Listen: America is changing.
It’s not just that Obama is a hit with young voters. It’s that young voters are increasingly multiracial and metropolitan, and they reward the candidates and policies that represent their views: inclusive, aspirational and non-limiting.
The conservative leaders in America seem either unwilling to grasp the complexity of our country’s changing demographics, or else they’re convinced that this is somehow an aberration, and that traditional politics of exclusion, protectionism and limitation will someday seem like the more appealing option.
This is not going to happen.
40% of Generation Y is multiethnic. The vast majority of them intend to live in cities, where they’ll be exposed to people, cultures, stories and opportunities drawn from a diaspora of backgrounds and intentions. In short, they are going to be the most tolerant generation in history, simply because they will be the least easily-segmented population in history.
And they’re not alone. Our global economy is also shifting.
In the next 50 years, North America and Europe will be surpassed by Asia and Africa in terms of boom economies. China is aggressively pursuing resources and relationships throughout Africa and the Middle East, while the United States races to catch up in a life-sized game of financial Risk. Successfully capitalizing upon these emerging markets will require a cosmopolitanism previously unfathomed by the global populace — and an entirely new approach to education.
Reluctantly, America is finally coming to grips with the fact that we as a nation are living in a post-industrial economy, yet our education system is broken in so many places that we are profoundly unable to teach our children the skills that will prepare them to be successful in a world where, soon enough, “just” being bilingual will be seen as an international recruiting handicap.
And yet, when faced with the enormity of America’s future challenges, we somehow managed to reduce the level of discourse in our recent 2012 elections to debates over whether or not women have the right to control their own bodies, or if people who are physically attracted to others of the same sex deserve the same civil rights as people who are attracted to their gender opposites.
China has the largest standing army in the world, and an economy that’s showing signs of slowing — thus indicating that they might need to fire up their war machine in order to fuel the capitalist binge we thrust upon them — and we’re still worried about how our fellow citizens are managing their own genitals?
Well, no. Actually, we aren’t.
The people who are worried about that topic — and many others that truly aren’t helping America evolve at the rate we need to evolve in order to remain globally relevant — are an increasingly small but desperately vocal conservative minority, who cling to antiquated social norms as totems that they pray will ward off America’s inevitable change because they fear how that change might force them to adapt their own lives, thoughts and worldviews.
But to the young cosmopolitan voters, the Tea Party comes across the American version of the Taliban: angrily resistant to change, defiantly insistent upon ancient dogma, extreme in their economic views and reductive in their social policy. Theirs is not a vision of a unified future, but a vision of an America that never was, which they somehow hope to recreate atop a population that is ethnographically incapable of supporting it.
Intransigence is not a winning strategy.
I’m not saying that all change is good, or that all tradition is bad. Failing to appreciate where we’ve been means we wouldn’t appreciate where we could go next. But I am saying the new America means coexisting, compromising, and conflating our various worldviews into a joint vision that works.
We are not post-racial. What we are is co-racial.
We are not godless. What we are is capable of rectifying spirituality and science within a practical ideology.
We do not want to commit fiscal suicide, or redistribute America’s wealth by way of unearned handouts. What we want is to provide reasonable opportunities for success to everyone who’s willing to work for it, without requiring some people to jump through more artificial hoops than others based solely upon criteria they cannot control.
We do not want to be the nation that ceased to be relevant in the 21st Century. What we want is to be worthy of the vision we all keep telling ourselves we were founded upon.
The good news is, getting there is inevitable.
The only question is how long is it going to take?