How Gen Z Is Reshaping Political Conflict - BCB #12
"Let's start a war, and send your children to fight it."
Should we look forward to better political conflict as a new generation comes of age with new ideas? There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism.
Those born after 1997 are the first of humanity to emerge into an overwhelmingly digital landscape. Some researchers argue that the performative, approval-seeking aspects of social media lead to an inability to de-escalate; when every spat is public, it’s harder to back down. That’s significant, since Gen Z tends to go to digital sources for help and information on nearly all topics from health care to news to where their soulmate is waiting.
On the other hand, Gen Z hates both parties. They’re usually thought of as politically leftish, and in some ways they surely are: people under 25 identify as LGBTQ in record numbers. In other ways this group is more conservative than many realize, perhaps because the dominance of Blue institutions means that Red is now counter-cultural. Yet this group tends to reject labels in general, including political labels, and some liberal Gen Z’ers happily identify with the Republican party.
Overall, Gen Z has a complex set of political views that don’t always align neatly with the Red/Blue axis. For example, they have little taste for either capitalism or cancel culture:
What remains to be seen is whether this rejection of labels will translate into new approaches to politics. Some argue that Gen Z will happily support a third political party (fully half describe themselves as “independents.”) In this and other ways, Gen Z’s unorthodox politics are likely to shift the terms of the conflict. Whether this will lead to less polarized governance remains to be seen, as political division tends to increase with time and age.
Progressive Brooklyners and transgressive Manhattanites are “vibing” in different directions, and Gen Z could drive it “somewhere between the pro-corporate ‘wokeness’ of Democratic-aligned capitalists and the democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders.”
Gen Z’ers of all stripes are running for office. While most have a generally more Blue bent, Red candidates see themselves as disruptors fighting an entrenched progressive system.
Blue members of Gen Z aren’t just bringing politics into their first jobs; they expect to see it there to begin with. This article argues that’s a bad thing. A Most Conflicted Selection.
New and Interesting
Liz Cheney was primaried from the right, and lost to a Trump-backed candidate. Her circumstances represent a Red-on-Red trend of exhaustion with politicians of the Bush/Cheney/Bulwark stripe.
This study argues that #metoo damaged academic career opportunities for women. “The drop in collaborations [between senior men and junior women] is concentrated in universities where … both sexual harassment policies are more ambiguous … and the number of public sexual harassment incidents is high.”
When writer Charlie Warzel used an AI tool rather than a human artist to create an image for his newsletter, he found himself in the center of a Twitter storm. This gave him an unfortunate opportunity to study the dynamics of online outrage: “[these] situations seem to arise from people having a blend of bad information and wrong assumptions, but also legitimate grievances.”
“Even on Biden’s Big Day, He’s Still in Trump’s Long Shadow,” read the New York Times headline when Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s not just what’s covered, but the way it’s covered, that creates our political reality.
Quote of the Week
If we change the reinforcement pattern — so that the more disruptive you are the fewer people you reach — then Twitter will change in a month.