Whether the United States should move toward socialism is shaping up to be one of the defining issues of the 2020 election, and millennials and members of Generation Z have decidedly different views on the subject than previous generations of Americans.
Millennials, ages 23 to 38, and Generation Z, ages 18 to 22, are projected to make up 37 percent of the electorate in 2020, Axios reported.
Multiple polls released last year showed that a large percentage of these younger Americans support socialism.
A YouGov/Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation poll conducted in September found that 70 percent of millennials said they were either “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote for a socialist candidate.
A recent poll found 70% of Millennials are likely to vote for a socialist candidate. My takeaway here isn’t that younger Americans love socialism but rather that they feel today’s capitalism is failing them. pic.twitter.com/KptVmRLMlO
— Steve Westly (@SteveWestly) October 29, 2019
Similarly, Axios reported that a Harris Poll conducted last year found that 51 percent of millennials and 61 percent of Generation Z had a “positive reaction” to the word “socialism.”
In fact, socialism ranks higher than the free enterprise system among Gen Z in the survey, with just 58 percent saying they have a positive reaction to the word “capitalism.”
Another surprising finding in the YouGov poll was that only 57 percent of millennials “said they believe the Declaration of Independence better guarantees freedom and inequality over the Communist Manifesto, compared to an overwhelming 94 percent of the silent generation [ages 75 to 92] of Americans,” The Hill reported.
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Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser noted in a City Journal piece last spring that for older Americans, socialism is strongly associated with Marxism and the Cold War, but for 20- and 30 somethings, that reference point is as “ancient as a rotary phone.”
Why the comeback of socialism just 25 years after the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellite states?
“The likeliest answer: the Great Recession left millennials looking for alternatives to capitalism, without the Cold War ideological guideposts that positioned older generations,” Glaeser wrote.
“Both the Right and the Left have redefined socialism, moreover, so that many young supporters now think that it just means a cuddlier, more equitable government,” he explained.
Merriam-Webster defines “socialism” as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”
Additionally, it is “a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.”
Millennial Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, told The Western Journal he has been raising the red flag for years about young Americans being indoctrinated on college campuses to embrace socialism.
“They don’t actually understand what it is they think they’re advocating for,” Kirk said of students who say they support socialism.
“Some students believe that socialism means helping people in need or looking out for the vulnerable, which of course it’s the exact opposite of that,” he said.
Fellow millennial Hadley Heath Manning — policy director for Independent Women’s Forum — said socialism simply does not have the same meaning to her generation as previous ones.
“For older Americans, who remember the USSR, socialism has that context,” she told The Western Journal. “Younger Americans, on the other hand, relate socialism to a generous welfare state that provides education and health care. They don’t necessarily equate socialism to its textbook definition of a government-managed economy or one where government owns the means of production.”
Manning believes the two issues that are driving younger Americans to support “socialism” are education and health care.
The Green New Deal — promoted by self-described democratic socialists Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — envisions a massive government intervention into the economy in order to transition the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, as well as providing taxpayer-funded universal health care and college education.
Co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate include Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who do not define themselves as socialists.
“The challenge for Americans who value capitalism is to communicate how the private sector, meaning the marketplace and our communities, can better provide access to education and health care than the government can,” Manning said. “Win these debates, and you’ll address the rising interest and support for socialism.”
Kirk has found two questions to be effective in dialoguing with young people about socialism.
“You ask the question to a student, ‘Do you trust the government?’ Traditionally, their answer will be, ‘No, I don’t trust the government. The government’s horrible,’” Kirk said.
“You ask the next question, ‘Then why do you want to make government bigger?’ ‘Well, I don’t want to make government bigger,’” is the normal response, he said.
“Then you’re not a socialist,” Kirk said he informs the person. It takes him about 15 seconds for the entire back-and-forth.
— TPUSA at LSU (@tpusalsu) January 14, 2020
Overall, he has observed that millennials and Gen Zers do not tend to trust politicians.
Conservative activist Brandon Tatum sees Gen Z — which did not come of working age during the Great Recession — as being more open to the capitalist message.
Indeed, in the YouGov poll cited above, Gen Z respondents were slightly less likely to be willing to support a socialist candidate than millennials: 64 percent to 70 percent.
“Gen Z seems to be more conservative, and I project they will be probably one of the most conservative generations,” Tatum told The Western Journal. “Gen. Z wants to be independent. They want to be entrepreneurs.”
Conservative commentator Madison Gesiotto, a millennial, points to the nation’s educational system as partly to blame for socialism’s traction among young people.
“I believe we are seeing this rise in support for socialism as a result of a rapid spread of misinformation coupled with liberal indoctrination currently present on high school and college campuses,” she told The Western Journal.
Tatum and Kirk agree.
“What’s happening is that people don’t even have a fair, balanced knowledge of socialism,” Tatum said. “They have this creative fantasy of what socialism would look like in a quasi-capitalist society like America. They don’t even understand the consequences.”
Kirk said, “Students think they’re advocating for freedom when they advocate for socialism. I know that might sound bizarre, but that’s the messaging campaign that the Marxists have undertaken.”
Glaeser is more skeptical liberal indoctrination is to blame for the rise of socialism among the youth.
The Harvard professor conceded members of college faculties skew heavily liberal, particularly in some fields; however, he argued that is not proof they are actively trying to convert students to their views.
“[W]hile I share the concern that America’s campuses might be too ideologically monolithic, I’m skeptical that professors have much power to shape opinion,” he wrote.
“Many Americans don’t even go to college,” Glaeser said, “and many who do go aren’t paying much attention to their teachers; those paying attention are the least likely to be ideologically indoctrinated.”
During his State of the Union address last February, President Donald Trump said that “America will never be a socialist country.”
With socialist candidates like Sanders fueled by the support of millennials and Gen Z polling near the top of the Democratic field, only time will tell if Trump’s proclamation will prove true.
The Western Journal reached out to Ocasio-Cortez’s office, but a spokeswoman said she was unable to comment for this story.
Additionally, The Western Journal contacted the Justice Democrats PAC, which backed Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, but did not immediately receive a response.
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