Two Paths for Millennial Politics

Two Paths for Millennial Politics

The important issue today isn’t what the world has done to millennials. It’s what millennials are going to do next—and where they’ll look for leadership.

Pete Buttigieg speaks at a fundraiser in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2019. (Lorie Shaull)

When muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens wanted to catch a glimpse of the future in 1919, he went to Russia. When David Brooks had the same thought eight decades later, he went to Princeton.

As he explained in an essay for the Atlantic, published in spring 2001, Brooks arrived hoping to get a sense of “what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.” With a humble tone appropriate for a mere mortal welcoming his new overlords, Brooks depicted the ruling-class-in-training as a group of streamlined achievement machines. They went to sleep puzzling over math problems, dreamed up solutions as they rested, and were out of bed in time to meet their friends for breakfast at seven. The only problem with these students—Brooks dubbed them “Organization Kids”—was that they were too good, because nothing in their lives gave them a reason to rebel. After watching the Soviet Union collapse while they were in grade school, they had come of age during the longest economic boom in American history. At Princeton, future employers were lining up to offer them adventure, prestige, and gigantic paychecks. Society was making them a promise in the form of a dinner paid for by a Goldman Sachs recruiter. Brooks explained the terms of the contract this way: “There is a fundamental order to the universe, and it works. If you play by its rules and defer to its requirements, you will lead a pretty fantastic life.”Today, former students like the ones Brooks met in Princeton are, in fact, starting to run the country. Millennials have been a major presence in Silicon Valley for over a decade—hello, Facebook—and they are now taking over more of the institutions that dominate society. These Organization Kids had a straightforward road to mastery, especially if they graduated before the Great Recession.

For the rest of the generation, however, the promise of a pretty fantastic life has held up about as well as a glass of milk that’s been roasting in the sun since David Brooks was writing for the Atlantic. Instead of reveling in peace and prosperity, millennials loaded themselves up with unprecedented levels of student debt and graduated into the worst job market since the Great Depression. Then, Donald Trump was elected president—thanks, in good measure, to baby boomers voting decisively for him in 2016. So much for a fundamental order to the universe.

But that’s old news. The important issue today isn’t what the world has done to millennials. It’s what millennials are going to do next—and where they’ll look for leadership. Here, the split between the few who have mastered the system and everyone else becomes important, especially in politics.

The last decade of politics has provided two models for how to win over young people, but they point in fundamentally different directions. First there was Barack Obama, living proof that society was holding up its side of the meritocratic bargain. Put the right people in charge, Obama promised, and the system will work. But then came Bernie Sanders. When Obama turned thirty, he had just finished a year as the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. At the same age, Sanders was a part-time carpenter and freelance writer who spent his time pitching articles to obscure Vermont magazines. Yet millennials voted for Sanders over Hillary Clinton by even greater margins than they had supported Obama in 2008. And since Sanders’s run, more and more young people have started calling themselves socialists and voting for candidates who wouldn’t have made it past the first round of an interview at Goldman Sachs—candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Think about this for a while, and two questions present themselves. What are the ex-class presidents in the millennial wing of the political elite supposed to do with all this? And what are the rest of us supposed to do with them?

Let’s start by considering the first millennial to make a serious run for the presidency. If Brooks had visited Harvard instead of Princeton back in 2001, a professor might have put him in touch with an impressive first-year named Pete Buttigieg. Thanks to an avalanche of media coverage—in my memory, the articles all have titles like “Buttijudgment Day: Can a Thirty-Seven-Year-Old Political Phenomenon (and Piano-Playing Prodigy) Move from South Bend to the White House?”—you’re probably familiar with the outlines of Buttigieg’s biography: a child of Notre Dame professors, he excelled at Harvard, attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, did a stint at McKinsey, picked up a working knowledge of seven or so languages, has twice been elected mayor of his hometown of South Bend, came out of the closet after being deployed in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve, and is somewhere around third place in his precocious bid for the Democratic nomination. He’s become a human bumper sticker that liberals would love to slap on the back of their collective Volvo after the long and dispiriting years of Trump. He’s also the best clue we have about how the next generation of establishment politicians will adapt to the populist revolt that’s taking place against a system they have spent their life scrambling to climb.

In good meritocratic fashion, Buttigieg is supplementing his campaign for a new job with an application letter—or, as he would rather you think of it, a memoir. Buoyed by its author’s newfound celebrity, Shortest Way Home has broken into bestseller lists and received glowing reviews. But the person that Buttigieg describes in the book bears little resemblance to the candidate he’s pitching himself as on the campaign trail, and the speed with which he’s adapted is probably the most important thing you should know about him.

Memoir-Buttigieg is a consummate technocrat, and there are few greater terms of derision in his vocabulary than “ideologue.” Although his father spent most of Buttigieg’s childhood translating a three-volume edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, there are no signs that the young Buttigieg ever flirted with radicalism. As a teenager, he put himself on mailing lists for “every political persuasion, from the local Republican Party to the Democratic Socialists of America”—not because he believed in either one, but because he wanted to understand how they thought about the world. In high school, he won a “Profiles in Courage” essay contest sponsored by the JFK Presidential Library for a submission lamenting the exclusion of Bernie Sanders (and Pat Buchanan) from the political mainstream. Buttigieg was less concerned with the content of either Sanders or Buchanan’s platforms than with the narrowing of debate within both parties. He volunteered on Al Gore’s campaign during his first semester at Harvard, and upon graduating in 2004 went—after declining a job offer from Obama’s senate race in Illinois—to work for John Kerry’s presidential run. After studying political theory and economics at Oxford, he emerged confident that he had tested his liberalism against its strongest critics. It was a love for data, he says, that next drew him to McKinsey. “By manipulating millions of data points, I could weave stories about possible futures,” he writes of his days at the firm, which were followed by nights like the one where he found himself “toss[ing] and turn[ing] in my hotel bed, dreaming in spreadsheets.”

He brought the same mentality to his work as mayor of South Bend. “Shaped by my consulting background,” he writes, “I arrived in office wanting to get concrete, measurable things done.” Buttigieg governed like the technocrat he had trained himself to be, earning a reputation as one of the nation’s most data-oriented mayors. A few years into his term, his press was as glowing as South Bend’s had been miserable—glowing enough to let him mount a long-shot but not-entirely-ridiculous race for chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2017.

Head of a political party might seem like an odd job for a lover of nonpartisan government, but according to Buttigieg his aversion to conventional politics was exactly what qualified him for the position. The national political scene had become an empty spectacle, and he offered a different vision grounded in his experience as mayor, where—so he claimed—officials put ideology to the side and focused on making tangible improvements to people’s daily lives. “Being the mayor of your hometown is the best job in America,” he wrote at the time, “partly because it’s relatively nonpartisan — we focus on results, not ideology.”

With Democrats split between the party establishment and a resurgent left, Buttigieg offered his politics of the everyday as an alternative to endlessly rerunning the 2016 primary. It wasn’t enough to win him the chairmanship, but it put him on the radar of party leaders who hadn’t already heard the good word about Mayor Pete. (His friends, by the way, call him Peter.)

Now that he’s running for president, however, the technocratic Buttigieg has receded into the background. “People like me are told to not use ‘left,’ ‘right,’ ‘center’ too much in our vocabulary,” he told New York in February. “But it’s also just a fact, it’s something you gotta say.” In speeches and interviews, he declares that we’ve come to the end of a “conservative or neoliberal” era that lasted decades. What comes next, he argues, could be anything from “an enlightened era of social democracy” to Trumpist “protofascism.” But in either case, it’s no use trying to go back to the way things were. In his modulated style, he’s offering a variation of one of the left’s most familiar slogans: in 2020, he wants you to believe, it’s Buttigieg or barbarism.

That’s not the only way Buttigieg has tweaked his image. Except for some potshots at free college, he’s taken pains to present himself as a friend to Sanders supporters. Shrewdly, he’s emphasized procedural radicalism, calling for an end to the filibuster, abolishing the electoral college, and making Washington, D.C., a state—policies that appeal to believers in small-d democracy without endangering the interests of the Democratic Party donor class. Though he styles himself a believer in “democratic capitalism,” he’s praised democratic socialists for expanding the boundaries of political debate. When pressed on the Green New Deal, he keeps his replies enthusiastic but vague. He depicts his “Medicare for All Who Want It” program not as an alternative to universal coverage but as a stepping stone toward a comprehensive system. The impression has been so persuasive that New Yorker editor David Remnick asked Buttigieg whether “in the campaign last time around, you were hoping that Bernie Sanders would edge out Hillary Clinton.” In fact, he endorsed Clinton, as everything in his career up to then suggested he would. But it would be an easy mistake to make if you were only judging by what Buttigieg has said during this campaign.

It’s been an effective strategy so far, and an extremely familiar one. “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” noted Obama in 2008. “I think we are in one of those times right now, where people feel like things as they are going, aren’t working.” In a year when optimism is out of fashion, Buttigieg is the rare candidate following Obama by putting the emphasis on hope. Like Obama, he presents himself as a fresh voice whose mix of outsider status and establishment credentials will allow him to shake up stale debates. He, too, uses his standing as a member of marginalized community to push against what Buttigieg calls the “oppression Olympics.” Again like Obama, he then pivots to casting his biography as one of his chief virtues. “My face is my message,” Buttigieg says. “We need more voices stepping up from a generation that has so much at stake in the decisions that are being made right now.”

His rhetoric has done the trick with its intended audience. Despite his gestures to the left, the same centrist pundits who swooned over the junior senator from Illinois twelve years ago are now pointing to Buttigieg as a model for post-Trump politics. So are the same campaign donors, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Though Buttigieg insists that Democrats cannot afford to be the party of the status quo, he is—as the head of South Bend’s regional Chamber of Commerce put it—“a person you don’t mind having sit on the other side of a table from a CEO.” Alongside figures like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Buttigieg has been invited by Democratic mega-
fundraiser Bernard Schwartz to address private meetings on how the party can stop Sanders.

Here is where Buttigieg’s relative youth comes in handy. He uses his standing as a millennial to obscure his place in the Democratic Party’s brewing civil war, like a squid shooting out ink as it swims away from a shark. Instead of refighting 2016, he wants to talk about generational change (but not, of course, generational struggle). He says that he supports aggressive action on climate change for the same reason that he’s more concerned about deficits than most of the other Democrats running for president: because he’ll live long enough to deal with the fallout.

Precisely because this rhetoric points in such different directions, it’s not yet clear where Buttigieg will move next. In another bit of generational identity politics, he has long said that his brand of pragmatism is common among millennials. But lately he’s added a codicil to this self-description: “sometimes pragmatism points you in a comparatively radical direction.”

On that much, at least, Bhaskar Sunkara is willing to agree. As he argues in his new book, The Socialist Manifesto, “we will probably only be driven down the path to socialism by practical necessity.” It’s the kind of pragmatic tone that readers have come to expect from the thirty-year-old founder of Jacobin. Where Buttigieg wants to make moderation seem radical, Sunkara is out to make radicalism seem moderate. And if Buttigieg offers an updated version of the Obama model, The Socialist Manifesto suggests one path for an evolving left.

Eschewing the customary rhetoric of radicalism—think of Trotsky promising that under socialism “man would become immeasurably stronger, wiser, freer, his body more harmoniously proportioned, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical”—Sunkara offers a minimalist utopia. He puts his faith in a disciplined political movement advocating reforms that improve people’s lives in the here-and-now while laying a foundation for ever-more aggressive challenges to capital. His vision of daily life after the revolution still looks a lot like our own. Borrowing from political theorist Corey Robin, Sunkara writes of turning “a world filled with excruciating misery into one where ordinary unhappiness reigns.”

Rather than dwelling on causes of socialism’s resurgence today, Sunkara devotes most of his book’s 243 pages to briskly narrating a short history of the left. Any attempt to cover this many subjects—from the decline of feudalism to the internal logic of Maoism—in so compressed a space runs the risk of oversimplification. But if you’re expecting a four-page summary of the origins of capitalism to do more than provide one plausible interpretation of an enormously complex subject, then you have bigger problems than one book can solve. At its best, a work like this provides an invitation to further inquiry, and that is where The Socialist Manifesto shines. It’s as much a campaign book as Shortest Way Home, but with an eye on building a socialist movement, rather than putting one person in the White House.

More significant than the details of Sunkara’s analysis, then, are the lessons he draws from his exercises in historical spelunking. The most important of these has less to do with the promise of socialism than with the limits of liberalism (or, in a European context, social democracy). This is Sunkara’s strongest hand, and he plays it well. However tempting it might be to think that liberals can save capitalism from itself, he maintains, their political victories can—and inevitably will—be reversed so long as capitalists retain economic power. The center can only hold for so long before capital strikes back.

With the middle ground obliterated, the case for radicalism looks a lot more realistic. Sunkara makes the most of this opening, waving aside debates that have split the left for more than a century. When presented with contrasts that are often held to be irresolvable—Should socialists work within the system or reject it? Must they focus on winning short-term victories or prioritize the long run? Does change begin at the top or from the grassroots?—he contends that history shows the answer is “both.”

According to Sunkara, socialists win by staying true to the “radically democratic essence” of Marx’s writings, while also remembering—as Marx did—the distance between this ideal and our actually existing democracy. There’s an important theoretical argument here. Without a core of organizers, no socialist movement is possible; do away with democratic accountability altogether, and authoritarianism is inevitable. But, characteristically, Sunkara is more concerned with the practical implications of his thesis. Rejecting the choice between a counterproductive politics of purity and a deflating acceptance of the status quo—as if it was always Florida in 2000, and the question was always whether to vote for Ralph Nader or Al Gore—he insists that socialists can be more than junior partners in a coalition dominated by liberals.

Merely to preserve gains that have already been won, Sunkara argues, liberals and leftists will have to join forces—and then they will have to keep pushing. Across the developed world today, this means pursuing a “class-struggle social democracy” of the kind exemplified by Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, where unapologetically left-wing campaigns forge a coalition of the working class by harnessing populist anger with a broken establishment.

Instead of treating social democracy as a stable equilibrium, however, a wiser generation of radicals will see it as an intermediary stage in the class war. “The route to a more radical socialism,” Sunkara writes in a brief discussion of what the route ahead might look like, “will come from the crisis of social democracy our very success initiates.” After Election Day, socialists will have to take aggressive steps to keep politicians in line—“Street protests and strike actions can discipline wayward candidates,” he recommends—but with appropriate guidance the system can be prodded in the right (which is to say, left) direction. The next steps will be messy: “Workplaces are occupied, and bosses are even kidnapped by radicalized workers,” leading terrified capitalists to mount “desperate acts of resistance.” But socialists backed by a revived labor movement and commanding decisive majorities at the polls will overcome these rearguard attacks. With a popular mandate driving them forward, leftists using the authority of the state will hand power to the working class. The result of all this struggle is “a transformed world, where life isn’t perfect, but where millions have more spare time and less stress.”

It’s a long journey, and it doesn’t take much effort to come up with ways the road to socialism could run into a ditch. Marxists of a more fatalistic bent would point out that the organized working class has not recovered anything like the strength it enjoyed at social democracy’s zenith over half a century ago. The rise of identity politics—which Sunkara warns could, in its most extreme forms, “lead us down the path to a hyper-individualized and anti-solidaristic politics”—shows no signs of slowing. As promising as the left’s electoral successes have been, the populist right has so far done a much more effective job at channeling inchoate resentment with the status quo into majorities at the polls. How Sunkara would have us move from the immediate goal of establishing democratic socialism within the Democratic Party to his longer-term vision of an independent socialist party remains frustratingly opaque. If the left can’t wrest control of the Democratic Party from Tom Perez, why should it be able to do any better with the rest of the country?

Even if leftists managed to win elections, they’d run headlong into a minefield prepared for them by the founding fathers: a legislative process with a litany of veto points, plus a judicial branch that, historically, has been one of capital’s most reliable defenders. Revolutionary reforms might push the electorate to the left, but it’s just as easy to imagine headlines about riots in the streets and kidnapped CEOs leading to a popular counter-movement demanding a return to normalcy. Clear these hurdles, and the difficulties of reconciling socialism with markets—that is, of having the best of capitalism without any capitalists—would still have to be addressed, as would the danger of bureaucratic overreach. If China continues its ascent, all of this could be unfolding against cries for a new Cold War. And then there’s climate change.

A fractured working class, a divided left, a revanchist right, the iron grip of the two-party system, a sclerotic government, the threat of reactionary blowback, the problem of markets, the power of bureaucracy, uncertain geopolitics, and a broiling planet: none of this would be news to Sunkara, but it would seem like enough to give anyone grounds for despair.

And yet The Socialist Manifesto practically vibrates with excitement about what comes next. “The question now is whether, with a vicious ruling class trying everything it can to widen the divide between the haves and the have nots, we can create a more durable socialist politics in America,” he writes. “The popularity of the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and the inspiring activism of the last several years make even this pessimist think the answer is yes.”

This mixture of optimism about the future and trust in politics has deep roots in the radical tradition. But I couldn’t help thinking about another inspiration that must be in the heads of at least some of socialism’s recent converts. Imagine a politician—young, oozing charisma, speaking like an actual human rather than a poll-tested robot—speaking to an overflowing audience. The question on everyone’s mind is whether we can do better than the miserable situation we stand to inherit. Slowly at first, then with increasing confidence, the crowd roars its answer: “YES. WE. CAN.”

They’re optimists,” wrote William Strauss and Neil Howe in the book that popularized the term “millennials.” As they went on to explain in Millennials Rising, published in 2000, the new generation was filled with cooperative team players who accepted authority, followed the rules, and pushed themselves to excel. Strauss and Howe were business consultants, not scholars, and experts dismissed the findings. “Generational images are stereotype,” Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009. “But if you wrote a book saying that, how interesting would that book be?”

That skepticism didn’t prevent Strauss and Howe from turning generational commentary into a profitable industry. They founded a consulting firm, LifeCourse Associates, that published a string of books with titles like Millennials in the Workplace, Millennials Go To College, Millennials & K-12 Schools, and Millennials and the Pop Culture. Corporations hired them to explain the secrets of the next generation. The Ford Motor Company was one of the clients willing to pay for insights like, “Millennials want to do big things.”

Despite the seedy origins and treacly rhetoric, it’s hard to say that Strauss and Howe were completely wrong. Millennials have done big things, not least of all in politics. If Obama’s message of hope and change hadn’t won him landslide victories with millennials, then Clinton almost certainly would have been elected president in 2008. For all his differences with Obama, Sanders relied on a similar kind of optimism eight years later. Yes, he said the system was rigged, but young people supported him in droves because he told them a political revolution could make things right. Voters under thirty have been drawn to Corbyn for the same reason, swinging decisively to the Labour Party in the 2017 general election.

The content of Sanders and Corbyn’s platforms speak to a generation where precarious labor and an avalanche of student loan debt are making the basic components of middle-class life—a home, a family, a steady job—look like luxuries of the rich. But if economics alone could explain this turn to the left, class-struggle social democracy would be doing a lot better with the rest of the working class. Despite trouncing Clinton with millennials, Sanders lost voters making under $50,000. Corbyn’s similarly lopsided margins with young people in 2017 also didn’t translate into a proletarian majority: Conservatives actually gained ground with working-class voters in 2017, and Labour’s support among affluent city-dwellers rose.

Reckoning with bleak economic facts could also just as easily have led millennials to give up on electoral politics altogether. It’s no coincidence that the best study of the political economy of millennial life, Malcolm Harris’s Kids These Days, ends by rejecting the notion that democratic capitalism can be reformed from within. According to Harris, the choice will come down to either fascism or revolution, and the balance of forces is weighed decidedly against would-be revolutionaries. “We have to be realistic about the possible near- and medium-term outcomes for this system,” he says, “and there aren’t any good ones.”

This kind of argument could become more popular as Gen Z takes millennials’ place on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. The cohort is more likely to tell pollsters they prefer socialism to capitalism, but they’re much less likely than millennials to describe themselves as optimistic about the future. Their rates of loneliness are also higher, and so are reports of poor mental health.

If Donald Trump’s election was your defining introduction to American politics, you might be depressed about the future too, especially when the senior citizens running the Democratic Party can’t stop yelling at you for being ungrateful. “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing,” Dianne Feinstein, eighty-six, lectured a group of children asking her to support the Green New Deal in February, perhaps not aware that during those thirty years as many carbon emissions have been produced from fossil fuels as in all of previous human history combined. Feinstein had already told reporters that she would endorse Joe Biden, seventy-six, if he entered the presidential race. Her decision looks savvy at the moment, with Biden looming over the contest like the alien ships in the first act of Independence Day, as he runs on a platform of “White supremacy is bad. Now donate $2,800 to my campaign and I’ll tell you a story about the time I delivered a eulogy for my good friend Strom Thurmond.”

Seen against this backdrop, millennial optimism looks like a fragile thing, the product of a generation that lived through the roaring nineties and the exhilaration of Obama’s 2008 run but missed both the duck-and-cover drills of the Cold War and the active-shooter drills that kindergarteners have become familiar with in our time.

Like any kind of identity not chained to class, the generational divide is an awkward fact for conventionally Marxist theories of political change. Sunkara never uses the word “millennial” in The Socialist Manifesto, and he writes skeptically about attempts to replace working-class coalitions with “substitute proletariats.” Dividing society exclusively along lines of age makes it a lot harder to see the struggle between capital and labor. Pinning a movement on generational consciousness also leaves it vulnerable to a hostile takeover by candidates who were born in the right years. The temptation to allow chronological loyalties to trump class solidarity might be especially great if the vision of socialism on offer is as modest as Sunkara’s: any sacrifice can be justified if it leads to utopia, but if the hope is just that we’ll all have a little more spare time, then maybe the same results could be achieved, without all the riots and kidnapping, by handing the keys over to that bright young man from Harvard.

Which brings us back to Buttigieg, who I first heard about from a twenty-something who told me, “he’s thirty-seven, so he gets why climate change matters.” It’s tempting—very, very tempting—to roll your eyes at this kind of talk. But generational appeal is real, and if leftists don’t take questions of identity seriously—whether it’s age, gender, race, sexuality, or any other category not entirely rooted in economics—they’ll leave an opening that liberals can plow through. More important, they won’t understand why people are drawn toward, or pushed away from, their movement in the first place.

That’s not the only reason a politician like Buttigieg is worth paying attention to. I’d bet that he’s thought more about why Clinton lost in 2016 than any other presidential candidate, and there’s been a clear payoff in how he campaigns. He’ll admit that the system is broken, and he won’t call you a spoiled brat for complaining. He even has the start of a real answer: a decades-long effort to break the right’s hold on American politics, starting with an aggressive push to democratize government. The problem is that it takes a vision to raise a movement, and liberals still don’t have one.

You can see the limits of this approach to politics by looking at the closest thing Shortest Way Home has to a villain: Richard Mourdock, Buttigieg’s Republican opponent during a failed 2010 race for Indiana state treasurer. “Bipartisanship was not his thing,” Buttigieg writes, adding that he could “read in his eyes the fixations of a fierce ideologue.” Buttigieg quotes Mourdock’s words to what he assumes are damning effect: “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view,” for instance, or “the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else.”

Midwestern Republicans of an earlier era would have been horrified by this kind of talk. “Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation,” Michigan governor George Romney warned in 1964, explaining that they “lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.” But that was before right-wing activists staged a hostile takeover of the GOP, and ambitious politicians were forced to adapt—like George’s son Mitt, who in 2012 insisted that he was “severely conservative.”

Imagine what American politics would look like if today’s leftists could pull off a similar trick. Although it’s probably too late for Buttigieg, the next generation of ambitious young politicians would be competing to establish their radical bona fides. Some of them would be just as awkward as Mitt Romney: “aggressive socialists,” maybe? But even the clumsiest technocrats would have something to contribute, so long as we want to have clean streets, drinkable water, and everything else that makes it possible to get through the day. Nobody would have a fully formed vision of how to translate a socialist movement into a real socialist government, but they might be able to figure it out together. And given everything that’s coming our way in the coming decades, we’ll need all the help we can get.

So how about it: I know it’s getting late, but do you still believe in hope and change?

Timothy Shenk is co-editor of Dissent.