Voices of Our Generation: What We Agree On
by Connor Toohill | University of Notre Dame
“It’s not about the next election. It’s about the next generation.” That line was delivered yesterday by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)–but it could just as easily be attributed to President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Eric Cantor or countless politicians and members of the media. If only it were true.
The problem is that in a moment of national crisis, the concerns of the next election still seem to take precedence. We stand less than one week away from reaching the debt ceiling–absent a bipartisan plan to raise the ceiling and reduce the deficit, we face default, possible economic calamity, and probable downgrading of our credit rating. A country hampered by a weak economy faces an even weaker one; students hampered by lagging job opportunities face even worse hiring potential; and most importantly, a generation that will be tasked with solving far too many lingering problems will be thrown a few more. That potential outcome is less than one week away. If concern for “the next generation” really took precedence, our leaders would be taking every step possible to avoid it.
Instead, we see politics as usual from those who promised us more. We see House Republicans refusing to consider any revenue increases or (in some cases) any compromise whatsoever from their ideological preference (Cut, Cap & Balance). We see Congressional Democrats who appear willing to give some ground, but are more concerned with keeping weapons to regain the House majority than actually solving problems. We see a President focused on appealing to political independents; we see a Speaker of the House focused on appeasing his base. We see the concerns of the next generation considered; our problems given lip-service; our priorities given faint praise. But above all, we see professionals focused on the next 18 months of politics, rather than the next 18 years of policy.
And we see the “next generation” referenced in passing–used whenever it fits one’s ideological agenda, and then discarded. We see politicians and pundits reveal what our generation thinks or values–or most frustratingly, what would be good for us. But rarely do we see the thoughts, concerns, opinions, and priorities of our generation actually included in the conversation.
That basic process? It was happening in a similar manner over two years ago, in the 2009 budget debate. That’s where the origins of this site, and our vision, are rooted. But we’re one week away from default. And so it needs to stop. Right now.
What does the “next generation” really think? What do we really value? Here’s the answer: it varies. There are no silver bullets or unanimous points of clarity. I hope this series exposes that. We often disagree; we have our own ideological preferences; we don’t have consensus opinions about which policies or politicians are best.
But I do think the “next generation” can largely agree about this: we’re tired of our American future being sacrificed for the political futures of those in power. We’re sick of empty rhetoric. We’re done with the rampant partisanship and the refusal to actually sacrifice something in the name of compromise–consequences be damned. We’re ready for our leaders to lead. And rather than simply citing “the next generation” whenever they want to make a point, we’d like for them to actually listen to “the next generation”– our generation–when we tell them to get their act together.Connor Toohill is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Journal. He is a student at The University of Notre Dame.