11 February 2016

Age old blues

Last week on the internet the kids with their tubetubes and their memeboxes were briefly obsessed with this image macro "Bernie or Hillary." While all memes inevitably stray from their original intellectual origin, the broad point of this macro and its variations was to lampoon Hillary Clinton's perceived inauthenticity to young people. She's portrayed as pandering and out of touch; someone attempting to speak to young people through a focus-group translator, while Bernie is portrayed as someone who is a genuine enthusiast for whatever topic the meme-maker has chosen.

A lot of pundit clatter has been expended on the Democratic Primary analyzing demographics; can Hillary win young women voters? Can Bernie improve his standing with non-white voters? Will I be able to make a baby with a sex robot? But, in its purest form, this primary is a replay of an often-seen showdown among left-of-center Americans for the past couple of decades, the centrist technocrats butting heads with the populist progressives. And, while Hillary Clinton took a pounding in New Hampshire Tuesday, there's still one demographic she can count on.

It's important to understand that, for the centrist technocrats who make up Hillary's base, her inauthenticity isn't a bug, it's a feature. They understand nothing that's said during election season has any bearing on the business of government; pandering is merely an inconvenient chore that needs to be dispensed with before government can be returned to the hands of neutral, ideology-free experts to which it properly belongs. Hillary's waffling and attempts to outflank Sanders on anything from LGBT rights to criminal justice reform, to anything technocrats actually care about like healthcare and finance; everything is purely theater. They know better than to believe any of it, because they know exactly what they are going to get.

After the past week and a half the liberal pundit class has been in a growing meltdown trying to discern the the reasons for the eye-popping numbers Bernie is putting up with the youth. They are naive and unrealistic! It's campus PC-ism run amok! The girls are trying to hook up with hot Bernie Bros! They aren't likely to find a satisfactory solution. In 2008 when Obama was winning the youth vote by 30 people said "wow, this guy is really popular with the youths!" Bernie Sanders is winning under-30 voters by 70. It would be easier at this point to find a dentist who doesn't recommend Crest(TM) than a Hillary-supporting millenial.

In reality, Bernie isn't a pied piper who's leading innocent, naive children into ruin. He's a 74-year old white man who's been preaching Cold War social democracy for 40-odd years. Kids don't think that is cool. And yes, while millenials are more left-wing than their predecessors, saying "it's all ideology" alone isn't enough to explain Bernie's immense popularity. But he is also not a blank slate for young people to project themselves onto, as Obama was. He's a politician with a long record that reflects his ideas, at least some of which have hit home with a lot of young people. And that is what presents the biggest threat to the liberal technocrats, who have long relied on encroaching middle age and the ascension to the middle class to blunt the fervor of youth (and the latter is becoming harder and harder to attain for today's twenty-somethings anyway). Bernie is merely the developing manifestation of the id of a generation that can resist.