The Tennessee Expulsions Reveal The Core Divide In US Politics. Heres Why.

As they did in Tennessee earlier this month, the tectonic plates of American politics have collided in the most obvious and explosive way.

Defeat in the Tennessee House of Representatives two weeks ago as seasoned white Republicans and the middle class rallied to oust two young Sudanese Democrats who downplayed the generational and race rivalries that undermine political competition. Concerts. .

The Republicans’ vote to oust Black Democrats Justin Pearson and Justin Jones epitomized what was once a struggle for control of American leadership between the nation’s rising youth and a group of older whites. Children of color now make up more than half of Americans under 18, while whites still make up three-quarters of the nation’s retirees, according to census data analyzed by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

This sharp divide – what Frey calls the “international cultural divide” and what I call the “brown and gray” rivalry – has become a major fault line in national politics. Particularly under Donald Trump, the Republican coalition has become increasingly dependent on older whites, with young people making up an important part of the Democratic electoral base.

The priorities and values ​​of these two giant groups often clash sharply in red states in the South and Southwest, such as Tennessee, where Republicans now control state government. In these states, Republicans are actively working to legitimize their political preferences with an old predominantly white, predominantly Christian suburban electoral alliance. This platform often clashes with the younger generation on issues such as abortion, LGBT rights, race, gender, sexual orientation, book bans, and gun control.

In the red states, the conditions for escalating conflict between these different generations have been set for many years. On the one hand, the Republicans who control these states are using increasingly aggressive tactics to advance their political agenda and consolidate their electoral leadership. This strategy includes harsh maneuvers that dilute influence in urban areas where young voters are concentrated, laws that impede registration and voting, and tougher legislative tactics such as voting to oust Pearson and Jones. . In Tennessee and other red states, Republicans are trying to silence the voice: silence the voice, silence the anger and continue to intimidate people who disagree, said Antonio Arellano, vice president of communications for NextGen America Group. Organizing youth for the cause of freedom.

On the other hand, younger millennials and early gen-xers entering elected office are throwing themselves into Republican strongholds, as Jones and Pearson did. This young electorate has been shaped by the mass protests of the past decade, many of which have been led by young people, particularly around gun safety, climate change, and racial equality. And many are bringing this direct-action philosophy to the political arena, as Jones and Pearson did when they led protests about gun control on the floor of the Tennessee legislature. “This generation of politicians has been socialized by Black Lives Matter, the [Donald] Trump era, and politics,” said Andrea Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta. No wonder they are at odds with each other.

In red states, this wave of resilience and hostility among young progressives is attacking the bastions Republicans are putting in place to shore up their numbers. Despite the zeal of Jones, Pearson, and their supporters in Tennessee, most observers agree that the Browns would find it very difficult to loosen the Grays’ grip on political power in nearly every red state. . “There is no short-term threat” to GOP power in the red states, Gillespie said. And that could be a recipe for more tension in these regions, as many of the younger generations make up a growing share of the labor force and tax base, yet see their options systematically eliminated by their government’s decisions.

Like many analysts, Melissa Dickman, executive director of the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of Public Debt, predicts that “what we saw in Tennessee is the first resolution to an escalating conflict,” as older white conservatives resist the demands, particularly in red states. Great influence on the younger generations. “For a predominantly white conservative legislature to take this extraordinary and drastic step of expelling two African Americans is an indication of what we may see in the future as a result of this demographic shift,” he said.

These demographic changes are based on generational changes in the lives of Americans. Although the tipping point has received little attention, Frey calculates that the majority of the country’s population was now born after 1980. And these younger generations are more diverse than their older counterparts.

Changes in travel are more noticeable. Between 1924 and 1965, the United States drastically reduced immigration, so nearly three-quarters of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are white, compared with more than three-quarters of seniors from previous generations, according to Frey. . By contrast, Frey calculated, people of color make up nearly half of Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1996), less than half of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) and more than half of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). between 1981 and 1996). between 1997 and 2012) half of the younger generation has been born since then. 2012. This young generation (sometimes called the Alpha generation) will be the first generation in American history to be dominated by racial “minorities.”

The transition extends to other aspects of personal identity as well. The Public Religion Research Institute reports that only 17 percent of Americans age 65 and older and 20 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 are not affiliated with any organized religion, rising to 32 percent. Thirty-year-olds -49 and 38% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29. In contrast, white Christians make up half of adults ages 50 to 64 and three-fifths of seniors, one-third of people ages 30 to 49, and only a quarter of young adults.

Gender identity and sexual orientation follow the same path. Gallup found that while fewer than 3 percent of Baby Boomers and just 4 percent of Gen Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980) identify as LGBTQ, that number rises to 11 percent among Millennials and 21 percent among Generation Z. Thus, says Dickmann, who is writing a book on Generation Z, “there is a group of young Americans who are passionate about the rights of diverse, irreligious, and marginalized groups, and who remain disenfranchised.”

Although the speed and strength are different, these changes affect all parts of the country. Even in states where the GOP has historically controlled government agencies, such as Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina, adults under the age of 45 who are not affiliated with any religion are now equal or more likely than white Christians. Results provided by PRRI CNN. By contrast, in these 45-plus states, white Christians make up at least twice, if not three times, the share of seculars.

Frey found that in every state, young people 18 and younger are more racially diverse than those 65 and older. In fact, from 2010 to 2020, every state except Utah and North Dakota (as well as Washington, D.C.) experienced a decrease in the total number of white children under 18. Today, most residents under the age of 14 are children of color. Fry found it in the states and at least 40 percent in a dozen other countries.

There are many places on this list where Republicans adhere to a strong social conservative agenda. Children of color already make up half or more of young adults in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arizona, and nearly 50 or more in many other states, including Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas. In most of these states, the percentage of older whites is 20 percentage points higher than the percentage of young people.

A significant “generational cultural gap” has also been noted in several blue states, including Nevada, California, Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota. The difference is that in countries where there are democrats in power, different generations of young people are deficiently included in the political coalition that determines public policy. Political scientists from both parties, from Republican pollster Kristin Soltis Anderson to Democratic strategist Terrence Woodbury, say Democrats have their own problem with young voters who were never enthusiastic about President Joe Biden and are frustrated that the party has not made more progress. in matters dear to them. But in the blue states, his policy guidance on key social issues like abortion, gun control, and LGBT rights resonates with younger generations. And in most blue states, Democrats are prioritizing reforming state election laws to increase youth participation and, in many cases, making it easier to register and vote.

But young voters in red states, especially young voters, are isolated from the GOP coalition that revolves around whites, especially older, non-college, non-urban Christians. In a year in 2022, for example, 80% of young nonwhite voters (45 or younger) voted against Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, 65% voted against Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, and 55% voted against Republican Governor Ron. DeSantis in Florida, poll results provided by Edison Research. However, all three won crucial re-elections, each being about seven in ten whites over the age of 45.

The generational conflict between Brown and Gray, typified by the Tennessee evacuation, is a familiar struggle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. In this case, the indomitable force is the growth of different younger generations of voters. per year in 2020, for the first time, millennials and Gen Z will take up as much of the nation as baby boomers and older generations, although older generations, which are a much larger number, account for a larger share of the actual electorate. . per year by 2024, according to Frey, Millennials and Gen Z will make up the largest share of eligible voters, overtaking Boomers and Olds, which could equal their share of active voters. Already in many states, children of color who turn 18 each year and gain the right to vote make up the majority; Fry in 2010 by 2024, this is expected to be true for the country as a whole.

What doesn’t move is the GOP’s control of the red cases. This is due in part to changes in voting laws introduced by Republicans that create barriers to registration and voting, as well as their dominance among older whites and the infiltration of Hispanic and culturally conservative voters in some of these states, particularly Texas and Florida.

Another concern for Democrats is that youth voter turnout in red states is low. Earlier this month, youth turnout fell in some blue states, including New York and Rhode Island, and the Tufts University Center for the Study of Information, Civic Education, and Engagement (CIRCLE) says the “red” states include the nine states with the lowest percentage of eligible adults who between the ages of 18 and 29 who have cast their ballots; Among the states with CIRCLE data, Tennessee ranks last. Red states are the most obvious barriers to youth participation. Eight Republican-controlled states, including Tennessee, Texas and, most recently, Idaho, have announced that student ID cards cannot be used as identification under student ID laws, sending a decidedly frustrating message to young voters. This year, the Texas Republican legislature proposed banning balloting on college campuses.

According to Abi Kissa, deputy director of CIRCLE, laws and social practices in both blue and red states reinforce ways that encourage or discourage young people from voting. “Government infrastructure and laws” in states that encourage young people to vote, such as Michigan, Oregon, and Colorado, are creating a greater culture of participation. “Because the more people get it, the more common it becomes, the more people talk about it and it becomes more of a self-fulfilling prophecy.” He points out that in areas where electoral barriers are being discussed, a reverse electoral cycle may occur.

The prospect of defeating the GOP’s red state campaign defenses in the near future is likely to encourage many young progressives to focus on grassroots protests. Georgia. The project was started by Stacy Abrams.

“Young Tennessee guys… went to their legislators and said enough is enough, and they had leaders who listened to their demands and demanded answers, and their peers didn’t like it,” Uvutt explains. He formed a new Southern Super PAC, designed to elect progressive candidates in 11 former Confederate states.

Ufot uses a striking analogy to describe how he expects this fight to play out in the red states in the years to come. She says her mother ran a battered women’s shelter, and even as a little girl she “realized that they were preparing for the most dangerous time for victims of violence.” and make their exits. When we see their attackers resorting to crazy tactics.

Yovut sees the exodus in Tennessee, such as the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack and Trump’s broad efforts to overturn the 2020 results, as evidence that “those who fear what a different, measured democracy would look like” are also moving to drastic measures. The challenge to their positions became more acute. But he sees the movement around Pearson and Jones as an example of how the younger generation should deal with the attack. “Instead of responding politely like those before them, [the two ousted actors] decided to do something about it,” he said. This is what happens when you get caught up in the protest frenzy and are held accountable to the public (which you represent).

As the Republicans now ruling red states drift to the right and younger generations rely on open opposition, a new conflagration in this contentious state seems inevitable.

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