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The Young, the Restless and Bernie

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/John Minchillo

A New York Times opinion column acquaints humanity with the injustice of forbidding the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds -- who, nevertheless, would gain the franchise once a budding movement to that end came to fruition and then would impose the superior wisdom of the young by handing the presidency, so we are entitled to infer, to Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The well-ripened alliance between various young folks and snowy-haired Sanders -- a 78-year-old heart attack victim going on age 5, to judge by his simplistic politics -- is hard to sort out. The truth seems to be that old-time political alignments -- e.g., Democratic populists against Republican country club types -- no longer hold. Nobody seems happy, not even the young, once famous for generally ignoring politics in behalf of more sensible activities, such as homecomings and the new car styles.

That would explain the Republican split over President Donald Trump as well as the defection of working-class Democrats to the Republican ticket. It would help explain -- though nothing can completely explain, amid breathtaking prosperity -- the progressive passion for robbing selected Peter to pay collective Paul.

Americans know what they want, politically speaking, whether or not they know why they want it or whether getting it would make them happier.

Well, it's odd. It did not used to be that way. Bernie and I both recall, as Joe Biden must also, the four-sided 1948 presidential election: Truman versus Dewey versus Thurmond versus Wallace. But that stuff was mostly our parents' affair. The Capitol and the White House, not to mention the Supreme Court building, seemed -- and were -- distant from us.

The media, I think -- evermore numerous, evermore talkative -- changed our minds, as did the growing number of initiatives overseen by those vested with power. The ordinary man or woman of politics, it becomes increasingly clear, is going to solve all your problems. You only have to identify which problems you want solved.

Faith in all these goings-on doubled or tripled. Now it's life itself. Which is why, Astra Taylor, social activist and author of the above-referenced New York Times opinion piece, argues, "Everything, it seems, is up for grabs ... A hoary establishment" -- thank you, ma'am, I would say, speaking as one of the hoares -- "hoards influence, curtailing young people's ability to effect change."

It makes you want to go on living to continue outnumbering for as long as possible and, let's hope, outvoting the Sanders contingent, determined as it seems to turn life inside out through taxing billionaires out of existence.

Sanders is flesh-and-blood proof that to have lived long is not necessarily to understand the rationale for age-related voting restrictions. Living long should entail the gift of looking around and weighing which ideas and policies make sense in the real world and which don't. Bernie, at 78, isn't on to it, but he hardly seems to notice. That's no argument for increasing the electoral heft of "the kids," as we used to call their forebears, the baby boomers, back when they, too, demanded the right to change America.

There used to be a virtue called patience. Rightly exercised, it took note of reality. Nobody knew everything, and certainly not off the bat -- the result of hearing a speech or taking part in a rally. Relax, take a deep breath; that was supposed to be the ticket. Look around; see how this idea or that one works out; don't embrace the first notion that pops into your head. It might be OK; it might not.

The Instant Gratification Society -- our own society -- wants everything now. This very minute. Whether it works or not. No wonder Bernie draws the young and the restless into his circle; good ol' Promise 'Em Anything Bernie, who -- has this thought struck his acolytes? --likely won't be around when the bill for "Medicare for All" is due. We all know many who will be. There is satisfaction, if only a little, in visualizing their awakening to the fraught understanding that patience might be the virtue the old jerks who formerly ran things said it was.

William Murchison is writing a book on moral reconstruction in the 21st century. His latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson."

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