Letting the Youth Be Our Guide

A lot has been made of the “youth appeal” of Barack Obama in this election. It’s true: he is strikingly popular among most young people, college students, yuppies, etc. It’s not a surprise; he’s a pretty cool guy. He speaks intelligently, eloquently, even poetically, with rapturous visions of a “change we can believe in.” He has that cool, “something different” appeal, with an attractive (if not totally believable) platform of anti-politics politics. He also has the coolest campaign posters ever (see above).

But since when is being loved by the vast majority of young people a good thing? Here are other things that the vast majority of young people currently love: Miley Cyrus, texting while driving, The Hills, binge drinking, MTV, frivolous spending, credit card debt, and instant gratification. Do we really want to put much stock into “what the kids are in to?”

Sadly, because our culture is so utterly youth-focused these days, it is the case that the youth vote (however ignorant, fickle, and unwise it may be) is highly respected. As such, many older people I know (most of them erstwhile Republicans) are going to vote for Obama, largely because their kids and/or grandkids are. This same story has been reported by many of my friends, who are finding it exceptionally easy to convince their parents to vote for Obama because, well, the kids are all doing it. In former eras the kids followed the lead of their parents in politics; It’s pretty much the opposite today.

It’s the same reason why we have an explosion of “cool moms” these days (see Amy Poehler in Mean Girls), overly-botoxed housewives, and cougars. I suspect it’s why middle-aged men love to wear those techy ear gadgets everywhere. Young people hold the cultural (and increasingly political) currency, and everyone else wants to buy in. Voting for Obama is the new plastic surgery or Porsche-buying. It’s a way for older people to feel relevant again.

I know it sounds weird for me (a twenty-something) to be bashing my own people (young people), but I would be the first to admit that I am not nearly as wise as my parents or grandparents. It is simply the fact of aging that one gains wisdom and knowledge of the world the older one gets. So why are we putting our trust in the under-40s? Shouldn’t we look to the older generations for guidance?

I know it’s a “new Internet age” and all that, and it’s true that holding on to the past too hard can be horribly ill-advised; but it is also ill-advised to look desperately into the future, holding only to some nebulous “hope” and “change” that recklessly shuns any recourse to experience, learned wisdom, and prudent practicality.

“A little child will lead them” is a nice idea, but I’m not sure it the best course for deciding who will lead the free world.