National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Make Way for The ‘Millennials’

bentonmugOn the one hand, there’s the amusing tag team wrestling match going on among prominent Republicans. Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Michael Steele and Gen. Colin Powell and others are slamming each other around on the mat trying to define what the GOP is supposed to look like going forward.

On the other hand, there are the Democrats, worried about the prospects of their meteoric success sustaining themselves even into the next year. Retrench, push forward, be more moderate, more radical?

All of this political posturing comes in an environment of profound uncertainty about the national and global economy. Is there a recovery coming soon? Or, are we merely in the eye of the hurricane, a seemingly relative calm when unemployment continues to grow, but at a slower pace, awaiting the arrival of the furious backside of the storm?

Where are the moorings for long-term political stability, as Democrats come to grips with the challenges of governing in a recession and Republicans flail around in search of a rebound?

It is easy to lose sight of the core continuity that defines the American political process over the long run, and to discern and ride it into the future. It is a continuity that has defined the nation since the revolution, and deviates only in terms of acceleration and deceleration factors.

The recent period has been characterized by a remarkable speeding up of this process, of the wider socio-cultural push for personal emancipation and social equality. Those who hitch their wagons to this secular historical trend are bound to prevail over time. Those who find their political or personal identities or causes in resisting this trend are doomed to the dustbins of history.

The issues of emancipation and equality, unleashed by the very words of the U.S. Constitution itself onto all subsequent generations, carry with them their core requirements of universal, science-based public education, a promotion of the creative arts, an expansion of science, invention and industry, the proliferation of medical and other basic human services, including abundant provisions for food and housing, the transportation, electronic and other infrastructures needed for interconnecting. These are all knit together with an optimism and generosity of spirit that tends to value service over personal gain.

These are all the ingredients that have lifted humanity, to the extent they have to date, out of superstition and tyranny, on all its levels of existence from the most intimate to matters of states, armies and empires. Those who insist on the right to hoard wealth, to possess, control and impose their will, no matter how self-serving or irrational, over others, to cloud minds with myth and lies, to brandish anger and encourage contempt for the underdog, will surely fall to the force of humanity’s progress.

There is no need to brake this progress, especially in these times, and especially not for fear of backlash.

Today’s “Millennial Generation” of 18 to 29 year olds, all the polling indicates, more fully embody the values of this great long-term historical trend than any since the World War II generation. They were raised on the words and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, immortal for their timeless universality and moral grounding, and others in the last great surge for social justice and equality.

This is the generational force that transformed the American political landscape in last November’s election, and whose thirst for the core values of human progress, that defined their upbringing, needs to be constantly renewed.

This is no time for a reversion to anything like politics as usual. A unique opportunity exists for a gigantic leap forward for humanity as a whole. There is a new and emerging cadre of young Americans who are hungry for the kinds of big ideas and big challenges that can transform the planet in a single generation.

Their generation.

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