America’s First Millennial President

 

shutterstock_228458590Reading a piece by Bill Kristol over at The Weekly Standard about the Iranian deal — or lack thereof — got me to thinking that President Obama and his administration could be considered the first Millennial Presidency. While it is true that millennial enthusiasm for Obama has waned since 2008, if you look at how Obama has governed — particularly in terms of foreign policy — Obama is acting exactly how Millennials would want elected officials to act. If you haven’t, read this paper published by the Cato Institute by A. Trevor Thrall.  I listened to his presentation of the paper today while doing my yard work and it was rather eye opening.

For starters, Thrall informs us that Millennials are less likely to view the use of the military as a good thing and that they would much rather see the US act within the framework of cooperation with other states. Obama has that box checked, despite launching two air campaigns during his presidency, one in Libya and the other against ISIL. They are also less likely, by large margins, to say that the US is the greatest country in the world. This could indicate, on some level, a sentiment that the US is not worth defending against certain threats.

That leads us to the second important trait of this generation as explained by Thrall. Millennials do not view the threats the US faces the same way as previous generations, mainly the Baby Boomers and Generation X. On all but one strategic threat listed in a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, Millennials lag behind when weighing the seriousness of these threats. The one threat listed where Millennials are in the lead? Global warming. They do not see international terrorism, a nuclear Iran, the rise of China, or Russian territorial gains as big a threat as global warming. Which brings me back to Obama.

What is the one global issue the Obama administration has taken great lengths to address since coming to office? If you said global warming or climate change, you are correct. Sure, Obama has launched air campaigns in the Middle East, as has been acknowledged above, and he has announced a pivot toward Asia strategically, but has he really done anything effective in these areas? If you ask our Asian allies about the pivot, they will counter with “when does it begin?” In the Middle East, the situation is no better. After having provided air cover to jihadists in Libya who wished to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi, the US has been relatively absent from the scene, even after one of our diplomats and three other Americans were killed there by Islamists. The rest of the Middle East and Gulf states are searching in earnest for partners to provide some sense of a security agreement. Just last week, the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, visited with Vladimir Putin to discuss, among other things, a security arrangement; this despite Putin being a strong supporter of Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, Bashar al-Asad in Syria and the Mullahs in Iran.

Obama has abandoned allies via unilateral channels, something that millennials would likely applaud. He has acted only slightly through cooperative organizations, although these actions addressed either climate change or something tertiary considering the great challenges in the world. The Iranian deal — or the lack thereof as it were — is another reflection of his governing with the mindset of a Millennial. The substance of the deal does not matter, so long as there is a deal, and so long as it is conducted through an international institution. Not being able to inspect Iranian military installations at the behest of a deal that is supposed to prevent the implementation of a military nuclear program is the height of pointlessness. Obama has demonstrated time and again that his foreign policy has been just that.

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  1. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Here’s a link to the AFP report in English. And I agree with you: Obama is pursuing exactly the policy that polls suggest millennials wish to see implemented.

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  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @IWalton

    Or is it that millennials believe, correction, feel what they have absorbed by osmosis and will change feelings  if the background noise changes?

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  3. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Carthago

    I can’t speak for Millennials; I’m too old.  But I can speak for perpetual adolescents and arrested development cases, so I may have something meaningful to add to this excellent post.

    Sociologists (and other marginally employable tweed models) have laundered millions of dollars in grant money for the ostensible purpose of studying the contours of the Millennial mind.  To better understand their subjects, they spend most of that money on intoxicants.  Yet even through the haze of pot smoke, all sociologists agree and study after study confirms one distinguishing characteristic of Millennials that Millennials don’t share with any other group:

    They’re all between 15 and 35-years old.

    Back in the 80s, Generation X didn’t understand that Communism posed an existential threat to the Western way of life because Generation X was young and stupid.  Back in the 60s, Baby Boomers didn’t understand that the accumulated wisdom of eternity dictates certain sexual mores for a reason because Baby Boomers were young and stupid.  The Reprisal Generation (c. 1510 – 1540) didn’t get why Catholics and Protestants couldn’t just live together in peace, man, because they were young and stupid.

    Millennials can be given a pass because they are, like their forebears before them, passing through their young and stupid phase.

    What is inexcusable and baffling is the way their elders, the president included, spend so much time trying to learn from and about Millennials and so little time trying to teach them.

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  4. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Maybe this is the thinking behind the minimum age requirements for being president in the Constitution.

    Although, just because one ages, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one matures.

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  5. user_510265 Thatcher
    user_510265
    @Dick

    Carthago – I think you got it exactly right.  I am a pre-baby boomer by one year (born in 1944, and not proud enough of Baby Boomers to claim to be one of them).  For years I’ve been hearing about “understanding Generation ______” (fill in any generation you want to name).  And nearly all the characteristics I heard about the “new” generation were much more about their age than about totally new generational attitudes – and specifically, as you put it, “their young and stupid phase.”  It’s funny how life experience, including living through actual world history, changes one’s perspective.

    A fun exercise is to begin with about 1949, look back at the Time Magazine cover stories at about the time each of these generations reached their 20s.  They could have reprinted the same cover story each time and simply updated it by filling in the name of the “new” Generation.

    • #5
  6. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    And what are we going to do about Millennials?  Are we just going to accept that they believe lousy things and leave it at that?  Are we content to believe that a generation believes something at one point and it’s game over?

    So what can we do?  Aside from leaving them to their own devices to learn the folly of their thinking the hard way. (In a just universe, they are entitled to it, but I live here and so do my loved ones and I’d prefer not to see the place wrecked before people get their act together.)

    • #6
  7. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Quinn the Eskimo:And what are we going to do about Millennials? Are we just going to accept that they believe lousy things and leave it at that? Are we content to believe that a generation believes something at one point and it’s game over?

    So what can we do? Aside from leaving them to their own devices to learn the folly of their thinking the hard way. (In a just universe, they are entitled to it, but I live here and so do my loved ones and I’d prefer not to see the place wrecked before people get their act together.)

    Those are good questions and they are ones that Mr. Thrall at Cato does attempt to answer.  One of his answers is that candidates are going to have to start melding use of the military in response to national threats with humanitarian assistance, since national threats alone will not be enough to encourage military action.  I really think that this new generation is going to change how we in the foreign policy world frame our discussion about national interests.  Thrall also makes the point that very seldom do people change their worldviews once they exit their formidable years of early adulthood which is exactly where we are with millennials.  Sure they might flip back and forth between Parties, but they are not flipping back and forth about their ideological worldviews, according to the Cato paper.

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  8. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Here’s a link to the AFP report in English. And I agree with you: Obama is pursuing exactly the policy that polls suggest millennials wish to see implemented.

    Thanks Claire for the assist.

    • #8
  9. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Cow Girl:Maybe this is the thinking behind the minimum age requirements for being president in the Constitution.

    Although, just because one ages, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one matures.

    Actually for the Founding Generation, 35 years was a good age because a person had reasonably acquired enough life experience to be president.  Think of this, many of the Founders went to college at the age of 14 and studied a very rigorous curriculum at schools such as Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.  I know John Adams and James Madison both entered their freshman year when they were 14 years old.  This is a full four years before we enter college now and then you add on graduate studies and before you know it you are in your mid-twenties.  By the time the Founders were in their mid-twenties, they were expected to already be a few years into their respective career fields.

    • #9
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