We’ll be spared Mr. Nocera’s water carrying for big oil for a while since he’s on book leave. Today Mr. Blow considers “The Self(ie) Generation” and says we seem to be experiencing a wave of liberal-minded detach-ees, a generation in which institutions are subordinate to the individual. Ms. Collins, in “Cloudy and Cold,” says two more abortion clinics were forced to close in Texas, and the state is moving on to the next phase of pressuring clinics. Here’s Mr. Blow:
A fascinating new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that millennials (defined by Pew as Americans ages 18 to 33) are drifting away from traditional institutions — political, religious and cultural.
Before we make a value judgment about these changes, let’s lay them out and understand how fundamentally they will transform the structure of American society and our conception of societal norms.
According to the survey and to Pew’s analysis of it:
■ “Half of millennials now describe themselves as political independents and 29 percent are not affiliated with any religion — numbers that are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the last quarter-century.”
■ “Millennials are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same age.”
■ “Just 26 percent of millennials are married. When they were the age that millennials are now, 36 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of the members of the silent generation were married.”
■ “Asked a longstanding social science survey question, ‘Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,’ just 19 percent of millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31 percent of Gen Xers, 37 percent of silents and 40 percent of boomers.”
■ Millennials “are ‘digital natives’ — the only generation for which” the Internet, mobile technology and social media “are not something they’ve had to adapt to.”
Younger people in general are less likely to say that they are patriotic or religious, but the gap between millennials and Generation Xers is greater than the gap between most other generations.
Millennials also are far more likely than other generations to say they are supporters of gay rights.
Although half of millennials describe themselves as independent, 57 percent say their views on social issues “have become more liberal” over the course of their lives. This is in direct opposition to older generations, who, Pew says, have about half or more of the group saying their social views “have become more conservative.” One might argue that millennials simply haven’t lived long enough to hit the triggers that might engender more conservatism — marriage, families, mortgages — but it could just as well be that this group of young people is fundamentally different.
Part of the political issue is, again, that millennials seem to shun institutions. Only about a third of them said there was a “great deal of difference” between the Republican and Democratic Parties. Still, Republicans have the most to worry about with this group. As the survey puts it: “Even so, this generation stood out in the past two presidential elections as strikingly Democratic. According to national exit polls, the young-old partisan voting gaps in 2008 and 2012 were among the largest in the modern era, with millennials far more supportive than older generations of Barack Obama.”
Ten years ago, 24 percent of millennials identified as Republicans, but that number has steadily dropped and now stands at a paltry 17 percent. By contrast, the percent identifying as Democrats over the period fell only from 30 percent to 27 percent.
Furthermore, millennials were the sole generation in which a majority supported bigger government with more services as opposed to smaller government with fewer services. And although most millennials, like most people in older generations, disapproved of the new health care law, millennials were the only generation in which a majority said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure universal health care coverage.
Part of this divergence results from the fact that millennials are more racially diverse than any other generation, with 43 percent of Americans in this age group nonwhite. When you look just at white millennials, a majority still support smaller government and reject the notion that it’s the government’s job to ensure universal health care.
If there is an opening for Republicans, it is here: Millennials’ views on abortion and gun rights aren’t much dissimilar from that of other generations, and millennials are far less likely to say they are environmentalists.
All in all, we seem to be experiencing a wave of liberal-minded detach-ees, a generation in which institutions are subordinate to the individual and social networks are digitally generated rather than interpersonally accrued.
This is not only the generation of the self; it’s the generation of the selfie.
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
People, have you noticed that the news has been really depressing lately? These are the times when you come to understand why there’s so much interest in watching kitten videos. Do you think it’s the weather?
Consider Texas, where two more abortion clinics were forced to close this week. If the courts don’t intervene, by the end of the year Texas may be down to six places where a woman can go to end a pregnancy. That’s in a state of 268,000 square miles, with 26 million people.
“I felt like I was having a funeral,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which ran the clinics. She and her staff and supporters held a vigil at the shuttered office in McAllen, a very poor town in the Rio Grande Valley. They read profiles of the women the clinic had served. Miller read one of a woman in her 40s, who had three children, two grandchildren and a strong conviction that she could not handle another birth.
The state now requires that any doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital. Few of them do, and it’s not medically necessary. Trying to comply, Miller contacted more than 30 doctors who had referred patients to her clinic and asked them for help — the applications needed to be co-signed by someone who already had admitting privileges. Only one agreed. Then, when Miller asked the hospital for an application for the doctor to sign, the management refused to give her one.
Texas is leading the pack on this crusade, but other states are right behind it, restrained only by legal challenges. If Mississippi’s admitting privileges law is upheld, the state’s last abortion clinic will be closed. Alabama and Wisconsin are in the same situation; if their laws are upheld, they would be down to two clinics each.
Meanwhile, Texas is moving on to Step 2. As of September, it will require the clinics, which perform only simple early-term abortions, to have all the equipment, space and special air and water filters necessary to do a surgical procedure like a hip transplant. Miller determined the cost of complying would be in the neighborhood of $3 million per clinic.
There’s been a vague attempt to cloak all these new laws as health care imperatives, but, really, the cover is pretty thin. During the debate on the Texas bill, State Senator Dan Patrick told his colleagues to ask themselves: “How would God vote tonight if he were here?”
I am mentioning Patrick because this week he came in first for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, campaigning as “a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.” He has also been desperately busy ginning up anti-immigration sentiment; this is the guy who claimed illegal immigrants were threatening Texas with “third world diseases” like leprosy. The lieutenant governor, by the way, is possibly the most powerful public official in the state.
Well, turnout for the primaries was very low. It was freezing down there on Tuesday. Once again, we leap at a chance to blame the weather.
The social right has been waving the banner of religious freedom lately. What that generally means is the right to impose one’s theology on other people. Particularly, it seems, when sex is involved.
For instance, the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide, in its next big Obamacare case, whether the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds. Hobby Lobby actually already covers its employees’ birth control pills. Its owners just object to a few things, like intrauterine devices, because they have religious convictions against preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Scientists disagree that’s what an IUD does, but what the heck? It’s their theology.
The war on abortion is often grounded in a simple aversion to sex that does not lead to procreation. If that wasn’t the case, Texas would be making a major-league effort to end its standing as one of the nation’s teen pregnancy capitals by giving kids the best and most effective sex education programs in the country.
That isn’t happening. “By and large, it’s not getting better,” said Susan Tortolero of the University of Texas, an expert in sex education. (This gives me an opportunity to recall one lesson that required the teacher to demonstrate the alleged inability of condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases by constructing an 18-foot-long model of “Speedy the Sperm” and dragging it around the classroom.)
Maybe someday we can all come together and create a public space where kids are raised to make responsible decisions about their sex lives. Where every woman has access to help with family planning, even if they’re poor and live in remote rural areas. Where early abortions are available when they’re needed but abortions after the first trimester are extremely rare. After all, if you poke the public, you’ll find that’s where the majority’s preference already dwells.
Or, at least, maybe it will get warm and sunny.
The men (and trust me, it’s men) who have decided they’d rather send women to back alleys to risk infection and death (I remember the old days) will wind up answering to God. And I think they’ll be surprised…