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Tunde: The season finale for America, aka the 2020 election, is finally here. We made it. Yay. Full disclosure, this is actually pre-taped, so I have no idea if we actually made it or not. But, we’re about to talk about millennials, zoomers and bears. Okay, maybe not the bears, but oh my, and damn it, we’re going to have some fun with it, or at least as much fun as one can have in a looming apocalypse.
Okay, G money, why is she off on a cruise when tasked with talking about however this election breaks loose tonight. Now, for the youngins, the millennials, the zoomers, as they’re called for some reason.
Genevieve: Cool. Cool. I’m down. I’m down. How are you spending election night though?
Tunde: Drinking, heavily. How about you?
Genevieve: Well, I just dropped off my mail-in ballot after using it as a place mat for the last two weeks, so that’s how that’s going. Now I’m just watching the election results come in.
Tunde: Yeah, this whole thing is like deciding whether you should eat a Double Down or a Baconator, in either case, heart attack is sure to follow. If only we had someone who could speak to our fears about a Trump or Biden presidency. Cue, special guest, the one and only Briahna Joy Gray.
Briahna Joy Gray: I think the most insidious aspect of the 2016 primary race, and what I’m fearful will happen going forward, is that young people, struggling people, marginalized people, will be convinced that they don’t deserve something better.
Tunde: Well said. We deserve something better, whether it’s a Trump or a Biden presidency, it’s a loss for all of us. For young people, it’s an even bigger loss.
Genevieve: For sure, and none of these candidates are prioritizing systemic issues that young people care about, like civil rights and racial discrimination.
Tunde: Like Trump, issuing an executive order barring racial sensitivity training, or Biden supporting more funding for police? Somehow?
Tunde: Like Biden saying he’d veto Medicare for all, or Trump’s starting from the place of “Who knew healthcare was so complicated?”
Genevieve: Climate change.
Tunde: Like Trump, cutting environmental protections during the pandemic, or Biden saying he’s going to continue fracking.
Genevieve: Just to name a few.
Tunde: I can’t speak for the Republican party, but perhaps the Democrats keep giving young people the stiff arm because of that highly dependable, moderate Republican light voter, I don’t know. You’re going to have to help me with this, Briahna.
Briahna Joy Gray: I think a calculation was made, a really concerted, purposeful decision was made by the Democratic party about who they needed to win this election. What they decided was that they could win with the help of older voters and what are commonly described as more moderate voters, but the reality is that those are actually conservative voters. Conservative Democrats, never Trump Republicans, right? Because when we talk about moderate, when we talk about the middle of this country, what we should be talking about is the fact that overwhelming majorities of Americans across the political aisle actually agree on policies which are routinely described as progressive. We’re talking about 88% of Democrats who support a single payer healthcare system, and a slim majority of Republicans who agree with them. We’re talking about two thirds of Americans wanting to legalize marijuana, something that is a really bipartisan preference. We’re talking about majorities of Americans wanting common sense gun reform. We’re talking about overwhelming majorities of Americans supporting a minimum wage increase, right? So the question becomes, why is there so much distance put between the interests of the Democratic party and the people that they’re supposed to represent?
Tunde: But one specific area that isn’t talked about nearly as much, but greatly affects young people, student loans. As of June 2019, the national student loan debt sat at $1.6 trillion, that’s higher than both credit cards and auto loans.
Genevieve: This debt impacts about 42 million people, about 42% of all 18 to 29 year olds have student debt. Both of these candidates have contributed to this crisis, as opposed to fixing it.
Tunde: Biden had a hand in creating this crisis by backing the 2005 bill that strip students of bankruptcy protections and left millions in financial stress.
Genevieve: And Trump’s administration calling for an end to the popular student loan forgiveness program for public sector workers.
Tunde: And drowning in student loans means that the choices of what you do with your life can be very limited. Briahna talked to us about this very scenario that she found herself in.
Briahna Joy Gray: I went to college, I went to law school, I went to work at a big firm. I thought I could do this for a few years and make enough money to pay off my loans and then go be a writer or do something that I really wanted to do. But then the recession happened, my final year, and the prospects after graduation changed pretty dramatically, and it became clear that I was going to have to work at a law firm for a decade. I looked down the barrel of being 40 years old and still doing this kind of work that was really soul-sucking and not contributing to society, and didn’t really pare off my interests. I realized I didn’t have a lot of choices because who else was going to pay me enough to keep up with those loans?
Tunde: So like we said, whether we’re talking Biden or Trump, they’re both terrible on issues that young people care about, but we’re not without hope though. Here’s a little playbook that young people can follow in order to, not just talk about power, or to it, but in some cases, take it.
Genevieve: As terrible as it might sound, one thing we can do is use fucked up situations we have experienced to our advantage. Take COVID-19, the wildfires, police brutality, school shootings, these events are all part of larger systemic issues that underline problems within our society, and show perfectly how issues that we care about need to be addressed.
Tunde: Another play from the playbook is self-education on history. Turns out, this guy Christopher Columbus, a little bit of a shady character. I know, crazy.
Genevieve: And that leads us to questioning everything, no rebrands or reboots of the old way of approaching politics with just being satisfied with lip service. We have to be skeptical not just the moments, but of the systems that produce those moments. Going back to that normal isn’t going to work.
Briahna Joy Gray: The more that you focus your critique, not on Trump being a Cheeto, or the fact that you just want to return to normal, but the fact that normal really, really was inadequate for millions of people in a way that is easy to ignore when you have a handsome, smiling liberal president, who knows well enough to embrace certain symbols of progressivism. The challenge before us is how to keep people’s feet to the flame, when so many folks have articulated that they want nothing more than to go back to [inaudible 00:07:28].
Tunde: Another part of the game plan for how the young can grip more power is by organizing, which can take many different forms, one of which is by organizing around ballot initiatives. This is pretty important on a local level because you can feel the direct impact.
Genevieve: Join a group, or start one if one doesn’t exist for an issue that you’re passionate about.
Tunde: Last but not least, run for office. If there’s anything that the AOC’s of the world have taught us is that no matter what your age or background, anything’s possible.
Genevieve: Not that there aren’t typically barriers, they’re usually financial, racial, or even ideological, but what were once considered barriers are now changing, as Briahna puts it.
Briahna Joy Gray: For years, for decades, the status quo in my mind has always been, well it would be nice to have X, Y, and Z, but if a politician were to run on those things, they wouldn’t be able to win anyway, so we have to be moderate. We have to be incrementalist. We have to meet them halfway. Because of the efforts of trailblazers like, yes, Senator Sanders, and more recently, the members of the squad, that reality is different.
Tunde: So there we have it. Long-term game plan for how young people can not just talk about power or to it, but perhaps take some of it, especially in the face of these potential administrations that have clearly demonstrated they don’t give a shit about dealing with issues that young people actually care about. One last question, that’s the long-term game plan, what’s the short term? Establish political order definitely lives to play the short term power play.
Genevieve: This means that we need to invest a lot of energy into pushing and shaping our short-term goals to lay a strong foundation for accomplishing our long-term goals.
Tunde: So what’s the short term game plan? I don’t know. You tell us. We don’t have all the answers. Probably according to some of you, we don’t have any of the answers, but the real question is, “What’s your plan? For tomorrow? For the next day, or the day after?” Because trust me, with whoever wins, the establishment definitely has one.