’t extend to the near-$30 billion in government charity given to politically influential industrial agriculture companies. Nor does the fear of rampant socialism stop the $4 billion annual flow of corporate welfare to massive oil companies.
Socialism only rouses conservative opprobrium when Democratic Socialists like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats face critical 72 hours Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Manchin nixes Medicare expansion Manchin shutting down Sanders on Medicare expansion MORE (I-Vt.) or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled Republican spin on Biden is off the mark House progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting MORE (D-N.Y.) suggest changing who receives that government largesse. Is it really that surprising that millennials, faced with two decades of in-your-face socialism for the ultra-wealthy, doubt the innate goodness of American crony capitalism?
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation survey does raise one important and often overlooked point: Many millennials’ fascination with Democratic socialism seems more about the “democratic” than the “socialist” element. Young voters look with exhaustion at an economic regime captured by and serving the interests of ultra-wealthy corporations and individuals.
Their goal is not to craft a totalitarian, authoritarian communist state like Venezuela. Their goal is to bring the United States in line with other advanced western democracies, where corporations are held in check and economic gains are more evenly distributed.
That is an admirable goal. Once upon a time, it was the goal of capitalism.
A majority of millennials already acknowledge that the American Dream is far out of their reach. Those same millennials are also realizing the full extent of their political power: In 2018, millennial/Gen-Z voters actually outvoted older generations for the first time. American politics is moving to the left precisely because American voters are moving to the left.
As the scales tip toward a new generation of voters, Republicans have a stark choice: Paternalistically push aside the valid criticisms of a legion of millennials, or address the concerns their activism now elevates to the national stage. Young Americans are committed to reshaping America’s toxic relationship to capitalism. The moment of truth will come sooner than many Old Guard conservatives think.
Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and senior contributor at Millennial Politics. He regularly makes appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and Bloomberg Radio. Follow him on Twitter @TheMaxBurns.