Friday, August 30, 2013

Kajtazovic A Millenial Trend And Counter-Trend

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen 
- US Constitution
Happy birthday to Anesa Kajtazovic, who turns 27 today. She earned her American citizenship nine years ago, just before turning 18 and just in time to vote for John Kerry for president. And of course she lives in Iowa so despite the archaic "he," she's got all the Constitutional qualifications to represent Iowa's 1st district in Congress.

The northeast part of Iowa has elected the youngest member of Congress before, and not so long ago: Jim Nussle was 30 when he won his first term in 1990. The youngest member at present is a 30 year old from Florida named - get this - Pat Murphy. So electing Iowa's Pat Murphy would just be too confusing.

Objective demographic facts are something a candidate can't change. She's young? OK, well, she's young. The rap, of course, is that Kajtazovic is supposedly "too young" and "inexperienced" compared to her opponents, all roughly twice her age.

"Experience" is a vague word. There's many kinds of "experience."  Leaving aside Kajtazovic's journey from refugee camp to Iowa, an experience I can't begin to imagine, her three legislative sessions mean she's been an elected official nearly as long as primary rival Monica Vernon has been a Democrat.

“A few will still say I should wait my turn, but women have always been told to wait their turn," Kajtazovic said in her announcement tour last week. "Working people have been told to wait their turn, immigrants, African-Americans and our gay and lesbian friends have been told to wait their turn. Our future is now.”

Kajtazovic represents both a trend and a counter-trend, at least according to a lengthy Atlantic take this week on the millennial generation, the 95 million Americans born roughly 1982 to 2003:
“The Millennials have arrived, and they could rescue the civic health of our nation after decades of decline,” says John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, a national-service think tank. One of the nation’s foremost authorities on civic engagement, Bridgeland believes Millennials will be the next Greatest Generation, because, like the generation anointed by Tom Brokaw, they are products of an era of economic crisis and war, and are committed to community service.
So far so good. But:
The Harvard IOP study, “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service,” published on April 30, suggests Millennials are increasingly negative and cynical about the political process.
  • Nearly three in five young Americans agree that elected officials seem motivated by “selfish reasons,” an increase of 5 points since 2010.
  • Fifty-six percent agree that “elected officials don’t have the same priorities that I have,” a 5-point increase.
  • Nearly half agree that “politics has become too partisan,” up 2 points.
  • Nearly one-third agree that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results,” up 5 points.
More to the point, 47 percent of young Americans agree that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges out country is facing.” Only 16 percent disagree.
So in Kajtazovic, an unusual combination: Millennial drive to serve, millennial style of service in the non-profit sector, combined with traditional route of service via government.

Kajtazovic isn't the only young Iowa Democrat in a top tier race. Fellow 27 year old Jim Mowrer is challenging Steve King in the 4th District. Gabriel De La Cerda, who turned 35 this week, is one of two Democrats in the 3rd CD. And the ticket could be topped by gubernatorial candidate Tyler Olson, who's 37 but looks younger (however, contrary to rumour this photo was NOT taken last week).

A Democratic ticket with any or many of these people would be a sharp contrast to a Republican Party increasingly defined by aging attitudes, especially on social issues, and headed by a governor seeking a sixth term.

As for me, I certainly don't have the energy at my age for a 24/7 job like member of Congress. I may even have to retire the "Too old to be cool, too young not to care" slogan when I turn 50 later this year.

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