My father is socially liberal. Recently I asked him to rank the presidents during his lifetime and was surprised by his thoughts, mostly by how he described Ronald Reagan. Dad is aware of the ins and outs of the economy, which is what many cite as one of Reagan’s greatest strengths, and while he didn’t care for Reagan as a person, he doesn’t have this strong distaste for him that I and many younger liberals do.
These conflicting viewpoints could be attributed to countless things, but two hold the most weight to me. Being born in the age of the internet, it is painstakingly easy to research things, with credible sources, and learn of things we didn’t live through. I needed to research Ronald Reagan to form an opinion on him, so I absorbed a lot of information that can be easily forgotten or never learned in the first place without a Google search if you experienced it firsthand. People in the generations before us couldn’t do this type of research as they didn’t have it at the ready. The other line of thinking is that we don’t research things that we lived through because we have that firsthand experience. In 30 years am I likely to research the life and policies of Donald Trump? No. Because I lived through his presidency and already have my opinions of him. My father likely hasn’t researched Ronald Reagan since he was a teenager in the 80’s; there’s no reason for him to.
This isn’t the first conversation we’ve had where there was a sense of generational disconnect in terms of differing perceptions of reality, and as two passionate people it certainly won’t be the last. In early 2020, I told my dad that I fully expected the precedent set by Roe v. Wade to be overturned and he, a smart man with an eye for patterns in the world, told me that I shouldn’t waste my time worrying about that because there was a low chance of it happening. Meanwhile, I shared these sentiments with my close friend who responded, “Oh yeah, if Republicans get the ninth seat on the Supreme Court, they’ll certainly take a stab at it.” If two college kids, not even old enough to buy a beer at the time, could predict this chain of events why was it so outlandish for someone with so much more life lived?
I was less than a year old when 9/11 happened. Many people on this campus weren’t alive at all. The War on Terror is what we’ve been accustomed to; an act of extremism followed by an extreme act of our own that is still going on 21 years later. The Republican party has been on a heel turn since Reagan’s presidency in attempt to develop an identity, and in doing so they have created a political climate that’s more polarized than it’s ever been. The older generations may be cynical, but they have faith in the system because for most of their lives it’s been run by two groups of people who behaved as if they were in the center of the political spectrum. That’s not the case anymore. Younger generations expect extreme outcomes because for most of our lives we’ve only experienced politics to the extreme. There are stark contrasts between viewpoints through the generations, and abridging these would help facilitate healthy dialogue.