The New York Times published a story in yesterday’s paper titled “Generation O Gets Its Hopes Up,” posing the question whether or not Obama’s victory is a good or bad thing for his young, devoted fan club.

And the enthusiasm has a way of spreading. Wearing a pink Chanel suit and gold heels, Holly Hennessy, a wealthy older Republican woman in Palm Beach, Fla., came out of the polls on Tuesday with goose bumps after deciding at the last second to vote for Mr. Obama.

Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men,” the AMC television series set in the early ’60s, predicted that there would be more to come. “A year from now you’re going to see that 65 to 70 percent of the people are going to claim they voted for Obama even if they didn’t,” he said. “That’s what happened with Kennedy. People will be swept up in it.”

And yet, such a sweeping success could also breed trouble. “The risk is they vote for the first time, and then there’s this incredible long-shot win — ‘Gee this is easy,’ ” said Kurt Andersen, a founder of Spy and former editor of New York Magazine. There is also “a risk of this generation conflating our iPhones with the substantive policy progress that the iPhones and laptops enable.”

Inevitably, he said, “growing up is all about disappointment and things not going well — so that is a natural next step.”

The pain of dashed hopes, if it comes, could be eased by this generation’s news media diet, which has made them fantastically informed and skeptical. Or it could be worsened by the psychology of how they were raised and came of age.

I have a few problems with these assertions.

1.) I greatly disagree with the tone of the article.  The first point made — that the enthusiasm is contagious, especially among young voters — is absolutely true.  Thanks to Obama’s proficient use of communications technology, digital natives like Millennials felt at home following, supporting, and working for the candidate.  Unfortunately, we catch the author — Damien Cave — misunderstanding the reason behind this enthusiasm three paragraphs is.  People aren’t getting “swept up” just to be swept up and be on the right side of history.  Data shows that Millennials want something more out of citizenship.  They have the highest volunteering rate in the history of relevant polling.  Young voters absolutely knew what they were getting from Obama when they voted for him. To pretend as if Obama’s service-heavy message isn’t understood by Millennials is insulting.

2.) Cave slides into hand-wringing mode, as he begins to wonder whether or not Obama’s success is actually a good thing for Millennials.  Because after all, Obama’s victory Tuesday night was a “long-shot win.”  I thought a long-shot win was when the candidate was behind in the polls for a few months straight, not ahead?  Anyways, I digress.  Cave is concerned that such a high from victory will be a large let-down should things not go well.  But again, what Cave doesn’t understand is that these Millennials understand that Obama is calling on them to do some of the heavy lifting.  He’s got some power, but the whole point behind Obama’s campaign was to push it back to the people, especially young voters.  And let’s look at the alternative:  would young voters’ attitude be better off if Obama had lost?  Absolutely not.  This win cements their civic participation for decades into the future; it’s an example of the Millennial brand of activism — creating positive change through the system.

3.)  Cave describes this generation as “fantastically informed and skeptical,” but Millennials are actually noted for their optimism.  Here’s an excerpt from a New Politics Institute report titled “The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation”:

Generations are more than just numbers; they have personalities that are shaped by many factors, including what’s happening in the world when they come of age. The Millennial personality comes closest to that of the “GI generation,” the one lauded by some as the “Greatest Generation,” members of which fought in World War II and built up America and the world in the postwar boom. Millennials are fundamentally optimistic, willing to trust political leaders who perform well, and they believe in government again.

Their optimism has been well-captured in a series of Pew surveys. In a February 2006 survey, 18-29 year olds were the most optimistic age group in assessing whether today’s children would grow up better or worse off than people are now (45 percent better/40 percent worse—other age groups responded more negatively than positively by margins of 17-27 points). In a July, 2006 survey, 18-29 year olds were the most optimistic about whether they would move ahead in life (as measured by self-placement on a “ladder of life” going from 0 as lowest to 10 as highest) in the next five years; 72 percent thought they would, compared to 13 percent who expected no change and 8 percent who thought things would get worse. They were also more likely to believe they had made progress in life in the last five years (58 percent thought so, while 20 percent thought they’d stayed the same and 18 percent thought they’d slipped).

I think Cave was trying to discuss the pragmatism of the Millennials, albeit inartfully.  Millennials are optimistic, as we just saw, but they’re also a fan of the meritocratic system, and they’re insistent on building consensus and collaborating in order to do so.  So in other words, should Obama do an about face and restrict their participation in the democratic process (I don’t see this happening at all), making ill-advised decisions while shutting Millennials out, young voters will indeed bolt.

Cave seems to have a different idea of “Generation O” than most scholars have.  Generation O, Generation Y, Millennials — whatever it is — don’t blindly follow this leader; they follow him because, in many ways, he’s empowered them and reminded them that the importance of what he is doing and will do is only a fraction of the potential they have.  Yes, media elites, these Millennials know what they’re doing.

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