Generational Politics

By Susan Estrich

March 14, 2019 5 min read

The conversations are taking place when our kids come back to California, especially if they're coming from New York.

What is it that you see in AOC?

And as they tell us, the generational divide always opens to the size of the Grand Canyon.

They like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she speaks to them; because she rocks the boat; because she's a 29-year-old first-term congresswoman who now has the House speaker on the run, is dominating the Party agenda and, with her colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, has many Democrats petrified that President Trump has found his only route to re-election.

Attacking Obama? Is Omar nuts? And then playing the "fake news" card only to be met with a tape and having to take down her tweet? She made the Democrats look like fools for the way the anti-Semitism issue was handled. Are these freshman mistakes or intentional strategy?

AOC dismissed political moderates as "meh" — as if it doesn't matter — and singled out two such apparently moderates as FDR and Reagan as racist. Throwing around labels has always struck me as "meh," as if laying out the case is too much work. And it does matter. But I was working in the Senate for Ted Kennedy when Reagan took office. I remember seeing one of my heroines, Marian Wright Edelman, walking the halls looking for people who would stand up to the across-the-board cuts in programs for children. When I saw her, she was up to four. The total might have been seven. You understand what I mean by a heroine. Does AOC not know? Or not care?

She is accused of quoting Karl Marx about the value of labor. Does she realize the next sentence calls on workers to seize the means of production? Do the kids falling in love with her understand that she is rejecting the very economic basis — capitalism — of our country?

My guess is they do. Because capitalism isn't doing so well by them.

It's not two women members who are off the leadership "reservation" who worry me. Legislatively speaking, nothing is going to be accomplished in the next Congress — Donald Trump isn't jumping on the Pelosi train, and neither is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, no matter how united the Democrats are. But politically speaking, the House is the place where the battle will be taken to Trump in advance of the election, not the Democratic cattle calls where the candidates will have to use their miniscule amount of time to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Most people who are old enough to remember George W. Bush, much less Ronald Reagan, understand that it really does matter, for real people's lives, who wins in 2020.

AOC is not running for president. She's leading a movement, if not of fellow members than of people watching her on their phone and saying, "Damn straight."

This is the first generation of people who don't expect to do as well as their parents; of kids who laugh when you say 90 percent taxes because they'll never get to that point — yeah, we should be so lucky; of young people saddled with so much debt and accruing interest that paying the minimum payment means you're paying for life. Homeownership? Sure, I assumed I would own a home someday, but that's because my family did, and we're not rich. I live in Los Angeles, where the closest most of our kids can afford to live near us (assuming they want to) is about an hour away. When you ask about owning a home, they laugh: I already do, but it's in the form of my education.

It's easy to dismiss AOC's followers as a bunch of kids who, like her, should take some time to listen and learn before they try to run things.

And it's shortsighted.

We were the generation that questioned authority. "Don't trust anyone over 30" is what I remember.

AOC is 29. I get it. We did it. They are doing it. She speaks to them, or at least to a big chunk of them who don't see much opportunity. I just hope we can figure out how to line up those kids behind a candidate the rest of us — meaning 51 percent of Americans — will support.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: GreenNewDeal_Presser_020719

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