Over the past eight years, we’ve come to expect a stagnant economy (especially as we’ve come to know who is in charge and how he operates). The trickle-down economics of the Republican Party and the Bush administration was great for Wall Street, but those in the middle class who were working on Main Street were hung out to dry. Even as many railed against this failed theory and its implications, no one listened; government intervention in the economy was labeled as socialist and, as a result, scorned. So we continued on, trusting the wealthy elite with our economic system, who spurned regulation, doling out risky loans. And then came this week. Now that we’re on the verge of a “complete meltdown of our financial system,” the popularity of government among free-market conservatives has skyrocketed.

We’ve apparently come a long way from Ronald Reagan’s (and Generation X’s) position on government, explained in his first inaugural in 1981:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society is too complex to be managed by self-rule. That government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people.

Now, of course, government intervention is imperative. Even if it costs middle-class taxpayers one trillion dollars, it’s necessary. I don’t oppose the bipartisan compromise being floated to congressional officials; but I do agree with Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT): this certainly was “avoidable.” And what frustrates me is that it would have been avoidable had government not been declared a “problem” and banished from the economy.

So when I put this all together, I see an event as cataclysmic as any that could have happened in this already monumental political year. As Jerome a Paris put it in his Daily Kos diary yesterday, “markets have completely failed.”

After years of deregulation, of promotion of greed and assertion of the superiority of the market, and in particular of financial makrets to decide how to run the economy, it appears – nay, make that: it is now blatantly, in your face, obvious – that none of this worked. Worse, the people that have mocked government throughout, as wasteful, inefficient and incompetent are now counting on the very same government to bail them out from the hole they have dug.

They made out like bandits during the “boom” years of the boom-AND-bust cycle they brought about with their policy suggestions, looting the middle classes in the process and are now trying – may, make that “succeeding” – to not bear the consequences of the same policies.

They have no consistency, no shame and no scruples.

And what makes this moment even more seminal?

The fact that we have a generation of 75 million Americans that are emerging as adults, that believe in the power of government intervention and action, as long as it improves the quality of life of others. The fact that this generation has proven in 2004, 2006, and in the 2008 primaries that it will turn out to vote. The fact that there’s a candidate on the ballot who knows how to utilize the traits of this generation in order to mobilize them.

As if they needed another example of what happens when those not believing in government are actually governing, members of Generation Y have it.

When it came to the decision to go into Iraq, the Bush administration bungled it according to Millennials.

…in November, 2004 Democracy Corps polling, 57 percent of 18-29 year olds (note: only the 18-26 year olds in this group qualify as Millennials) believed that America’s security depends on building strong ties with other nations, compared to just 37 percent who believed that, “bottom line,” America’s security depends on its own military strength. This was the most pro-multilateralist sentiment of any age group.

Not only didn’t they agree with our Bush-led government’s go-it-alone cowboy diplomacy, only to watch the mess in Iraq unfold for years; they also watched and heard about the failure of government to act following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. 10,000 volunteers traveled to the Gulf Coast within the first year following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, hearing stories about hardship that was worsened by FEMA’s lackluster and disorganized response.

And now, in this financial crisis, Millennials see one more example of what happens when government-hating conservatives are in power, just as they themselves are in the middle of their political awakening.

In a race that promises to be dominated by the economy for the entirety of the six remaining weeks until Election Day; in a race that will most likely see the surge in youth activism continue; in a race that pits one waffling Republican not sure what to believe about government regulation against a Democrat who has always been on the side of the lower- and middle-classes, 2008 is looking more and more like a 1932 election. I’m wondering if this may be the final straw for what used to be the anti-government Republican Party.

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