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Last month, Brazil’s six million teenaged voters (the voting age there is 16) turned out heavily for the liberal democracy candidate Luiz “Lula” da Silva over the far-Right president Jair Bolsonaro, providing Lula’s bare margin of victory. In the United States’ midterm elections, teenaged voters enabled Democrats’ wins in Nevada (where young voters voted Democratic by 31 points) and runoff advance in Georgia (41 points) that allowed Democrats to hold the Senate.

Suddenly, liberals love young voters. “Generation Z is saving America,” gushed MSNBC. “Youth voter turnout singlehandedly prevented the heavily anticipated ‘red wave,’” The Hill declared. “…Gen Z voters have serious power,” The Atlantic beamed.

Liberals’ huzzahs for young people sound bizarre after years of anti-youth hate speech. Commentaries in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, major newspapers and broadcast outlets, and progressive websites incessantly trashed young people as an age group and generation as brain-impaired, reckless, gadget-corrupted, mentally disturbed, narcissistic, bullying, criminal, racist, and even brutal killers.

Consider just one case and network after last spring’s Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings by two 18-year-olds. Liberal MSNBC commentators vilified the entire younger generation in days of tirades.

“Young people,” declared pundit Charles Booker, perpetrate “all” racist shootings. “Young people” are impressionable, bored, violent, and ever-ready to follow hateful imprecations, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism’s Brian Levin stated. Young people have unconnected brains and rash impulses, FBI profiler Katherine Schweit opined, egged on by MSNBC’s Alex Witt. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell muttered “18-year-old… 18-year-old… 18-year-old” over and over as vile profanities. Columnist Richard Stengel joined the youth-blaming parade as guests and hosts praised their “insights” and offered no pushback even for blatant falsehoods.

Mass shootings by older gunmen, some involving hate motives, failed to cool the furious anti-youth rhetoric across a “liberal media” that boast of tolerance, fairness, and science. Fact and context meant nothing. That, according to the FBI and Centers for Disease Control, grownups age 35 and older commit most mass shootings; three-fourths of gun-murdered young children are shot by over-25 adults; teenagers are far less likely to commit suicide or overdose on drugs and alcohol than their middle-aged parents; an 18 year-old is less likely crime-prone than a 40 year-old, etc., are crucial contexts no one mentioned.

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Commentators abuse older ages’ media and institutional privileges to hurl invectives at young people that would bring shamings and firings if aimed at any other group. Moderate Republican Tim Miller suggested Democrats run inflammatory campaign ads demonizing 18-year-olds. Michelle Obama ridiculed young people as “knuckleheads.” Ex-president Barack Obama said young people do “stupid things” (presumably not including twice saving his presidency from older voters).

The Right has good reason to fear young people as political nemeses. Conservatives argue young people are too ignorant about the real world to vote (the same argument made against women’s suffrage). Liberal hostility, however, is baffling. Liberals in the United States, Brazil, and globally claim right-wing forces threaten democracy. If true, the smug, irrational anti-youth prejudices so many progressives harbor jeopardize democratic freedoms.

Many invoke the debunked claim that “science” shows young people’s brains lack developed reasoning. However, the fMRI brain scans underlying that “science” have proven unreliable and unreplicable, with thousands of studies withdrawn. Where young people do have serious problems, severe poverty and household abuses are the culprits, not brain miswiring. Liberals abandon the undeveloped-cerebral-cortex argument when they need supposedly brain-deficient young people to overrule older voters, whose purportedly “developed” cerebral cortexes inexplicably impel them to support far-Right Republicans.

Unreasoning contempt toward youth is preventing liberals from availing a potent electoral reform: extending the voting age to 16, or even younger. If the voting age were 16, Democrats almost certainly would have won a half-dozen razor-thin congressional contests and held the House of Representatives. Yet, when Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley proposed voting at 16, 93 House Democrats inexplicably voted no (including Rep. Katie Porter, whose down-to-the-wire win would have benefited from more young voters). Overwhelmingly Democratic electorates narrowly defeated vote-at-16 proposals in San Francisco.

Research shows teenaged voters are not rash, celebrity-worshipping ignoramuses, but take their franchise seriously and typically uphold liberal democracy. In Austria, where the voting age is 16, young women who vote center-Left and young men center-Right are a centrist force in a county threatened by neo-Nazis. Scotland’s 16-17-year-old voters proved a reasoned, independent electorate amid turbulent independence politics.

Beyond Democrats’ self-interest lies simple justice. Aging generations’ inability to govern a diverse, changing America is forcing environmental catastrophe, massive debt, and severe social disruption on young and future America. Young people deserve more power to fight back.