Because Ronald Reagan left office almost 25 years ago we shouldn’t be surprised that most young adults do not remember him. But the real question is whether his views about America and its place in history retain any relevance at all to today’s Millennial generation.
When Reagan, after his presidency, spoke to a meeting of members of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in 1992, he stressed the importance of passing on our hard earned freedoms to future generations and the willingness to fight to preserve them. He contrasted our Constitution with those of other nations, saying almost all the world’s constitutions are documents that tell the people what their privileges are, while with ours, “we the people” tell government what it is allowed to do. Speaking of the importance of limiting overreaching government, he said, “This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I have tried to do.”
Since the election of Barrack Obama, with his costly big government agenda, commentators have opined that the values associated with free markets, limited government and individual responsibility do not resonate with the millennial generation. This demographic segment of American society, those under 30 years of age, were huge backers of Obama. Many pointed to the president’s youthful demeanor, his interest in sports, his addressing issues with appeal to the young, like student debt, as making him “hip” and “connected” in their eyes. Some pundits analogized him to a rock star, speculating that the president’s popularity with young people would result in a permanent grip by the Democratic Party on the “youth vote.”
However, a funny thing happened on the way to younger voters becoming permanent captives of those who would expand government and limit freedoms in exchange for the promise of future benefits.
A recent survey by the Harvard University Institute of Politics shows that millennials will not be so easily led down the garden path. Confidence in President Obama has declined so far that nearly half of millennials, and a majority of those under 25, would throw him out of office. However, those under the Capitol dome fare no better — these voters believe that members of Congress should be swept out, too.
The poll focuses on several issues that seem to have contributed to young adults’ disillusionment with politics, political leaders and the president in particular. The first is the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which is opposed by 56 percent of millennials. Perhaps they’ve come to the realization that being told that they have to purchase something they may not want or need rubs them the wrong way.
The second is the surveillance by the National Security Agency of Internet, phone, and social media use by American citizens. Only 19 percent approve of being monitored in any of these activities.
Analysis by the Institute of Politics says, “Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them.”
Reagan would not have been surprised that young adults have changed their attitude when confronted with clear evidence of the downside of concentrated government power given his unbounded faith in the judgment of the American people, both young and old, when they are provided the facts. However, he would, no doubt, have taken this opportunity to remind us to continue to reach out to every new generation, sharing the story of America, and telling them that “we the people” must hold tightly to the reins of government, or risk losing our liberty.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.