We are in the midst of a generation gap that is even more acute than the one that emerged during the turbulent 1960s. The New Hampshire Democratic Primary left no room for doubt. Eighty-three percent of Millennials are unwilling to accept the status quo. They seek revolutionary change.
Today's generation gap differs from the '60s counterculture. In the previous era, many Boomers rejected the material values of their parents. The current generational divide, however, does not entail significant differences on substantive policy.
Bernie Sanders contends that our current oligarchic political economy is rigged to favor the wealthy few. A poll conducted last year revealed that 94 percent of all voters in eight swing states agreed. That same poll showed that 70 percent of voters want to hold Wall Street accountable and expand Social Security. A Kaiser Health poll revealed that 81 percent of Democrats support Sanders's proposed single-payer healthcare system. Similarly, 82% of all Americans support Sanders's proposal for massive investments in infrastructure improvement; 78 percent believeCitizens United should be overturned.
Unfortunately, over the past half-century, U.S. elections have rarely been decided on the basis of substantive policy. Instead, we've experienced what Prof. Noam Chomsky, in Failed States(2006), described as the "democracy deficit"—the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected "representatives." Chomsky attributed the "democracy deficit" to the manner in which "elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population, freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people."
Six corporations control 90 percent of our media. They're the principal beneficiaries of the flood of political advertising monies unleashed by Citizen's United. It is, thus, understandable that they would seek to marginalize any candidate who threatens their bottom line.
The true source of today's generation gap can be found in information technology: 89% of those 65 and older get most of their election news from television. Young adults rely heavily on the Internet for political news.
The process began last April. The Washington Post greeted the Vermont senator's campaign announcement with a dismissive headline: "Bernie Sanders isn't going to be president. That's not the point." This was followed by a media blackout. It was if Sanders were Lord Voldemort, the candidate who must not be named. Last December, at the same time that a poll revealed that Sanders would demolish the Republican frontrunner 51-38 in a head-to-head matchup, ABC World News devoted 81 minutes to Donald Trump and approximately 20 seconds to Sanders.
The true source of today's generation gap can be found in information technology. According to the Pew Research Center, "89% of those 65 and older get most of their election news from television." This sharply contrasts with the large number of young adults, who rely heavily on the Internet for political news.
The significance of this dichotomy extends beyond the outcome of the 2016 election. Over time, the corporate-owned mainstream media could lose its ability to manipulate public opinion.
Public access to alternative media predates the Internet. During the 1960s this included academia, an underground press, and listener-sponsored programs, like Pacifica Radio. The latter has undergone significant growth. Had my former colleague Brad Friedman, host of KPFK's Monday-Friday BradCast, operated during the 1960s, his program would only have been available to listeners in Los Angeles during the allocated hour. The BradCast can now be heard on stations in other states. More broadly, via multiple apps, like iTunes and Stitcher, the program is available over diverse outlets, such as Indie Media Weekly and Netroots Nation. Amy Goodman's renowned Democracy Now! has an exponentially greater reach. It can be seen on PBS and hundreds of TV and radio outlets.
Importantly, all alternative and foreign media, both print and broadcast, are but a computer click away at any hour of any day or night. Mainstream press, like The New York Times, publish online, but the use of pay walls often redirects Internet users to alternative sources of political news.
The generation gap is a gap in perceptions. It's as if mainstream media pundits and Internet users reside on different planets. This was reflected immediately after the first Democratic Presidential Debate. Pundits "unanimously" said that Hillary Clinton "cleaned house." Focus groups and every online poll were also unanimous: Bernie Sanders had been the clear winner. The gap would be repeated during every ensuing debate. For example, a according to a Time online poll, Sanders won the 5th Democratic Debate by as vote of 86% to 14%.
Within the political sphere, the interactive nature of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and variable social media skills are of manifest importance. Older Clinton Twitter followers are often outmatched by Millennial Sanders followers, who respond to talking points with links to well-sourced articles and videos. One Twitter user, @JeanneteJing, utilizing her own YouTube channel, constructed a detailed catalogue that links to politically powerful videos and still photos. These expose Clinton's duplicity, ethical lapses, bankruptcy law betrayal and her ties to corporate wealth and power.
Sanders taught the youth who occupied Wall Street that they must now occupy electoral politics. When it came to media, Millennials were already three steps ahead of the 74-year old "democratic socialist." Win or lose in 2016, "the times they are a changin'."
Veterans for Bernie