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The 2020s can end America’s generational divide in politics – Brookings Institution

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As the new decade begins, a generational divide stands at the heart of our political debate, impacting a raft of issues including the current question on impeachment. For example, according to a recent Qunnipiac poll, 60% of registered voters under 35 believe the U.S. Senate should vote to remove President Trump from office—compared with just 42% of those over 50 who believe so.

In many ways, our racially diverse, younger population is beginning to flex its political muscle and raise national consciousness on a variety of progressive issues. This contrasts sharply with the rapidly aging population of mostly white baby boomers and their seniors, who have pushed back mightily against such policies. Unless some accommodation is reached, the struggle between our past and our future will persist, leaving our nation and its economy vulnerable.

The generational confrontation came to a head during the just-concluded decade, epitomized by the presidential transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Obama, the nation’s first African American president, received solid support from voters under 45 and racial minority voters, signaling the rising political power of a younger, diverse America.

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In a not-so-hidden backlash, white, working-class baby boomers and their seniors were the core constituency that subsequently elected Trump, who preyed upon their fears of a changing America with messages of nostalgia, isolationism, immigrant deportation, and rants against political correctness.

In his first three years in office, Trump’s administration has done much to curtail programs that benefit younger families—health care, benefits to immigrant children, public education, housing assistance, and many other social supports. And, alongside a Republican-controlled Congress, it has handcuffed future spending on such programs with irresponsible tax cuts, virtually guaranteeing ever-larger budget deficits.

Younger generations—millennials and Gen Zers—are strongly supportive of issues that would positively impact their futures: greater racial justice and inclusion, more favorable treatment of immigrants, stronger environmental protection, and effective gun control. But policies that support such measures are low on the priority list for Trump’s aging base.

Underlying this generational conflict are racial demographic dynamics which should further empower younger, diverse generations. One of these dynamics is the continued aging of the white population: There was an absolute decline in the number of white children and teenagers over the past decade, a consequence of there being fewer white women of childbearing age and low white immigration. Racial minorities, on the other hand, accounted for more than half of the decade’s births, as well as accounting for all growth in the country’s under-18 population.

Youthful diversity will be even more prominent in the new decade. The 2020 census will show that more than half of all children under 18 identify as a racial minority. During this new decade, as more white baby boomers age beyond 65, there will be an absolute decline of whites in their prime working years, meaning that racial minorities will contribute to all of the decade’s labor force growth.

The only part of America’s white population that will grow appreciably in the 2020s will be those of retirement age—increasing 23% over the next 10 years. This bulging, boomer-driven group will become increasingly dependent on a much slower-growing (2%) and rapidly diversifying labor force to support the federal programs that will benefit them, such as Social Security and Medicare. It is therefore vital for these boomers’ own interests to encourage government programs that benefit young families and future workers, including education and job training, Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, children’s nutrition, and child care assistance. Such programs will especially help children of color—many of them first- and second-generation Americans—who will soon contribute to our young adult and labor force populations.

However, diversity-driven demographic change will not necessarily alter politics if older, white boomers cannot be convinced to invest in America’s youth. While the 2020 census will show that 40% of the American population identifies as a minority, it is likely that white Americans will comprise about two-thirds of eligible voters (minorities are more likely than whites to be too young to vote or legal noncitizens) and more than seven in 10 actual voters in the 2020 election (whites, especially older whites, have the highest turnout rates). This voter gap will be even greater in places with high voter suppression and, for congressional elections, in states with gerrymandered districts.

If the political division between ages and races continues into the next decade, our social conflicts are sure to intensify. In 2030, the 50-and-under population—comprised of millennials and Gen Zers—is projected to be less than half white, nearly a quarter Latino or Hispanic, 14% Black, and 11% Asian American and other races, while the 65-and-older population will still over 70% white. Today’s oft-derisive and cynical cries of “white privilege” and “OK, boomer!” would likely escalate, and be more than justified if older whites continue to horde and benefit from the federal largesse while progressive polices to support criminal justice, immigrant rights, and racial equity are held at bay.

Figure 2

But these racial and generational identity politics do not have to continue. It is possible that older whites will eventually hold more generous attitudes toward today’s highly diverse younger generations as they age and disperse across the country into suburbs, exurbs, and currently red states, while the children and grandchildren of baby boomers marry those in other races. Millennials themselves can be positive role models as they age and take on leadership positions in business, politics, and public life, serving as a bridge generation between the boomer-dominated nation we have been and the multihued nation we are becoming.

Most importantly, if we are to keep our strength as a country, leaders of political parties and officials at all levels of government need to help their constituents understand the value of co-generational dependency between the old and the young. If this occurs, and I hope it does, the 2020s can be a decade of improved harmony and economic prosperity for Americans of all ages and races.

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How Harlem Shaped Warnock’s Faith and Politics

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Senator Raphael Warnock’s time in New York City as a seminary student and pastor helped set him on a path to politics, forging how he operates in the Senate and on the campaign trail.

Four days before the November midterm elections, Senator Raphael Warnock slipped away from the campaign trail in Georgia to deliver a eulogy in Harlem.

His mentor — the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, a powerful and politically astute preacher who led Harlem’s storied Abyssinian Baptist Church — had died at the age of 73. At the memorial service, Mr. Warnock told the crowd of mourners about the intersections of faith and public life that had shaped Mr. Butts’s work, and his own.

“Calvin Butts taught me how to take my ministry to the streets,” Mr. Warnock said at a service that drew former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “He understood that the church’s work doesn’t end at the church door. That’s where it starts.”

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Mr. Warnock now finds himself locked in one of the last and most closely watched elections of the 2022 midterms — a Georgia runoff on Tuesday against a Trump-backed Republican rival, Herschel Walker.

The hallmark of Mr. Warnock’s political persona has been firmly rooted in the present, through his position as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had preached. But a lesser-known chapter from Mr. Warnock’s past — his time spent in New York City starting in the 1990s, as a student at the Union Theological Seminary and as a pastor at Mr. Butts’s church — in many ways set him on a path to politics, shaping how he operates in the Senate and on the campaign trail as he runs for re-election.

According to nearly a dozen seminary classmates and elected officials who knew him at the time, Mr. Warnock’s New York experience helped cement his instincts to channel the teachings of his faith into social justice activism. It’s an approach that propelled him to Washington, where he was one of seven ordained ministers when he arrived in Congress last year.

“In the beginning it was really watching him straddling the church and the academy,” said the Rev. Cathlin Baker, a friend who attended Union Theological Seminary with Mr. Warnock. “Expressing his faith in the public square emerged through his time in New York.”

One of the young men Mr. Warnock worked with as a youth pastor at Abyssinian went on to become the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg.

Mr. Bragg got to know Mr. Warnock during visits home from college and described a “remarkable consistency” in his dual emphasis on pastoral duties and “what that means for greater Harlem, and the social issues, and the things we see him advocating for in Congress now.”

“There’s an indelible imprint of the church and Rev. Butts on him,” Mr. Bragg said, “and certainly of him on the church.”

The New York Times

Mr. Warnock was 22 when he arrived in New York in the fall of 1991, and he stayed for about a decade. The city was in the throes of a social and civic upheaval that would mold the next generation of Black political power, locally and nationally, serving as a proving ground for activists, pastors and elected officials.

There was Mayor David N. Dinkins, New York’s first Black mayor who confronted the Crown Heights riots the year Mr. Warnock came to town. And there was Eric Adams, a police officer who challenged police brutality and would become the city’s second Black mayor. The Rev. Al Sharpton made waves with his civil rights activism, while against that backdrop Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklynite and future Democratic House leader, was beginning his career.

Mr. Warnock found work at Abyssinian, the spiritual home of the late Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. that has long been associated with Black civic engagement. It was during that time, as he absorbed the influences of Mr. Powell and Mr. Butts, that he believes running for Congress first crossed his mind, he wrote in his 2022 memoir, “A Way Out of No Way.”

He was living in New York when his brother was sentenced to life in prison in a nonviolent drug-related offense involving an F.B.I. informant, a seismic event in Mr. Warnock’s life that profoundly shaped his views of the criminal justice system. (His brother was released from a federal prison in Georgia in 2020.) And as episodes of police violence convulsed the city, Mr. Warnock came to believe that “it didn’t make much sense for us to be talking about justice in the classroom and singing about it in church if we weren’t willing to get in the struggle in the streets.”

He was arrested at a protest against police brutality as he honed his activism, the first of a few civil disobedience arrests in later years.

Mr. Warnock, who declined an interview request, grew up in Savannah, Ga., giving his first sermon at age 11, and headed to New York soon after graduating from Morehouse College. He struck his peers at the progressive Union Theological Seminary, in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, as notably driven.

“He had a kind of seriousness of purpose and kind of like a clarity of career path that at that age I almost couldn’t imagine,” said Beth Stroud, a classmate who is now a lecturer at Princeton.

She and other classmates also described Mr. Warnock’s sense of humor. One night, she recalled, a group tried on each other’s eyeglasses — and one participant noticed no discernible difference upon trying on Mr. Warnock’s.

“After saying he wore them so he wouldn’t look so young and people would take him more seriously,” she added in an email, Mr. Warnock humorously demonstrated how the glasses could punch up a reading. “He said something like, ‘Our Scripture reading this morning is …’ and put them on with a flourish, as if to see the Bible more clearly.”

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Asked about that anecdote, Michael J. Brewer, a spokesman for Mr. Warnock, replied, “Reverend Warnock wears prescription eyeglasses.”

Dr. Stroud and Mr. Warnock studied under the Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a founder of Black liberation theology, which emphasizes the experiences of the oppressed. “We were all thinking about politics all the time, not necessarily in the sense of electoral politics,” she said, but, “if we believe in liberation, if we believe in God’s love for all people, how do we realize that in our work?”

At Union — and through his friendships with Dr. Stroud, who is a lesbian, and with other gay people — Mr. Warnock reconsidered church teachings opposing homosexuality, he wrote in his memoir. And at Abyssinian, Mr. Warnock plunged more directly into the world of New York politics and activism as he rose from intern minister and youth pastor to assistant pastor.

Abyssinian has long occupied a prominent place on the New York political landscape, propelled by leaders like Mr. Powell and Mr. Butts, the preacher who was deeply involved in civic issues and navigated relationships with a diverse array of politicians.

As an assistant pastor, Mr. Warnock publicly criticized the Giuliani administration’s implementation of a workfare program — which required welfare recipients to work for benefits — and made an impression on a number of elected officials himself, as well as on Mr. Butts.

“He could laugh easily, he could smile,” Mr. Butts told NY1 in 2021. “That made it possible for him to impress upon people the importance of an issue.”

C. Virginia Fields, the former Manhattan borough president and a member of Abyssinian, said that Mr. Warnock was regarded as part of a “bench” of future leaders.

“I don’t think he ever expressed it that way — that ‘I’m interested in running for office,’” she said. But “those of us in the political arena certainly saw him as someone one day running.”

Ruby Washington/The New York Times
Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Republicans, especially in his previous campaign, have used Mr. Warnock’s career and past sermons to try to paint him as radically left wing, characterizations that drew criticism from Black pastors.

This year, the Walker campaign has also slammed him over the housing allowance he receives from Ebenezer and over alleged conditions and eviction threats at an apartment complex with ties to that church. Mr. Warnock has called the allegations a “desperate” effort to attack Ebenezer. A representative for the complex told The New York Times that no evictions had been carried out since 2020.

His previous Republican opponent, then-Senator Kelly Loeffler, noted that Abyssinian had hosted Fidel Castro in 1995, and claimed that Mr. Warnock had “celebrated” and “welcomed” Castro to the church.

Mr. Warnock’s team did not respond directly when asked whether he attended the Castro event but pointed to fact-checks disputing Ms. Loeffler’s statement. A spokesman previously told PolitiFact that Mr. Warnock “doesn’t agree with the dictator’s beliefs and actions” and that Mr. Warnock was not making decisions at the time about who spoke at the church. The fact-checking outlet determined there was no evidence to Ms. Loeffler’s claims.

Stephen Lawson, who served as a top Loeffler campaign aide and advises a pro-Walker super PAC, said that Mr. Warnock’s time at Abyssinian was “part of a larger life story for him that helps kind of illustrate his beliefs.” Mr. Lawson cast those beliefs as left-wing and relevant to independent voters. “Part of me wishes that Herschel’s campaign would try to tell that story a little bit more,” Mr. Lawson said.

David A. Paterson, who was New York’s first Black governor and who met Mr. Warnock while representing Harlem in the State Senate, noted that Republicans have struggled before to define Mr. Warnock as outside the mainstream.

He is not “demanding that we turn the whole system upside down,” Mr. Paterson said. “I think he really seeks equality.”

Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1988.Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

A series of stunning incidents of police brutality galvanized him to protest injustice more forcefully. In 1999, Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, was killed by officers who fired 41 shots, less than two years after another Black man, a Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima, was brutalized at a Brooklyn police precinct.

“Those real awful examples of police brutality that were happening in the city at the time kind of called a group of us into the public square,” Ms. Baker said.

After the Diallo shooting, Mr. Warnock went to a protest where, he wrote, he was arrested for the first time, shared a police van with then-Representative Eliot Engel and was quickly released. In his memoir, he described a scene in which groups of protesters “crossed the line of demarcation” and were arrested.

“He was not a activist that would do it every day like I would, but he would take a moral stand,” said Mr. Sharpton, who was heavily involved in organizing major protests after the Diallo shooting.

Mr. Sharpton described Mr. Warnock as “the guy that wanted to be a bridge between those of us that were active” and those who did not engage in civil disobedience. “He understood both worlds,” Mr. Sharpton added.

Just over two decades after that arrest, Mr. Warnock returned to Abyssinian for the eulogy.

“So much of who I am, and what I’ve become and what I’ve managed to do — and, as we say in Georgia, what I’m fixing to do again” — he owed to working with Mr. Butts, he said.

“I got a few things happening down in Georgia,” he told the New York audience. But, he added, “I had to be here.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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Teams focused on politics performed worse at World Cup – FIFA’s Arsene Wenger

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Speaking in his capacity as FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger insinuated that teams which made political statements early in the World Cup saw their on-field performance suffer as a result.

The comments came at a media briefing for FIFA’s Technical Study Group, in which Wenger and Jurgen Klinsmann shared the group’s findings from the group stage.

 

In response to a question about the impact of the truncated preparation period in advance of the tournament, Klinsmann spoke about the importance of being able to “mentally and physically” adapt to the challenges of playing during a break in the European season and in the Middle East.

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“If you struggled to adapt, to come here and for whatever reason — especially mentally — were not able to adapt yourself to everything you find here and how dynamic this World Cup is, you will struggle,” Klinsmann said. “And you will get a negative surprise like we saw with Germany, we saw with Denmark and other teams.”

Those comments prompted Wenger to jump in.

“I would just add that the teams who were not disappointing with their first game performance — because when you go to the World Cup, you know not to lose the first game — are the teams who have experience,” Wenger said. “They have results in former tournaments like France, like England, like Brazil. They played well in the first game. And the teams, as well, who were mentally ready, like Jurgen said, that [had] the mindset to focus on competition and not on the political demonstrations.”

Though Wenger did not mention Germany by name, it was a clear reference to Klinsmann’s home country, who lost their opening game to Japan, before which the players placed their hands over their mouths during the pregame on-field photo. The gesture came in response to threats from FIFA to seven European teams that they would face sanctions if they wore the “OneLove” armband symbolising diversity and tolerance.

Wenger did not expand upon how he reached that conclusion, nor did he clarify if the comments represented his personal opinion or that of the committee he was on stage representing.

“Of course it’s important for us to do a statement like this,” Germany striker Kai Havertz told ESPN postmatch. “We spoke about the game, what we can do, and I think first it was the right time to do to show the people that — yeah we try to help wherever we can. Of course FIFA makes it not easy for us but we tried to show with that thing.”

Added Germany coach Hansi Flick: “It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us.”

After losing the first match, 2-1, despite outshooting Japan 26-to-12, Germany responded with a 1-1 draw against Spain and a 4-2 win against Costa Rica, but did not advance.

Earlier in the briefing, Klinsmann assigned blame for Germany’s elimination to the lack of a productive No. 9.

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Ministers decline request to testify on Afghan aid blockade as desperation grows

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Three Liberal ministers have declined invitations to testify in the Senate as the upper chamber probes why Canada still won’t allow humanitarian workers to help in Afghanistan.

Aid groups say Ottawa has told them that paying people in Afghanistan or buying goods there could lead them to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.

Many of Canada’s allies have found carveouts so that aid workers don’t get charged with supporting the governing Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no explanation for why Canada hasn’t fixed the issue.

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The Senate’s human-rights committee will launch hearings into the issue on Monday and invited three ministers to attend, but all of them said they had prior commitments at the time of the planned meetings.

The United Nations says six million Afghans are now categorized as being at risk of famine, while another fourteen million are in critical need of food.

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