According to the admittedly less-than-stable Kanye West, Obama’s lost his “cool”:
“The reason why Obama mention our name is cause we’re most relevant,” West said. “…He’s just saying that trying to be cool. Obama was supposed to be the coolest person on the planet now he gotta say our names to be cool. It’s like a feature, we feature in his interviews right now. They need a feature from us to get relevant.”
Now, I’m not cool, I’ve never been or aspired to be cool, but there’s something about it that you either have or you don’t have. Or, apparently, that you somehow can make people believe you have. Obama’s empty phoniness somehow struck a chord with scores of millions of Americans in 2007-2008, and this was especially true among young Americans whose shiny, happy faces are indelibly burned into my brain. That sort of mass . . . what? hypnosis? hysteria? hopeychangey lunacy? . . . is hard to forget (but easy to forgive).
The trouble with cool is that when you lose it, it’s lost. Pretty much forever. Ask the Fonz. And Obama has lost his “cool” with the only group for which that really matters: the millennials. Now, as someone who works daily with millenials, I’m the last person to bash them or think them the outrageously self-indulgent, solipsistic rabble that many conservatives imagine them to be. They’re not. Or at least not any more so than any other generation of America’s young. They’re idealistic, they’re ill-informed, and they’re full of boundless energy and compassion. Yes, I really said–and believe–that last part. Mostly. I don’t believe that the millenials understand compassion as we do or as most generations before them did, but that said, they are no less compassionate than their counterparts of the ’30’s or ’60’s. And let’s face it, this administration is more the worst of 1930’s meets the worst of the 1960’s than it is anything else.
Obviously, each generation brings its own identity and spin to all that. In the twenties, the nation’s young were rebelling against the regressive stranglehold of the Wilson White House and the Great War’s tremendous loss (an entire generation “lost”). In the thirties, well, there wasn’t much rebelling going on because the regressive FDR government made surviving difficult for so many. But when it did occur, it occurred in speakeasies and other places where alcohol could be obtained despite the progressives’ ban on it. In the forties, the nation’s young were called to war again, and again met the challenge with courage and patriotism. But when they came home, they were done with conflict, done with rebelling, and ready to sink into the most boring, staid existence they could create for themselves.
So in the fifties, the nation’s young were rebelling against a stagnant, docile, detached yet confining, and prosperous culture. In the sixties, the nation’s young were rebelling against . . . everything good and decent in the world (they’re the ones now running this country . . . into the ground). In the seventies, the nation’s young were rebelling against all the isms that sprung up in the 60’s, including of course, a deep and abiding hatred for America that began in the ’60’s, and in the eighties, the nation’s young were rebelling against the sex, drugs, and free love excesses of the ’60’s and ’70’s with their own version of excess that tended to be more materialistic, less idealistic, and slightly (only slightly) less amoral than the youth of the previous two decades.
Every generation does its share of rebelling, and in every case, it’s just as self-involved, self-indulgent, and self-centered as this generation’s. Teens and young adults are always about the self. Even if they are spouting nonsense about world peace and stopping war and closing Gitmo, it’s always because it will make them feel better and think better about themselves, not for any altruistic purpose beyond that.
This is why we have a seemingly irreconcilable tension on every level of the millenials’ worldview: they “hate hate”; they are “intolerant of intolerance”; they support ever-expanding, ever-stifling big government and then bemoan their loss of privacy and individual liberty to that all-powerful state; they support Islam–the most oppressive, discriminatory, violent “religion” on the planet–but condemn all other religions as oppressive, discriminatory, and violent; they tout equality and lawfulness while cheering the clear lawlessness of this president, a man whose administration has admitted to targeting and silencing political opponents; they support “socialism” and “communism” without really understanding what either is, and when confronted with the reality of what these destructive ideologies are, they turn away because it touches them (to them, in their under- and ill-informed ignorance, they honestly believe that redistribution means taking from others and giving to them, when it turns out that it means taking from them and giving to others, they don’t like so much.); they support the view that every human being should be treated equally, that all people are created equal . . . at least in theory. Because they also support affirmative action, “hate crime” legislation, and a hundred other things that undermine that original concept (is murder more wrong because the victim is gay, female, a minority? Well, arguably, no. Murder is murder, and it’s wrong. Period. But not to the millenials; murder’s just dandy if the victim is a white male or a conservative.).
These, and a zillion more, ideological tensions will play themselves out. These “kids” will grow up, they will experience life as it is, and they will figure out that they were myopic, prejudiced, judgmental, intolerant, bullying, and unkind. And they will regret it. But that’s not for another twenty or so years. So what happens in the meantime?
For now, at least, millennials who had already lost the shiny-happy, glazed Stepford-stare are starting to realize that big government means a lot more than some utopian existence for all. They see, in their pocketbooks and wallets, that the Obama economy is destroying not just their health care, but also any chance they may have of “making it,” of living their version of the American Dream. Their reality, sadly, is that college grads move back home for a few (or ten) years, that welfare and foodstamps are a great way to subsist, that being less than they are is not only okay but actually encouraged. And some few will not accept that. Some few will stand up and say “Enough! I am more than this, I can do more than this, I will not accept this.”
That isn’t happening now, so don’t get your hopes up about the polls saying that millenials are fleeing Obama. They’re disappointed, their Messiah didn’t pan out, but as one millenial wrote over at PuffHo:
With every day spent in the White House, the president’s bright-eyed idealism seemed to shift toward the same old politics of every man who came before him. In turn, my idealism shifted right along with his. Am I disappointed? Of course. Would I vote for him again? Absolutely.
I’m not the only millennial living with this contradiction. Harvard’s new study also showed that 46 percent of millennials surveyed would vote for Obama again. Of course we would — because the alternative is way scarier.
This millennial, I think, speaks for millions, and I highly recommend reading her entire essay. She’s wrong, of course. The president’s “bright-eyed idealism” never shifted; she just didn’t understand what his ideals are. The biggest thing here, though, is that she–and millions of millenials like her– think he and his ilk are “better” than “the alternative.”
The alternative being, of course, any conservative. Freedom is scary to millenials who have been nurtured and raised to believe that the all-powerful, ever-benevolent government is the answer to all that troubles us. Someone “hating on” you? Let’s pass a law! Someone eating too much, drinking too much soda, using too much styrofoam? Make a law! Someone not “getting their fair share”? Make a law! The idea that people can make their own decisions is not only alien but truly frightening to these young people. It won’t be in twenty or thirty years, but for now, they need someone to tell them what to do, what to think, what to believe, and how to be.
In many ways, we have failed them.
The sad part is that they choose a known pathological liar for that role. Is he as “cool” as he used to be? Hell to the no. Not even to them. But until they realize that they are fully-functioning human beings who don’t need their every move dictated to them, they will continue to cling to him. Not because he’s cool but because he’s (still) (they hope) better than . . . freedom.