Thursday, September 30, 2021
Recently, there has been a lot of media coverage about Haitian refugees at our Southern border. Sadly, it seems that the majority view is that these refugees should not be admitted to our country. Too many Americans view these refugees as somehow different from us, and letting them into the country would somehow hurt the country.
This is not the only refugee crisis that has evoked this kind of feeling. Refugees from many other parts of the world have been denied entry, and many even think they do not deserve our help in any way. They are wrong.
Who are the refugees. In spite of what many think, refugees are people just like us. Most of them had jobs -- they were construction workers, sales people, lawyers, bankers, nurses/doctors, and many other professions. But something happened -- a natural disaster, war, or pogrom -- that destroyed their lives, and made it impossible for them to rebuild their lives where they lived. Others never had a chance to build a life because of discrimination or extreme poverty.
They are not trying to get anything for free or hurt the country. They just want a chance to rebuild their lives, and they are willing to work hard to do that. They will be good citizens and good neighbors if just given the chance.
Most religions, especially christianity, teach that helping the unfortunate is required. That makes it rather surprising that many of those who are not critical of refugees and most refusing to help them are religious people. Religion teaches to share what you have with those who need it, but too many have a different attitude -- it's more like, "I've got mine, so screw you!".
Refusing to help refugees shows an astounding lack of humanity. The refugees are not the monsters trying to hurt the country. The people refusing to help them are the inhumane monsters, especially in this country (built on welcoming immigrants and refugees).
In a country as rich as ours, this is inexcusable. We should be better than this!
The chart above reflects the results of the new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between September 26th and 28th of a national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,246 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.7 points, and for registered voters is 2.9 points.
A new abortion law has been passed in Texas, and the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect. It lets anyone (even those in other states and those not affected by the abortion) to sue in court for a minimum of $10,000. And they can sue anyone who "helps" a woman to get the abortion (which could include a person who just gave her a ride to the abortion clinic). Now some other red states are looking to copy the Texas law.
But the general public doesn't like the law. All adults oppose the law by a 14 point margin, and registered voters oppose it by a 16 point margin. Only one group supports the law -- Republicans.
The chart above reflects the result of a new Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between September 24th and 27th of a sample of 863 registered Texas voters, with a 3.3 point margin of error.
This should light a fire under Texas Democrats! If they can get out the vote in 2022 (and some unhappy Republicans stay home), there is a chance (albeit small) that they can dump Greg Abbott -- one of the worst governors in the nation.
Note that he has a 21 point deficit among women (who vote in larger numbers than men). He also has a 15 point deficit among Independents (which can offset the larger number of Republicans over Democrats in the state).
As the chart above (and many other polls) show, the public supports President Biden's "Build Back Better" plan. So, why is the plan having so much trouble passing Congress? All Republicans and a few Democrats are blocking the plan. Why?
The reason is that corporations are opposing the plan. They don't want to pay more (or any) taxes. They know the country needs the plan, and they would also benefit from it, but they don't want to help pay for it.
Here is some of what Judd Legum has to say about this at Popular Information:
The reconciliation bill, also known as the "Build Back Better" plan, has two main components. There is a wide-ranging collection of new policies, including:
An expanded child tax credit
Free community college
Expanding Medicare to cover vision and dental
A serious effort to address climate change, including a Clean Energy Standard
There is also a set of proposals to pay for these new policies, including:
Increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5%
Raising the top individual tax rate from 37% to 39.6%
Imposing a 3% surtax on income over $5 million
Increasing tax enforcement to enable the IRS to collect more money that is already owed
Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, lowering costs
People can debate whether or not these policies are good. But there is no question these policies are extremely popular.
A recent poll from Data for Progress found that 62% of Americans support the reconciliation package. This includes 85% of Democrats, 58% of Independents, and 39% of Republicans.
Likely voters also overwhelmingly support proposals to raise taxes on wealthy business owners (68%), increase funding for IRS enforcement (64%), and raise the corporate tax rate (62%).
The Data for Progress poll is not an outlier. Every recent poll of the reconciliation bill found supporters outnumbering opponents, including Pew (+24), Fox News(+22), Monmouth (+28), and Quinnipiac (+30).
While opponents of the bill are relatively small in number, they make up for it with money and power. Corporations and the wealthy have launched an aggressive campaign to defeat the legislation.
Despite the bill's significant support among independents and some Republicans, opponents can count on every Republican in Congress to vote against the legislation. But since it is a reconciliation bill and the Democrats control both chambers of Congress, it doesn't require any Republican votes to pass.
So opponents need to peel off some Democrats. Since the Senate is evenly split and Democrats control the House by a razor-thin margin, they don't have to convince many Democrats to kill the bill. Corporations and the wealthy need to convince a handful of Democratic members of Congress to vote against the preferences and interests of their constituents.
Much of this lobbying effort is taking place behind closed doors.
In the Senate, even one Democratic defection could sink the reconciliation bill. Many eyes are on Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who has publicly said she believes the bill is too large and privately "told Senate Democratic colleagues that she is averse to the corporate and individual tax rate increases that both the House and Senate tax-writing committees had planned to use to help pay for the measure."
On Tuesday, five corporate lobbying groups are hosting a fundraiser for Sinema in DC. For a ticket price of $1,000 to $5,800, the event provides an opportunity to schmooze with Sinema for 45 minutes. . . .
Sinema isn't the only Democratic member of Congress who has seen an influx of corporate cash after raising doubts about the reconciliation package. Campaign finance filings reveal that "nine of the Democrats threatening the bill were rewarded during the month of August with over $150,000 in donations from PACs, including many affiliated with business groups that are lobbying against it."
For example, in August, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) received $5,000 each from the PACs of International Paper Co. and Marathon Petroleum. Manchin has been a key Democratic voice objecting to the size and scope of the reconciliation bill." The paper company’s chair and CEO, Mark Sutton, is a member of the Business Roundtable. Suzanne Gagle, Marathon’s general counsel and senior vice president for government affairs, is a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)," Sludge reports. Both the Business Roundtable and NAM are lobbying against the legislation. . . .
The Business Roundtable also announced a "multi-million-dollar campaign" to defeat the reconciliation bill which will include "direct CEO engagement to Capitol Hill and the Administration, as well as high-frequency radio print and digital ads in over 50 media markets across the country, generating calls and letters from constituents in target states."
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
The chart above is from the Gallup Poll -- done between September 13th and 19th of a national sample of 4,034 adults, with a 2 point margin of error.
I found this poll rather shocking. It shows that if a COVID-19 vaccine was approved for children under 12 years old, only 55% of parents would give the vaccine to their children.
What the hell is wrong with the 45% who would not? How can any parent even consider refusing to vaccinate their children, thereby putting them at risk of a serious illness and possibly even death?
The map above is what is being proposed by the Republican legislature in Texas (click on it to see a larger version).
Texas currently has 36 House Districts -- with Republicans holding 22, while Democrats hold 14.
The new map would help Republicans increase their margin in the delegation. 25 of the new districts voted for Donald Trump (compared to only 22 of the current districts), while the other 13 districts voted for Joe Biden.
No one expected the Republican legislature to be fair in drawing the new districts -- and they certainly have not been fair!
House moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party are still squabbling over the infrastructure bills. The moderates want to go ahead and vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and vote later on the "soft" infrastructure bill. The progressives want the "soft" (Build Back Better) bill voted on first, and then the bipartisan plan voted on. They don't think the moderates will vote for the bigger, family-centric, bill once they get the bipartisan bill passed -- and they may be right about that. They are threatening to vote against the bipartisan bill if it is voted on first.
In the following op-ed (by Rep. Porter, Rep. Omar, and Rep. Jayapal), progressives make their case:
When President Joe Biden announced in the spring his plans for "once-in-a-generation investments in our nation's future," he said that "it is not enough to restore where we were prior to the pandemic. We need to build a stronger economy that does not leave anyone behind -- we need to build back better."
That is our shared vision -- the vision the American people voted for -- and it is what we as Congressional leaders must deliver with urgency.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced her intention that the House vote this week on a transformative economic package and a major investment in infrastructure. Congress now faces a choice: advance the entirety of an agenda that gets American families the help they need, or deliver only a fraction of it. That's why we, as leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, remain committed to voting for the infrastructure bill only after the Build Back Better Act is passed.
We lead one of the largest ideological caucuses in the US House of Representatives, and our membersrepresent a cross-section of America. From rural districts to urban, from some of the most competitive districts in the country to Democratic strongholds, our caucus is emblematic of the diversity of our party and our country.
Yet, we hear remarkable consistency in our communities' concerns.
Parents can't get back to work because they can't find affordable child care. Young people are infuriated that their country's leaders are not taking aggressive enough steps to leave them a livable planet. Families are struggling to stay healthy in dangerous, crumbling public housing. Immigrant communities are tired of living under the threat of deportation -- especially as so many are essential workers who kept our country's economy going through the pandemic at risk to their own safety. And people cannot afford the prescription drugs they need, forced to rationmedication to stay alive.
In short: Americans need the Build Back Better agenda.
This agenda was divided into two concurrent bills -- the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allow for long overdue updates to our country's roads, bridges and waterways. But it's the Build Back Better Act that will deliver the child care, climate action, affordable housing, immigration reform and lower drug prices that Americans need, deserve and voted for.
The Build Back Better Act provides child care to women who have been pushed out of the workforce. It funds free community college and affordable housing. It finally expands Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits for our seniors. And it takes meaningful action on climate change -- funding millions of green jobs to build our energy future.
Not only is this good policy, but it's also overwhelmingly popular. Voters support the Build Back Better package's provisions by a 30-point margin, according to an August Quinnipiac University poll. Funding for home-based care for seniors has 75% support across the political spectrum, a July AP/NORC survey shows, with universal pre-K and affordable housing funds both seeing 67% support. More than half of voters are in favor of the child tax credit (55%) and free community college (54%). And about 2 in 3 Americans support paying for these investments by taxing corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
From the beginning of this process, the Progressive Caucus has been clear that the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act are two parts of a whole, so they must be passed together. Our call has been echoed by the President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader. As Speaker Pelosi said in June, "there won't be an infrastructure bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill. Plain and simple."
Passing the Build Back Better Act will require standing up to powerful special interests. The investments it makes in improving our economy are paid for by getting billionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes; insisting to Big Pharma that we negotiate drug prices; and taking on the fossil fuel lobby to address the climate crisis.
That's why corporate lobbyists, Big Pharma, and Wall Street executives have declared all-out war to stop the bill. Rather than understanding that these are investments in our economy -- which should be its mission -- the US Chamber of Commerce has been one of the leaders in lobbyingagainst the bill with reported six-figure ad campaigns trying to block worker protections and climate action. The pharmaceutical industry, which already spent $92 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2021 alone, launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to torpedo President Biden's effort to rein in drug costs. Another corporate lobbyist decried provisions to catch tax cheats as "existential threat(s)."
If we allow corporate lobbyists to dictate our legislative agenda, the economic recovery will grind to a halt.
Let us be clear: our caucus supports the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. We see the harms that crumbling roads, structurally deficient bridges, and lead-poisoned water have on our communities. Updating our infrastructure is a necessary component to delivering a strong, stable economy that creates opportunity for all.
But equally necessary are the child care, elder care, health care, housing, education and climate actions currently included in the Build Back Better Act. Without both the infrastructure bill and the budget bill, our economic recovery will be slow, unstable, and weak. Millions of Americans will be left out or fall further behind.
A few conservative Democrats have suggested we should "pause" this urgently needed legislation by moving forward without the Build Back Better Act and providing less help to families. But we will not leave behind child care, paid leave, health care, housing, education, climate action, and a long-overdue road map to citizenship.
We must deliver for American families. Our Progressive Caucus members will put our votes on the line to send the entirety of the Build Back Better agenda to President Biden's desk. As he said when he laid out this plan: "We can do this. We have to do this. We will do this."
These were the priorities Democrats ran on in 2020. These were the values that allowed us to take the House, the Senate, and the White House. And by getting both the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law, we will meet the needs of the American people.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
The chart above is from the Pew Research Center. It is from a survey they did between May 29th and August 25th of this year. The survey questioned 1,550 adults, and has a 2.1 point margin of error.
It shows that Democrats currently have a 9 point advantage over Republicans (51% to 42%). The remaining 7% refused to lean toward either party.
The chart below shows where each party has its strength.
In the past, when a party realized they were not supported by most voters, they would alter some of their positions to appeal to a greater number of voters.
But that is not what the Republican Party is doing. They have doubled down on their unpopular positions, because they know those positions are liked by most of their base.
They have chosen instead to suppress the votes of Democrats and Independents. They think if they can keep the vote total low enough, then their supporters can cast a majority of votes. Are they wrong?
Here is part of an opinion piece on this by Dean Obeidallah for MSNBC.com:
A Fox News poll released last week found that 67 percent of voters support requiring teachers and students to wear masks in schools. Even in the “reddish” state of Florida, a Quinnipiac University poll last month found that 60 percent of people there favor school mask mandates. This makes great sense given that Covid-19 hospital admissions for children recently reached their highest levels since the start of the pandemic, and the American Academy of Pediatrics reported more than 240,000 pediatric Covid cases between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9.
But Republican lawmakers like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis don’t appear to care what the majority of voters want; instead, many are singularly concerned with what keeps the GOP base happy. So while 60 percent of Floridians support school mask mandates, 72 percent of Republicans in the Sunshine State oppose it, according to that same Quinnipiac poll. Nationally, only 42 percent of Republicans are on board with school mask requirements, the Fox poll found.
The GOP is giving us a master class in the tyranny of the minority. Republicans across the nation are enacting polices on issues from Covid safeguards to restrictions on abortion and voting rights that are opposed by a solid majority of Americans — but are supported by the much smaller GOP base. . . .
Same goes for the new brutally oppressive GOP law in Texas that deprives women of reproductive freedom after six weeks of pregnancy — even in the case of rape or incest. The law empowers private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman secure an abortion. A Monmouth University poll released Monday found that 70 percent of Americans oppose this central provision of the law — but only 41 percent of Republicans feel the same. That helps explain why numerous GOP-controlled states are considering enacting similar laws. . . .
This is another attempt by the GOP to impose tyranny of the minority. Sixty-two percent of Americans — per the Monmouth poll released Monday — believe Roe should remain the law of the land. But — and you knew there would be a “but” — only 37 percent of Republicans agree. Again, it’s not the views of all voters that matter to GOP elected officials; it’s only what their base wants. The rest of us are meaningless. . . .
Before Trump, American presidents at least made the effort to appear concerned with “all Americans.” President Joe Biden indicated a potential return to this when he declared in his inaugural address, “I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
But today’s GOP has turned its back on that American principle, and nowhere is it more apparent than in their voter suppression efforts since Trump lost the 2020 election. A panicked GOP has already enacted 30 laws in 18 states that make it harder to cast a ballot — especially for people the GOP views as not supporting it. The Texas GOP recently banned 24-hour in-person voting after it became popular with people of color, who tend to vote Democratic.
But making it harder to vote flies in the face of what a majority of Americans want, per poll after poll. Yet again, we see the partisan divide, such as on the issue of automatic voter registration, which is supported by 61 percent of Americans but only 38 percent of Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. This explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently came out against the Freedom to Vote Act, which includes instituting automatic voter registration and creating a national standard for election access.
The GOP gets that it’s a shrinking party — hence the voter suppression laws and the nonstop red meat to keep the Republican base happy at the expense of the rest of us.
Monday, September 27, 2021
The chart above is from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between September 13th and 19th of a national sample of 4,034 adults, with a 2 point margin of error.
It shows that most people in the U.S. support the vaccine mandates outlined by President Biden.
The debt limit for the U.S. government will reach its limit about the middle of October. Unless it is raised, the government will not be able to pay its bills, and the economy will suffer (affecting millions of Americans). But Mitch McConnell is saying the Republicans will vote against raising the debt limit -- ignoring the fact that they helped create the debt that must be paid. They are saying that raising the debt limit will allow Democrats to spend more in the future, but that's a lie!
Below, I post Robert Reich's statement on what the debt limit is, and the editorial from The Washington Post editorial board on why the debt limit must be raised.
Many of you may be asking yourself: what the hell is the debt ceiling? In brief, it’s the limit on how much the government is allowed to borrow to pay for what it already owes on bills Congress has already agreed on and enacted — not for legislation that’s currently being debated. If it’s not raised, the government can’t pay its bills (just as if you or I didn’t pay our credit card bill). That would result in a default, which would mean chaos. Your variable-rate mortgage, for example, would go through the roof. The full faith and credit of the United States would be undermined.
The current debt ceiling has to be raised to pay for debt racked up by Republicans as well as Democrats, including trillions under the former guy. Senate Democrats raised the ceiling for Trump, so why won’t Mitch McConnell and his Senate Republicans do it now for Biden?
The White House on Thursday instructed federal agencies to prepare for an imminent government shutdown, in case Congress fails to pass a stopgap funding bill by Sept. 30. Government shutdowns are expensive and disruptive, and they deservedly sully the nation’s image and sense of self-respect. But at this point a lapse in government services should be the least of Americans’ worries. The nation faces an epochal financial disaster if Congress fails to raise the debt limit, forcing the country to default on its obligations and inviting a global financial panic.
If that happens, there will be no doubt about who is at fault: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican caucus, who are playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.
Democrats joined with Republicans to suspend the debt ceiling during the Trump administration. But Mr. McConnell suddenly declares that the majority is solely responsible for performing this unattractive task, even though he pioneered the routine use of the filibuster to force any and all Senate legislation to overcome a 60-vote threshold. With only 50 votes, and Republicans unwilling to lift a finger to avoid financial calamity, Democrats’ only option would be to use the arcane “reconciliation” procedure. Senate experts believe this would be possible, but it would require a couple of weeks of complex parliamentary maneuvering and some Republican cooperation in the Senate Budget Committee. Meanwhile, the treasury is on the verge of running out of money.
Other than sticking it to Democrats, what is the point? Using reconciliation, Democrats would have to raise the debt limit by a specific dollar amount, not just suspend it for a time, as Republicans did under President Donald Trump. This would enable Republicans to run attack ads blasting Democrats for expanding the debt by some large, specific number. Never mind that raising the debt limit does not approve any new spending; it merely permits the treasury to finance the spending Congress already has okayed.
For their part, Democrats do not want to jump through complex procedural hoops while they are trying to pass other big legislation, and they want the same political cover they gave Republicans during Mr. Trump’s presidency by raising the debt limit in a bipartisan fashion.
National default should be unthinkable, and the need to avoid default should not be viewed as a political opportunity. Even if Democrats manage to force through a debt limit hike this time, Mr. McConnell’s out-of-nowhere standard placing all the responsibility on the majority party will make it much harder to lift the debt ceiling going forward, and correspondingly more likely that the nation will one day walk off the cliff even if it manages to step back now.
Time’s up. It’s hard to see how anyone professing patriotism could willfully risk inflicting this kind of harm on the nation. Republicans with any sense of responsibility should band together and help pass a clean debt limit increase.
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Democratic moderates support the bipartisan infrastructure plan. But they have registered disappointment with Biden's soft infrastructure plan (the Build Back Better Plan). They say it is too expensive at a cost of $3.5 trillion over 10 years.
When President Biden brought them to the White House, Senator Manchin of West Virginia said what many of the others were thinking -- that he would not vote for a $3.5 trillion plan. President Biden then asked him what number he would support. Manchin did not answer.
President Biden was right, but he did not go far enough. Manchin does need to tell him (and us) how big a plan he would support. But he needs to go farther. He needs to tell everyone what he would cut out of the Build Back Better Plan.
The $3.5 trillion was not a number picked out of the blue. It is the amount to adequately fund what is needed to be done. It makes no sense to pass all elements of Biden's plan, but with less funding. Failing to fully fund each element means they will not accomplish what needs to be done. And failing to accomplish goals is not passing a good plan.
Since a plan should not be passed without being fully funded, the moderates need to tell us what elements of the plan they wish to exclude. Do they want to do away with the child tax credit, funding for day care to let women get back to work, improving Medicare and Medicaid, pre-kindergarden for all children, free tuition at community college, or what?
I think all those programs are needed and should be fully funded so they will work. If the moderates don't believe that, it's time the told us what plans they don't think Americans need. Failure to do that is just more whining about numbers and means nothing.
The charts above are from the University of Chicago / NORC Poll. The survey was done in June of this year of a representative sample of 1,070 adults nationwide.
It shows that about a quarter of the population believes that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and about 8% say violence would be justified to return him to the White House.
It's just a fact that most of the people in politics are men. More women are now entering politics, but they still don't make up as big a percentage as they have in the population. One reason for this is how they are socialized as a child. While parents, schools, and other social institutions feel free to discuss politics with boys when they are young, they don't do the same with girls. That's what some researchers found in an article published in the American Political Science Review found in a study. We must change this.
Here is part of what they had to say in the conclusion to their study:
As records are broken regarding women’s electoral representation and as women such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi take their places at the highest levels of political power in the United States, it is important to understand that sex-linked inequalities still exist when it comes to interest in politics and political ambition. These differences emerge in childhood and grow more acute at older ages when boys and girls develop more complex and sophisticated understandings of politics. Multiple forces shape how girls envision themselves and their place in the political world. Schools, the media, families, peers, and other socializing agents inadvertently highlight the mismatch between feminine traits and feminine roles and the male-dominated domain of politics. As girls learn more about politics and internalize society’s expectations of them, they are less likely to see traditional politics as a place for them to lead. And while our data only suggest, but do not offer direct evidence of, continuity between attitudes in childhood and attitudes in adulthood, they do indicate that efforts to elevate the political interest and ambition of women must begin early.
Saturday, September 25, 2021
The national news media is reporting another mass shooting. This time it was in a supermarket in Tennessee, where a shooter killed one person and injured at least 14 others. He then killed himself.
If you only got your news about mass shootings from the national news media, you might think this is a rare occurrence. That is far from the truth. The Gun Violence Archive reports that there have been 518 mass shootings in the U.S. this year. With slightly more than three months to go in the year, it looks like the mass shootings will easily top the record number from last year (610).
There have been 32,612 deaths from gun violence in the U.S. this year. That also could easily top the 43,500 gun deaths from last year.
This does not have to happen. Constitutional laws could be passed that would substantially reduce the number of mass shootings and gun deaths -- and the public supports that.
BUT CONGRESS CONTINUES TO DO NOTHING!
Beyond cutting taxes for himself and his rich buddies, Trump's administration can be boiled down to one thing -- an effort to send the United States back to the Fifties, when white men held all the power and other groups had few if any rights. It was an effort to appease white supremacists and evangelicals (many of which are also on the white supremacy bandwagon). In short, they are trying to wage a culture war. They are losing it, in spite of the massive coverage they get in the media.
Here is just part of an excellent article on this subject by Leonard Steinhorn in The Washington Post:
Despite being a one-term twice-impeached president who lost reelection and never won the popular vote, Trump looms as an outsize political and cultural figure in our historical imagination. Some have even described us as living in “the Trump era.”
Yet, this focus on Trump may miss the real story of our times. Media preoccupation does not signify historical consequence, and despite the breathless attention we lavish on him now, it’s wholly possible that future historians may view Trump less as a major force in our nation’s narrative and more as a sidebar whose disruption, nativism and anti-democratic impulses distracted us from the real changes underway in our country, ones driven by the very younger Americans who are in the forefront of rejecting Trump and Trumpism.
We’ve been down this path before, most notably in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan dominated U.S. politics and both journalists and scholars characterized those years as a time of conservative ascendancy. But were they?
Beginning in the 1960s, the United States seemed to move dramatically leftward on cultural issues, a change largely driven by young Americans holding different values than their Greatest Generation parents. Sixties youth were moving America from the monochromatic, religious and traditional society of the 1950s to one that would increasingly resemble the more diverse, multicultural and secular culture of today. . . .
This transformation, however, seemed to hit a wall with Reagan’s election in 1980. The press focused on the rise of religious conservatives as a major force in American politics. Reporters viewed their activation as evidence of a conservative resurgence that was repudiating the very cultural changes young Americans had fueled during the previous two decades and demanding the restoration of “traditional values” and Christianity in the public square. . . .
Rather than the restoration of traditional values, the opposite happened. Although Reagan tried to turn back the clock on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental policy and religion, it didn’t work. In every respect attitudes, values, norms, practices and expectations in these areas instead grew far more liberal than what Reagan advocated — and have become increasingly liberal since.
Rather than return to traditional gender roles and domesticity, for example, women, empowered by the feminist movement, began seizing opportunities in sports, education and business. Female-owned companies nearly tripled in the Reagan years, and by the end of the 1980s, the number of young women playing interscholastic sports increased more than sixfold from 20 years before, from less than 300,000 to nearly 2 million. Women received only 39 percent of MA degrees in 1970, but by the early 1990s it had increased to 53 percent — now it’s over 60 percent.
Attitudes and institutions followed a similar path. Despite the hostility of religious conservatives and the Reagan administration — and their callous disregard for the AIDS epidemic — support for LGBTQ Americans steadily rose throughout the 1980s; this gradual liberalization eventually produced legal and cultural acceptance of marriage equality. Colleges and universities, recognizing their responsibility to tell the nation’s story through a lens far more inclusive than ever before, diversified their curriculum and added more female and minority voices and stories to their courses and canon. The media — both entertainment and news — increasingly did the same. . . .
The age of Reagan, therefore, was actually anything but.
Something similar is happening today. Young Americans, this time millennials and Gen Z, are confronting ongoing racial, cultural, social, environmental and economic challenges that their elders have been unable to solve. And instead of rejecting liberalism, they have doubled down. Widespread disdain for Trump may have been an accelerant for their deep-rooted liberalism, but young people were moving in that direction long before he became president.
Again, if one looks beyond political rhetoric and Washington politics, the picture of this era in America is far more complex. At work, millennials and Gen Z insist that companies show — and not just express — a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity, work-life balance and the environment. Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ equality are not just movements to them — they are unshakable values.
They demand a commitment to gender equality that will translate to equity in their personal relationships, jobs, parenting and institutions. Among Gen Z, many say that gender should no longer define people as it used to. They are also the most religiously unaffiliated generation in our history — more secular, less Christian, less likely to attend religious services, what one research organization called America’s “first truly ‘post-Christian‘ generation.” Even younger evangelicals are moving in a more liberal direction, far more protective of the environment and accepting of LGBTQ rights than their elders.
This does not mean that a path to a more liberal America is inevitable or will be friction-free. Trump’s damage to our democratic institutions could be massive especially if he and his supporters in Republican-run states continue to interfere with elections and voting rights. And his impact on the courts and fights over manufactured issues such as critical race theory and transgender athletes may delay changes, or make them more difficult to enact.
Yet, the “age of Reagan” taught us that those who shout the loudest about a world that’s passing them by may not be the ones wielding the most influence when it comes to the social and cultural metamorphosis that will reshape our lives and country in the years and decades ahead.