WashCo Dems op-ed article

OP-ED: Hope

by John Maelan

Now, there’s a word we haven’t heard much since Obama’s 2008 campaign, right? But the thing is, “hope” is a word that by nature belongs to the future, not the past. And as Democrats, these days we have a lot of reason for hope despite the many dark shadows that appear before us.

Now, please, let me elaborate a bit…

It’s been said that right-wing media peddles hate, and I must agree. They hate the immigrants, they hate the “libs,” and they now especially seem to hate the trans community. But look to the left, and what you often see is despair. Republicans have blocked climate regulation, showed amazing cowardice after every mass shooting, stymied civil rights, and created the most unequal economy of modern times. Since Ronald Regan, the GOP has been surfing this wave and cheering it the whole way. But like any wave, it’s all about to come crashing down against the rocky shore, and we will be there to see it. And this is not some liberal fantasy, but a demographic reality!

You see, despite MAGA’s efforts to the contrary, we still live in a democracy, where every vote counts. And those votes are increasingly younger, better educated, and liberal. Generation Z (born mid-1990s to about 2010) is coming up right before our eyes. According to Celinda Lake and Mac Heller of the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/07/19/gen-z-voters-2024), every year about four million of them reach voting age. This works out to a net gain of fifty-two million younger voters since 2016! Now, Rick Wilson of the Lincoln Project once famously chided Democrats for wasting their time chasing the youth vote. In his book Everything Trump Touches Dies, Wilson points out that it’s older Americans who can be counted on to cast a ballot, while the young seldom bother. And, once upon a time, Old Rick was right.

Oh, but the times they are a-changing.

As it turns out, Generation Z may be the most active group of voters to hit the American scene in a century. Unlike the anemic Gen Xers, who only registered twenty percent of the time, sixty-seven percent of all Gen Zers are currently registered. And these young voters are, by and large, not the xenophobic homophobes who are going to find MAGA arguments appealing.

This all adds up to the fact that 2024 will not be fought over the same demographic battlefield as 2016. Not by a long shot! In the intervening eight years, the American landscape has dramatically changed, and it’s changed for the better. Add to that the fact that the economy is improving, with unemployment low and inflation declining. That’s always good news for the President’s party.  Even rent is down 2% in Washington County since 2022! (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2023/rent-prices-coming-down-near-me/?wpisrc=nl_the7).

Of course, this is not the time to count chickens when so many eggs have yet to hatch. For real improvement to happen we’ve got to seize the moment and strike while the progressive iron is hot. If things are going to get better for our community and our world in the long term, it’s going to take effort on the part of good-intentioned Americans to make it happen.

For instance, those Gen Z folks I mentioned, apparently do not give much of a damn about anybody’s parties or politicians—even ours! When they vote, they tend to do so purely on behalf of the issues they favor. However, the good news is that, generally speaking, they are pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, and pro-LGBTQ. So, Democrats like us need to reach out to those new voters and make sure they understand that those things are also Democratic values and that by voting for our party’s candidates, they will achieve their goals. But they won’t listen to us if all we seem to offer them is the frustration we’ve wrestled with since the election of Ronald Reagan.

Simply put, Democrats like us need to give up on that despair crap right the heck now and embrace hope!

Hope can drive us. Hope can sustain us. And hope can be infectious! This is especially true at the local level where little-known progressive candidates desperately need our support. And, it can work. After all, just this past election cycle, every single school board candidate endorsed by the Washington County Democrats got elected. That didn’t just happen for no reason. That happened because we reached out to those new voters. And that happened because we spread our wings and soared with the prevailing winds of change that are sweeping this country!

So, keep flying Democrats, keep knocking on doors, keep donating, keep writing your elected officials, keep volunteering for campaigns, and keep hoping for a better future for all of us.

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