How the World Works: An Open Letter to Millennials Defending Political Pragmatism

Dear millennials, 

You're spoiled.  

Now, I know what you're thinking:  here comes another holier-than-thou article about how your generation is lazy, naive, unprepared or any combination of the three.  An article about how you'd rather sit down for a meal and take a picture of your food than engage in meaningful dinnertime discussion.  An article about how you'd rather record a video on your phone than take in the true experience of an event.  An article about how you were raised to feel good about yourselves no matter what making you part of the "everybody gets a trophy" generation.  An article about how you'd rather live at home with your parents than struggle to make it on your own.  And an article about how your generation lacks empathy and only cares about themselves.  

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Because fellow millennials, I am one of you.  I have seen how painting our generation in these broad strokes doesn't help to understand who we are or what drives us as human beings.  As useful as it might be for social scientists to make these glossy generalizations, they don't truly encapsulate us.  Yes, there are those of us who are overly excited to share pictures of social media.  Yes, there are those of us who attend a live concert and videotape the whole thing on our phone.  Yes, there are those of us who feel that competition can negatively impact someone's sense of self-worth.  Yes, there are those of us who opt for extra time at home before venturing out into the real world.  And yes, there are those of us who are self-centered and who lack the ability to put ourselves in other people's shoes.  

But these people make up a small faction of who we are.  Most of us fall somewhere in between a broad spectrum of these generalizations.  Some of us may occasionally take a picture or a video at a concert but won't post pictures of our food.  Others of us may be against the idea that everyone deserves a trophy but may very well support the fight for equal rights and marriage equality.  There is no "typical" millennial despite what the tabloids and magazines on newsstands might tell you.  And since there is no typical millennial, it's not fair to categorize the entire generation in one sweeping statement like the one I have made.  

Except in my case, the statement I made was entirely accurate.  

Because my statement in question represents a different kind of privilege.  I know how hard millennials work; I see it every single day.  We're a generation who entered the workforce during the worst recession in 80 years.  We've seen a decade or more of flat wages.  The cost of college continues to rise and so not only are we getting paid less but we're also paying more on our student loans.  The cost of buying a house is steadily rising so not only are we forced to rent but in many cases we're forced to move back in with our parents as that is the only way to accrue some savings.  Even those who have overcome all these challenges and are able to secure enough financial stability to find work, slowly pay off student loans, and purchase a house are then saddled with the high cost of childcare.  Despite all these challenges, the eldest batch of millennials are currently succeeding and are beginning the journey of raising their own families throughout America.  

So the idea of being spoiled does not have to do with the often-critiqued millennial work ethic but rather the political ideal that everything comes easy.  You see, our generation is spoiled because for the past seven years, we've had a president whose grace and intelligence have been unparalleled in the last half-century.  A man whose presidency has been its own revolution, who consistently fought income equality,  who has helped to bring the country together despite its obvious divisions, and who has done all this in spite of unprecedented obstruction.  This is a man who did all this, who accomplished so much and received so little credit, that he now jokingly compares himself to Golden State Warriors interim basketball coach Luke Walton, in the sense that like Walton, our president defied the critics, amassed an impressive record, and doesn't get any credit.  

Saying Barack Obama has an impressive record is an understatement.  One of the few people to actually acknowledge his successes is Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who called Obama one of the most consequential presidents in our nation's history.  Truer words have never been spoken as even a simple laundry list of the President's accomplishments is staggering:  The Stimulus Bill to help stave off the second Great Depression, saving the auto industry, the Affordable Care Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, agreeing to the new START Treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons, ending the war in Iraq, winding down the war in Afghanistan, taking out Osama Bin Laden, negotiating the Iran Deal, and opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba among other things.  All of these acts were completed with a hostile Congress and an opposition party that openly wanted to see the President fail rather than see the American people succeed.

So yes, it's safe to say we have been spoiled over the past seven years.  

Because whether we see it directly in our lives or not, the country has without question improved since Barack Obama took office.  Unemployment is half of what it was when he started.  We've added 14 million private sector jobs.  The stock market has doubled.  Our gay brothers and sisters can finally legally marry who they love.  We can no longer be denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition and we now have affordable health care options for those of us between jobs or careers.  Our move toward energy independence has not only created tens of thousands of jobs in the field but has also led to near-record low gas prices.  And, for the first time we're finally able to publicly acknowledge and discuss difficult issues like the failed war on drugs, mass incarceration, white privilege, and systemic racism in this country.

The thing about being president is that you have to make decisions knowing full well that what the full effects of what you are implementing may not be felt for a decade or longer.  It's all about playing the long-game.  Truth be told, the reason that Democrats lost the House in 2010 is that the American people didn't realize that a full-scale economic recovery couldn't be achieved in less than two years.  The American people also didn't realize that transformation health care reform that would help to ensure that 90% of our population had health insurance for the first time might get off to a rough start with some computer software glitches.  Even now, President Obama is making executive decisions based on an outcome well into the future.  He knows, for instance, that a nuclear deal with Iran make enrage his political opponents in 2016, but it very well could improve relations with the younger Iranian generation which would have a tremendous impact in the world by 2036.  Those are the kind of things you have to foresee as president.  

As we move toward an election in November, the American people need a candidate who is able to not only build upon this progress but also has the experience and foresight to realize that progress takes time and that revolutions don't occur overnight.  The American people need someone who will not uproot the success of the Obama administration but will instead build upon and improve them.  The American people need someone well-versed in economic theory and who is willing to both listen to and consider the recommendations of a room full of experts before jumping to conclusions.  The American people need someone with a realistic expectation of what the next president will be able to accomplish with a divided government and another four years of Republican obstruction.  And the American people need someone who has seen firsthand just how Barack Obama has been able to accomplish so much with so many dead set on wanting him to fail.  

The American people have this candidate in Hillary Clinton.  

And so, fellow millennials, I hereby ask you to consider all that I have said.  If you honestly believe that our country is better off than it was seven years ago, then wouldn't you want our country to continue that improvement?  Wouldn't you want our insured levels to get closer to 100% rather than dismantling the Affordable Care Act and starting all over again?  Wouldn't you want a president to push for a $12 minimum wage with that amount slowly increasing because that president has listened to experts and knows that $12 is a lot different in Mississippi than it is in California?  Wouldn't you want a president who was in the Situation Room when Osama Bin Laden was captured and who was an integral part of bringing Iran to the negotiating table?  And wouldn't you want a president who has dealt with Republican smears for twenty-five years, who endured an 11-hour hearing that was pure political theater, who is being attacked this election cycle by Karl Rove, and who despite all these things is still able to rise above it all and stand before you with dignity and grace?  

Look, I get the appeal of Bernie Sanders.  I really do.  But despite how easy Barack Obama has made it look, he truly has worked harder than any president in modern history.  The Democratic candidate who succeeds President Obama will have to work as hard, if not harder, to deal with Republican obstruction.  Their agenda will be fought tooth and nail.  They will become America's Most Wanted in the land of Fox News.  Every executive action they take will be questioned by Republicans on whether or not it is constitutional.  Every bipartisan bill they sign will be seen as selling out by a segment of the progressive left.  They will appoint up to three Supreme Court justices and these justices will shape our country for a generation on issues like abortion, immigration, voting rights, and big money in politics.  They will enter the White House on January 20th with a huge bullseye on their back that will stay there from that date until the time they leave office.  

Being pragmatic is not sexy.  It doesn't get all the headlines.  It doesn't endear you to the most progressive members of your party.  Nobody applauds you when you make incremental gains.  But it gets the job done.  Barack Obama has shown over the past seven years that being a political pragmatist is exactly what America needs in a president in the 21st century.  Being a pragmatist is how you get results and implement policies that will positively impact the country for a generation to come.  Being a pragmatist is how you win over your harshest critics so that they eventually are forced to admit that your presidency has been an overwhelming success.  Being a pragmatist is how you simultaneously upset both the left for not being progressive enough and the right for being too progressive.  And being a pragmatist is the only way to successfully govern in today's hyper-partisan world of American politics.  

So millennials, I leave you with this:  What kind of a world do you want for your young children?  Do you want a world where we get closer to universal health care without upending the current system?  Do you want a world where wages slowly rise across the country and accelerate in areas with higher costs of living?  Do you want a world where our commander-in-chief has an unparalleled knowledge of foreign affairs as well as the national security?  Do you want a world where our president can handle not only the stress of the job but also the constant attacks from the opposition?  And do you want a world where your young son or daughter can grow up believing they can be president, regardless of the color of their skin or their gender?  

You and I both know, deep down in our hearts, that there is only one candidate in this race who can create that world.  

Respectfully, 

Trevor LaFauci



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