Political pundits and analysts have focused on the potential of a wave election this year. Donald Trump’s numbers are in the tank, the generic ballot favors Democrats, Republicans have few real accomplishments despite controlling the federal government and Democrats keep winning special elections in districts Trump carried easily. A wave, though is a one-time event. The bigger story is the one about two movements that might shift the electorate for a generation.
The #MeToo movement began in response to revelations that media mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and abused young women trying to break into the movies. The anger of women had little to do with politics as sexual predators, harassers and abusers of all political stripes came tumbling down. However, Republicans’ reluctance to hold their elected officials, including the president, accountable, made Democrats look like the party willing to accept responsibility.
The same thing is happening with the #NeverAgain movement. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived a horrific mass shooting have created a movement that’s become a national phenomenon. Instead of recognizing the pain of these students, conservatives are mocking them on twitter and writing pieces like the one by Michelle Malkin titled “Don’t let the children lead.” If the children are leading, it’s to fill the vacuum of leadership left by the Republicans in Congress and the White House.
Republicans have cast their lot with the NRA and insist that there’s nothing we can do to prevent more mass shootings other than arm more people. In a country where the number of households with guns is shrinking, that’s the wrong answer. These kids seem to be adhering to the old adage, “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.”
The women of the #MeToo movement are empowering women to take more control of their lives and ending an attitude of entitlement held by many men in power. They won’t stop sexual harassment or abuse but they’ll make it easier for victims to come forward and remove barriers to advancement. Or at least that’s their goal.
Now, their children are driving a conversation about guns that the NRA and its money has suppressed for decades. The call their movement #NeverAgain. These teenagers aren’t intimidated because they’ve got nothing to lose. Conservatives who want to belittle or dismiss them don’t seem to recognize the generational shift that’s coming. A generation of Millennials has watched the failure of their parents to govern responsibly and now they’re being joined by a new generation of kids who are demanding leadership that’s been lacking their entire lives.
We’re witnessing a monumental societal shift that’s bigger than just politics in our country. It’s part backlash to our failed politics and part movement spurred by the actions of really bad actors—sexual harassers and mass shooters. Women and their children have decided that they’re not going to be victims anymore. They’re going to be activists.
These two movements will reshape American politics over the next decade whether they’re part of a wave in November or not. They are neither inherently conservative nor liberal. They’re outraged and they want answers. Republicans would be wise to try to answer them like Marco Rubio did last night. If they don’t, they will find themselves increasingly in the minority over the next decade.