The New Generation Gap

NEW YORK – Something interesting has emerged in voting patterns on both sides of the Atlantic: Young people are voting in ways that are markedly different from their elders. A great divide appears to have opened up, based not so much on income, education, or gender as on the voters’ generation.

There are good reasons for this divide. The lives of both old and young, as they are now lived, are different. Their pasts are different, and so are their prospects.

The Cold War, for example, was over even before some were born and while others were still children. Words like socialism do not convey the meaning they once did. If socialism means creating a society where shared concerns are not given short shrift – where people care about other people and the environment in which they live – so be it. Yes, there may have been failed experiments under that rubric a quarter- or half-century ago; but today’s experiments bear no resemblance to those of the past. So the failure of those past experiments says nothing about the new ones.

Older upper-middle-class Americans and Europeans have had a good life. When they entered the labor force, well-compensated jobs were waiting for them. The question they asked was what they wanted to do, not how long they would have to live with their parents before they got a job that enabled them to move out.