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How Does it Feel for 2020 to Be Your Generation’s Defining Year?

Young Americans will be voting in huge numbers. They are also the most globally minded generation since the 1970s.

How Does it Feel for 2020 to Be Your Generation’s Defining Year?

After going on for what feels like an eternity, the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign has finally entered its final lap. Everything just feels longer and more tedious in the Zoomiverse, where so many of us are living, working, and studying these days. That applies especially to politics—and in particular for those Americans voting in a presidential election for the very first time.

College-age Americans have vague recollections of global affairs before the Trump era: the killing of Osama bin Laden, older relatives arguing about the Iraq War. For the most part, however, the 2016 election was when they awoke to politics—and the 2020 election is when they can finally do something about it. It is time to take stock of this generation coming of age during the Raging ’20s, what they know about politics, and how they imagine the United States’ role in the world.

What do the members of this generation know so far? They know that U.S. elections seem especially vulnerable to foreign interference, with reasonable doubts raised as to whether Russian meddling tipped the scales for now-President Donald Trump’s narrow victory in 2016. They know that four years later, Russia and other countries are meddling again, and they have some questions about the resilience of the electoral process they are joining.

They know that eight months into a once-in-a-century pandemic, leaders at the federal, state, and local levels are still struggling to develop safe and effective public health measures that can enjoy broad public support.

Young people in the United States today feel an extraordinary level of powerlessness.

And they know that they face bleak economic prospects, calling their hopes and dreams into doubt.

We believe this all adds up to a grim picture: Young people in the United States today feel an extraordinary level of powerlessness. Even if it’s a characteristic trait for youth to feel disempowered, the…

Spencer Kaplan, Peter Feaver

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