Can the New Republicans Live up to the Hype?

James Di Palma-Grisi, Columnist

The Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells of the Tea Party are dogmatic and simplistic candidates parroting the same talking points that, by even the admission of Alan Greenspan, will not work in our current economic climate.

So what will happen once these people (or, perhaps except in the cases of Angle and O’Donnell) are elected? We see what happened to Scott Brown — he compromised his conservative principles to do something popular with liberal Massachusetts voters, and his support dropped sharply.

Seeing this example (and being from areas far less liberal than Massachusetts, in most cases), the other Tea Party candidates probably will not take this route. Instead, they either will stick to their conservative principles (and become regular Republicans) or will take a free-wheeling, anti-lobbyist approach and find themselves without funding or backing at all.

That is to say, while they are conservative, they may or may not represent the elite interests that funded their campaigns and organizations. If they don’t, they will be marginalized candidates in the next election cycle, and if they do, they will lose the credibility they had with their constituency. Crucially, the latter only will happen if the voters find out where the money is coming from—something that will be quite clear once the votes on key provisions in bills, or the attachment of earmarks, are made public.

In Congress, in other words, there can be no hiding behind opaque organizations—the Tea Party will be on record, and their ideological purity will be brought into question the same way Scott Brown’s integrity was called into question when he voted liberal on the financial reform bill.

But, stopping Obama’s agenda may be the real purpose behind the Tea Party, and it can almost certainly accomplish that feat.

Now the question for us: what will we do about it? Does Generation Y have a stake in the President’s agenda, or does it have more of an interest in hearing that it’s capable of doing great things?

Gen Y certainly has lost interest, for the most part, in the elections by having turned out in disappointingly low numbers in the 2010 Midterm Election. It has, instead, turned back to pop music and all the other things youthful. Suffice to say it is no longer as politically active as it once was, and is by several metrics horribly narcissistic.

So there is a danger here. This generation could be manipulated rightward by the same promises of power and purity that Candidate Obama offered them in 2008. All that is needed is a potent and communicative leader. Being the Right, there is not much there for young people, and finding a youthful leader would be as easy as finding a natural head of hair at the Republican National Convention–it is the party of the elderly and the established, those who think the world is just fine as it is.

Whether this danger is benign or not remains to be seen. That is to say, whether Gen Y is pulled rightward in large numbers, numbers large enough to impact an election or as an afterthought (which seems likely if they continue to only turnout as much as they did in 2010) has not been determined yet. But surely this is not the only point of entry for Gen Y–there must be strings to pull other than narcissism. Such is the task of political analysts and campaign managers.

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Narcissus Bows, but Only to See Himself

James Di Palma-Grisi, Columnist

After reading a few articles about Gen Y and the workplace, I have come to the conclusion that the system of beliefs Gen Y seems to have is reminiscent of a single factor: elevated expectations. Like a banker in heat, the entire Generation seems to believe itself important, perhaps to a narcissistic degree, and capable of enacting dramatic change on the workforce.

An NPR article entitled “It’s up to you, New York (And Job Growth)” tells the story of Tsivia Finman, a 24-year-old college graduate with a life-threatening illness and without health insurance, looking for a job in New York. In January 2009, Finman moved to New York with two degrees, two grand and one plan: live in New York City looking for a job until there is only enough money left to buy a one-way flight back to Michigan.

“You always think, ‘I’ll find that job, I’ll find that job,’ which is why I didn’t apply for Medicaid earlier,” she explains. “It’s like something is gonna come along, I’ll have that work, but you can not do what I’m doing. It’s playing with fire, and it’s scary. It’s scary.”

As we learn from the article, Finman eventually applies for Medicaid, accepting the fact that her own health is more important than her fierce desire to believe things will turn out well for her. Medicaid seems to be a denouement of sorts, her admission that the world will not bend to her call and that she must rely on others for her own safety and health. But, crucially, she shows no signs of remorse; she knows full well that you “can not do what [she’s] doing,” and yet she continues to play with fire.

Call me crazy, but if I knew something wasn’t working, I would return well in advance of my money running out completely. I may sound like a miniature Andy Rooney, but Finman’s situation strikes me with a cyclical quality. We’ve heard the mythic American Dream stories of ages past, of foreigners coming to America believing that the streets are paved with gold only to immigrate to a country without mobility. We’ve heard these stories, and we know their falsities. But it seems that we, for all our talk of breaking the mold and improving everything, are falling into the same traps as our forebears, and are every bit as unaware.

Take Barack Obama for instance. We all thought he would bring a generational uprising against the traditional moralities surrounding Washington and business in the United States. We believed he would end wars, change the way the country saw itself and the way it was perceived abroad. What does that idealism remind you of? The student groups of the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s, perhaps? It is possible that someone could trace that attitude back to the revolutions of early modern Europe or the American Revolution. Of course, Obama—with Congress—passed several pieces of landmark legislation, but the shining future that was promised (I don’t care how many “lowerings of expectation” there were, the promises rang visionary for many listening) never materialized. But then, it never does. Nor should it be expected for the workplace.

And yet, there is Tsivia Finman (and probably thousands, maybe millions, more like her), bringing us, however abruptly, to narcissism. In the 1950s, 12 percent of teenagers queried thought of themselves as important. By the late 1980s, that number had risen to 80 percent. There is so much talk of Generation Y’s (and Obama’s) pragmatic idealism, an ideology allowing us simultaneously to work for the ideal and to achieve the best somehow rationally. Perhaps narcissism really ought to be added to the equation.