March 26, 2018

The young have done it before

Jon Grinspan, NY Times -  When young African-Americans in Philadelphia in 1838 fought to keep black Pennsylvanians’ right to vote, they had to justify themselves even to their own community. Dismissed as “inexperienced, hasty, immature” by their elders, young black Philadelphians published newspaper statements directed at the city’s black elite, announcing “we will not be put down.”

... In the final years of the 19th century, a sudden burst of young people demanded new issues — their issues. Tired of, as one Coloradan put it, “rotten old hulks who monopolize the offices and dwell upon the past,” a generation of young men and women denounced their leaders and with them, partisanship. They demanded political reform, labor reform and social reform, and declared that they would withhold their votes from any party that didn’t respond. “The ratio of party feeling and self-interest is rapidly changing,” declared one sharp-tongued New Yorker in 1898, adding that “the younger generation hates both parties equally.”

... In the new century, young people’s “self interest” helped kill extreme polarization by forcing both parties to pursue the same set of demands. Youthful independent voters emerged as a decisive third force, with just enough influence to swing close elections. Politicians scrambled after them, beginning the Progressive Era, passing laws protecting workers, cleaning up cities and championing the young.

Women played a key role in this shift. Because they could not vote, they were less corrupted by partisanship. Women in their 20s worked to refocus American public life toward social concerns. They built schools — nearly one a day between 1890 and 1920 — and fought child labor.
Robert Reich -Yes, and also 1968 when young people went "Clean for Gene" McCarthy to end the Vietnam War, Freedom Summer 1964 when they risked their lives to register voters, and the “Children’s Crusade” of 1963, to fight segregation.

Sam Smith -  In February 1960, four black college students had sat down at a white-only Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were sit-ins in fifteen cities in five southern states and within two months they had spread to fifty four cities in nine states. In April the leaders of these protests had come together, heard a moving sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. and formed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

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