Rise of Millennial Cynicism

Just like you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, I think you probably shouldn’t blog when in a bad mood. Which I am in, after reading The New York Times this morning. The article For ‘Millennials,’ a Tide of Cynicism and a Partisan Gap interviews three Millennials who all have a cynical view of Washington, are tired of the “gridlock” and feel that “there’s too much fighting going on between the parties.”

Mr. Welsh, a registered independent; Ms. Hermann, a Democrat; and Mr. Durgin, a Republican — reflect what political analysts see as a troubling trend: the idealism of youth is slipping away, replaced by mistrust and a growing partisan divide among voters under 30. These so-called millennials [ 🙂 ], who turned out in droves to elect Mr. Obama in 2008, are increasingly turned off by politics. Experts fear their cynicism may become permanent.

Lesser of Two Evils

Ms. Anderson: “They are disappointed with him [Obama], yet many question the motives of Republicans even more…” and “Does either party really have my best interest at heart? And I think the answer to that is, ‘No.’”

The “Yes We Can” generation, just half a decade later, has descended into a generational mantra of “Maybe we possibly could if someone threw us a bone.” I can feel it. The idealism is being leaked out from this generation, into a sense of settling for anything that will bring any type of progress.  I think the center of gravity of Hope and Change in 2008, has faded. Now we’re left with a weak center of gravity that is just sort of like, “Please help?” I tend to agree with the article that I think the economy is taking it’s toll on Millennials. The older Millennials, like myself, who have never known a healthy economy in their adult life so far.

The Numbers: “Today, only 39 percent of young voters trust the president to do the right thing, as opposed to 44 percent in 2010. Just 18 percent of voters under 30 trust Congress, compared with 25 percent in February 2010.”

On top of the gridlock in politics that so frustrates Millennials, according to the article we are actually becoming more divided ourselves.

Civic Generation or not?

“The hyperpartisanship and gridlock that has befallen Washington, D.C., is having a traumatic effect … on the political health of tens of millions of once (and hopefully future) idealistic young people…”

I use the word “so-called” for the title of my blog in order to explore the “so-called” traits of Millennials. This blog is a platform to see how Millennials are actually forming as a generation, based on my observations, lots of opinions, and comments from readers.

In the post Pendulum Swing I give more detail to why I use the Howe & Strauss generational cycle theory, but briefly I think there is an internal logic to the theory that is fitting to the nature of a democratic nation. Millennials fit many aspects of the theory’s “Civic” generation. But as I wrote about a loooong time ago, not every “cycle” has a Civic generation.

It’s articles like this NYT article that make me question the direction my generation is headed.

By the way, it was overcast in Southern California today, so that could be responsible for the mood of this post. I’ve become a vitamin D addict.


Millennials (and others) where do you see our generation headed? Are we losing our chutzpah? What are generational traits and observations that you see?

14 thoughts on “Rise of Millennial Cynicism

  1. I’ll add that I’m really interested to see what the 2016 election brings to the attitude of Millennials. It will be very interesting to see. I think the candidates for the next election could seal the political identity of a generation.

  2. I think the economy is a major source of disillusionment for older Millennials while with younger Millennials the real problem is the hyperpartisanship in Congress. Older Millennials such as us know that a lot of what’s going on between the two parties is abnormal, narrow-minded and wrong, but at the same time we’re in our twenties and feeling the full effect of a damaged economy. Some of the younger Millennials aren’t even in middle school yet. For them the economy isn’t a big deal but the belligerent antagonism and petty brinkmanship they are witnessing in the political sphere could be far more damaging because, as kids, they may not realize that it hasn’t always been that way and that it is in fact wrong.

    I also think the article is a little misleading in its implications. For example, that quote, “Does either party really have my best interest at heart? And I think the answer to that is, ‘No'” is pretty poignant. But it doesn’t belong to one of the Millennials highlighted. Kristen Soltis Anderson is the pollster and while she may or may not be a Millennial she’s an acknowledged Republican, so she has nothing to lose by lumping Democrats in with Republicans when it comes to throwing blame. Nothing except integrity of course.

    The article lists some figures: “86 percent of young Democrats approve…only 10 percent of young Republicans do.” and then goes on to say “Young voters, like older Americans, are becoming more partisan by the day.” But those statistics don’t prove that. What if half of the Millennials who voted GOP in 2008 became Democrats by 2013? If that’s the case then Pres. Obama’s approval rate is going up. How many ‘young Republicans’ are there anyway, according to their sample? If there were only like five then those numbers mean nothing.

    Also, consider this other figure: “Mr. Obama had a 52 percent approval rating…down from his approval rating of 58 percent in a Harvard poll of Millennials in 2009.” That’s supposed to make the reader think, “Oh, his approval rating is dropping…” but I’m not sure that’s what that means. Unless Harvard polled 5 year-olds back in 2009 the more recent approval rating of Millennials would be reflective of a larger demographic, i.e. Millennials who are old enough to care. The fact that the percentage figure slipped six points means little if the actual number of Millennials who approve has gone up.

    The article is discouraging, but there’s nothing in it that throws into serious question the Millennial status as Civic. But I do see how it AND an overcast day in Southern California can piggy back into a bad mood. Feel better 🙂

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  4. Thanks for your thoughts! I actually read a great post today about Millennials that mentioned a “Screwed Millennials” genre. Just a hunch, but the NYT seems to publish articles in that genre A LOT. Still, I sense a bit of the idealism slipping away from Millennials, which is disheartening but not inevitable.

    The same aforementioned article builds a case that Millennials actually DO fit a Civic type, but in a less obvious, unexpected way. I hope to gather my thoughts to comment on it, and reblog it! It’s a great piece.

  5. I think I read the article you’re talking about! It was gorgeous in a way I find hard to describe w/o getting all poetic. But yeah, great piece.

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  7. I feel like our generation is very in tune with politics, even the more non-political among us. I consider myself a bit of a political junkie so maybe my opinions are a bit skewed because most of the country doesn’t pay attention to politics day-in and day-out. But I always get the impression from polling, from conversations with fellow young people, and from our blogging circle that we kind of “know what’s up.” I also agree that a sort of malaise of disillusionment is settling on many of us as the jobs crisis continues and politicians stopped caring as soon as the election was over.

    I don’t think our optimism has been broken yet, but maybe fatigue has settled in because we don’t see any will to change the direction of the country for the better.

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