There was a lot of hubbub about "shifts" in the political ideologies of Democrats and Republicans this year. The election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City was hailed as a victory for progressives - an emergence of a "New New Left" - and along with the rising star of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), it showed that Democrats could become even more "left" in the future. On the right, the Republicans are still struggling to find a new identity after their big loss in 2012, with many in the party, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), saying the GOP needs to be more libertarian to increase their national popularity, especially with the emerging youth vote.
I believe both of these sentiments are correct and important, and it will be that "youth vote" - the millennial generation - that will fulfill these political maneuverings. As many analysts have already noted, the millennial generation is already more libertarian and/or progressive than previous generations, and we are not shy about it. Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) enjoyed many young libertarians' support during his presidential runs in 2008 and 2012, and young people on the left flocked towards Obama as he was always billed as the more "progressive" candidate. I think we've all seen how that has worked out.
It's likely that liberals' disappointment with Obama is driving this progressive surge, in the same way conservatives upset with the wars and deficits of the Bush/Cheney years drove the libertarian surge on the right. As millennials slowly become 75 percent of the population by 2020, we will likely continue these trends. The post-9/11 world that my generation has grown up in has been fraught with wars on terror, wars on drugs, wars on gays and even wars on civil liberties, combined with a ballooning national debt that we all will inherit. That's why so many of us admired politicians like Paul and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and now, thankfully, we have more lawmakers on both sides just like them.
Because of these new libertarians and progressives in Congress, in 2013 we saw the start of some policy reforms in areas where political adversaries could agree to work together:
1. No More Unnecessary War
The "war on war" had a big victory this year when the public outcry over a potential invasion of Syria (due to its alleged use of chemical weapons) caused the Obama Administration to first seek Congressional approval for military action, and when it became clear that a bipartisan majority would not support it, the Obama Administration took more diplomatic means. This is an area where the ol' anti-war-hippie-left was able to work with newfound allies in the anti-war-libertarian-right, a trend that will only continue as millennials and most Americans grow more war-weary in the 21st century.
2. Respect Civil Liberties
With Edward Snowden's revelations on government spying this past year, the war on our civil liberties - that began with Bush/Cheney and continued with Obama - finally got the attention from Congress it deserved. All the vocal, pro-civil liberty Democrats from the Bush years joined the new libertarian-leaning Republican members of Congress (led by Amash) in a movement to defund the NSA this summer with an invigorating bipartisan debate on the House floor. The amendment only failed by twelve votes. Look for more of the same from these Representatives in 2014, along with bipartisan efforts from Rand Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the Senate, where Wyden was one of Paul's key progressive allies during his famous anti-drone filibuster earlier this year. Millennials like our privacy (we're already open enough on the Internet) and don't want to end up in a world like the one we read about in 1984. Snowden, at 30 years old, clearly agrees with us.
3. End the Failed War on Drugs
In addition to Washington and Colorado fully legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, many other states across the country reformed drug laws in 2013. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for mandatory minimum drug sentences to be cut, and Rand Paul and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) hilarious agreed on Twitter last week to continue work on drug law reforms in 2014. So look for more changes on this in the future, as it's an issue where progressives and libertarians can agree again. Most millennials also feel the War on Drugs has been a failure and that adults should be allowed to use marijuana responsibly if they choose.
4. Support Gay Rights
When The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be unconstitutional this year and more Republican lawmakers changed their stance on gay marriage, it became clear that gay rights were here to stay. As progressives have supported this issue for years, people should know that libertarians want all Americans to have their personal freedom, often asking, "Why is government involved with defining marriage at all?" Millennials are surrounded by an increasing amount of openly gay peers and friends alike, so we are a-OK with the gays and feel everyone else should be, too. The bigotry of the past against gays, fueled by ironic religious hate, will continue to dissipate as millennials get older.
5. Reduce the National Debt and Increase Federal Reserve Transparency
As credit card and student loan debts reached new highs in 2013, our national debt also spilled over the $17 trillion mark in October. This is all debt that millennials will inherit, and don't think we don't know it. Look for bipartisan efforts in the future for relieving more student debt and finding ways to reduce the federal deficit, whether it be through libertarian cuts to the federal budget or progressive tax increases on the rich, something even rich people like Warren Buffet actually support. In addition to this, as bipartisan support for auditing the Federal Reserve increased in 2012 with a passage of a bill in the House, progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have joined libertarians like Rand Paul to pass similar legislation in the Senate. Expect millennials on both sides to learn more about the Fed, monetary policy and how to better control our economic future soon.
As you can see, issues like these transcend party lines. In 2013, it took progressives and libertarians working together to start some positive changes in these areas, with their only opposition often being the Washington establishment. I hope we'll see more of the same in the coming year and beyond. After all, if millennials don't have a progressive/libertarian presidential candidate to vote and volunteer for in 2016, you can be sure we'll run one of our own down the line. See you all in 2020!