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Journey to the Future of the Earth Generation X Voters Share Their Dytopian Fears

Fear and hope mongering have long been a part of Presidential politics. 2016 is certainly part of that legacy. However, just like so many other standards of modern life that started as fantasy in the pages of science fiction novels and comic books, we do seem to be on trajectory towards a tomorrow that these fiction writers warned us about years ago.

The United States is full of the stuff from a bad 1960s era comic book. An entire political party rallies against the world’s largest religion and people who look different than them. Contaminated water is pipelined to the poor and people of color in the name of profit. The remaining two political parties champion an age of secret government agencies and big corporations spying on the citizenry. Newspapers as well as over-the-air radio and television are disappearing, as information becomes a commodity only six corporations control and market it to you. Neighborhood police are outfitted to look like invading armies. Doctors dole out opiates like candy creating a new era of junkie zombies made up of housewives and blue collar laborers. Corporations sell conceptual history textbooks to school boards who refuse to defy the myth of American exceptionalism so their children can be raised to become part of the misinformed electorate. Major protests happen daily against all of these things but the media cartels distract you with celebrity sex tape stars and reality television Presidential candidates.

The future isn’t strictly an American problem, no matter how much we Americans like to make it all about us. Mankind’s influence on the environment has made the earth a much more volatile place to live. Drought and access to clean water starts wars. The food supply was unregulated, genetically modified and controlled not by farmers but by a corporate monolith. Banks choked entire countries into submission. Extreme religious and political views divide us and stoke the fires of hatred. People are discriminated against, terrorized and exploited because of their gender or sexual identity. Those who profit from war and the exploitation of natural resources rejoice as violence and suffering continue to be humanities best known exports.

At least on the Democratic side, a great deal of the 2016 primary rhetoric has been pitting baby-boomers against millennials. But what of Generation X voters? They’re the ones who grew up on the dystopian themes we’re facing down in 2016. Since I talked to baby-boomers for last week’s missive, I solicited a dozen Generation-Xers to survey this week. I disclosed my preferred candidate and promised anonymity. The rest was up to them.

There is nothing scientific to this story. I asked people born between 1965 and 1985 to complete a survey for me which included some demographic information and who they will support in their state’s primary. I brought up the dystopic themes of the 2016 election and asked for their responses. I solicited responses from social media and had a sample group within moments. However, this sample base is all made up of people who follow me on social media. Though I disagree with many on the issues, I have to be forthright that they are at least open enough to my point of view to follow me. Also, because the Generation-Xers I spoke to were much more verbose and interested in policy than the Baby Boomers I spoke with last week, I used their quotes quite differently that last week, choosing my three favorites in each category we discussed. In the words of David Letterman, this is “for entertainment purposes only. Please, no wagering.”

Income Inequality

When presented with the studies that income inequality is worse in the United States than it was in 1774, each of my participants, no matter who they supported, showed great concern and offered examples of how they or their families are suffering financially. Even Trump and Hillary supporters reluctantly told me that Bernie Sanders was the strongest candidate on the issue. My fellow Bernie Sanders supporters got fired up about it.

“To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the problem until Bernie Sanders brought it to my attention and then I began looking at Robert Reich’s work. I can’t trust Hillary Clinton to fight on these issues.”

– female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will likely leave the party if Clinton gets the nomination and will vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, participating in her State’s primary.


“I feel that Bernie Sanders is the only one who truly understands the importance of this issue, and is the only candidate who is willing to face this challenge in his presidency. He practices what he preaches. He has raised his campaign money one dollar at a time, which makes him seems more like a ‘real person’ in this campaign process.”

-female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will vote for the party’s nominee in the general, caucusing for Bernie in her state.


“I believe it will continue to get worse unless Bernie is elected and we put other Berniecrats into the House and Senate. He is the only one talking about each issue where it relates back to the overwhelming issue of money in politics. Each issue can be correlated back to this issue in some form. The establishment does not want to give up its grip on the American people. I believe he is the only one who will.”

-female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will write in Bernie if need be, #BernieOrBust, participating in her State’s primary

Domestic Spying

The topic of the government spying on people is where the biggest rift in opinions took place. The Democrats and Independents scaled as I expected: they were studied on the issue. Republican and Hillary supporters were more likely to fear terrorists, and support domestic spying. Hillary supporters were the only voters that didn’t know that no intelligence gathered this way has stopped a single terrorist.

“I do believe mass surveillance is out of hand and has become unconstitutional. The place to start to “attack” this is by dismantling the patriot act- which Bernie is supportive of. I believe he will wrangle in the NSA. “Bernie has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation to enforce net neutrality. I think this would continue into his presidency.”

-female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who is unsure if they can vote for Hillary Clinton or not, participating in her state’s primary.


“This is one of the area’s I like your Bernie Sanders. I haven’t heard any other candidate say anything about our right to privacy. I don’t trust those in power not to wield our information against us to keep their power, obstructing the values of Democracy.”

-male Republican who is undecided, will not vote for any of the Republicans running in the primary, and is considering Bernie Sanders for the general election vote.


“I am extremely concerned with domestic spying and eavesdropping. Bernie is the only person running who presents a believable strategy. Hillary, I believe is too similar to the strong candidate speeches of Obama and lack of action as a President.”

-male Independent unable to participate in his state’s closed primary, wants to vote for Bernie in the general election, may consider Clinton if not.

The Environment

Every single member of my Generation X sample group was fearful for the future of our planet, even the Republicans. None denied climate change or the scientific research behind it. Nobody challenged the NSA’s report on climate change being the biggest threat to national security.

“I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton, with her ties to fossil fuel companies and her advocacy for fracking is the best person to handle the challenge.”

– female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will likely leave the party if Clinton gets the nomination and will vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, participating in her State’s primary.


“We need to protect this earth as it is the only one we have. Spraying chemicals into the air and on to our food is something that we have only come to understand in the past couple of years. I do believe that any candidate that wins really needs to look into this issue, even though a lot of damage is already done. We need labels on GMO’s so that we can protect children, and I think it is really strange that the labels have come off of our foods recently.”

-female Republican, undecided, not participating in primaries, pledges to vote in the general based on remaining candidates.


“I think that your candidate is stronger on this than mine. I never hear her talking about it and have heard yours. I remember him quoting the NSA report in the first or second debate.”

-female Democrat supporting Hillary, will caucus for her, would gladly vote for Bernie in the general if he is the nominee.

Perpetual War

As expected, Republicans and Hillary supporters were bullish on wanting troops in the Middle East no matter what the cost. Independents and Bernie supporters wanted less intervention and more diplomacy.

“To protect America we have to keep a boot on the Middle East. We should be carpet bombing the terrorists. Obama has been weak on this but I think Hillary will be stronger.”

-male Republican Hillary supporter, not voting in his state’s closed primary, will only vote in the general election if Clinton is a nominee.


“I am a US Navy Veteran that was engaged in the first Gulf War and I now work with Veterans at a VA Mental facility. War does incredible things to a human being. We are not made to go to war without consequence. Bernie is the only one will not put us in a perpetual war where it is damaging our own people. Other countries should be getting involved in these wars and not put the American citizens in the middle of it. We can not and should be the world police.”

-female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will write in Bernie if need be, #BernieOrBust, participating in her State’s primary


“I was against intervening in Afghanistan, too, which only Barbara Lee voted against. When everyone started cheer-leading the Iraq War I felt like I had fallen into some sort of dystopia, made worse by the Patriot Act. That Bernie Sanders stood against both of these makes me feel like he’s someone I can trust to keep a cool head in hard times. I do wish Bernie was opposed to the drone program and more supportive of Palestine. I think what the U.S. has done in terms of violence and destabilization in the Middle East is damn near unforgivable and to be honest I’m not surprised that anyone would want to attack us for it. I think a heavy dose of peace and diplomacy could do what no amount of bombs could accomplish. I’m more aligned with the Green Party on the Middle East, but Bernie is the one running in the major party and sadly American politics works like this. I do trust Bernie to be much better than Hillary on the Middle East. She tends to name-drop and use a lot of rhetoric when discussing foreign policy. Bernie tends to put foreign policy in a historical perspective, which shows me he gets the big picture and understands the lessons of the past. Plus, he’s not going to pal around with Kissinger.”

– female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will likely leave the party if Clinton gets the nomination and will vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, participating in her State’s primary.

Oligarchy

I presented each of my Generation X-ers with information that the US was now an oligarchy and no longer a Democracy. Everyone agreed that it was true and a major issue, no matter where they stood politically. We all agreed that campaign finance reform is one of the primary issues of the day.

“I would agree that the influence on big money will in the end determine the future of our society. This is very concerning. The only one that I have heard who speaks about this is Bernie Sanders.”

-female Republican, undecided, not participating in primaries, pledges to vote in the general based on remaining candidates.


“It’s true and in many ways I think we deserve it. We have let ourselves become what we are. I think the nation as a whole has become what many in the world see us as, fat, lazy and dumb. Buy, buy, buy! Have some reality television and do whatever u want! I digress. I believe that if Bernie Sanders were elected he would have the best plan of attack on making changes to our systems to swing the balance. But could he actually do it?”

-male Independent who can not vote in his state’s closed primary, will only vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election.


“This is why I joined the Sanders campaign, locally and nationally. I believe this is the main issue that corrupts the entire political system. I believe that until we can overturn Citizens United, our freedom is limited to what the Oligarchy want it to be. We are not a free country until those strangleholds of the Oligarchy are undone.”

-female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will write in Bernie if need be, #BernieOrBust, participating in her State’s primary

Potpourri

As they would be broadly representing their generation in my limited sample group, I asked each of the Gen Xers to tell me something about their feelings on politics in 2016 that they wanted me to know.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I only trust politicians who have endorsed Bernie or at least not endorsed Clinton. If Bernie is elected I will remain a Democrat. If he’s not elected I will affiliate as Independent or Green. Since I already live abroad I may begin plans to repatriate. Sorry, America, but you make me worry I’ll end up working all my life just to die in a gutter, homeless. If I’m gonna die in a gutter it may as well be a French gutter or maybe a Peruvian gutter. See the world, you know?”

– female Bernie supporter, registered Democrat who will likely leave the party if Clinton gets the nomination and will vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, participating in her State’s primary.


“I do understand why a lot of Bernie supporters don’t feel like they got a fair shake from our party throughout this primary, and I understand the anger against our party chairwoman. I fear the Republican candidates will seal the deal on the issues you asked me about and wish that there were a way to bridge the divides of the Democratic Party so we don’t end up with President Trump or worse, Cruz or Rubio.”

-female Democrat supporting Hillary, will caucus for her, would gladly vote for Bernie in the general if he is the nominee.


“This election proves how broken the two party system is. Are these seriously the most qualified people in our nation to be our President? Your guy is the only one who makes any sense out of the bunch and he’s an elderly hippy. It’s obvious the parties tried to streamline the system to tilt towards a Jeb and Hillary election. Luckily Trump and Sanders stopped that, but I still can’t get behind either of them. Hopefully it leads to a dismantling of the two parties though.”

-male Independent not participating in his State caucus system, undecided for General Election but will likely vote

If we can take anything away from my interviews, it’s that the Generation that grew up on REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” played at their high school dances is appropriately scared about the future. I’m a member of Generation X myself, and one of my biggest fears is that religious zealots are pushing ideologues in politics to pursue an end-times strategy for foreign policy. That’s why I have nightmares about a President Ted Cruz. I also fear water wars, ala Mad Max to the point that I have nightmares. That’s why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s the only candidate that gives me hope, on all of the issues discussed with my panel, and I believe that despite any political differences, they felt the same the same way in their hearts. I think this is why polls are starting to show Bernie as the most electable candidate on either side of the aisle. As for if any candidate can save us from dystopia and deliver us into a utopian society; I just haven’t been able to achieve that level of hope yet. Maybe I should talk to toddlers next. They usually make me feel pretty good about humanity.

Michael Salamone

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