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Casey at the Generational Bat

Apr 2, 2014

I'm not the only person speaking from the Left in South Dakota. Democratic activist, Navy reservist, and pretty smart South Dakotan Ryan Casey unsettled the Sioux Falls Rotary Club Monday with a speech on generational change and South Dakota politics.

Casey ascribes to generational theory, which ties American political cycles to a seemingly Newtonian theory of how young people respond to their forebears: for every generation, there is an equal and opposite re-generation. Kids compensate for what they perceive as their parents’ mistakes and shortcomings and become a generation acting politically different.

Casey says two types of generations dominate our political cycles: idealist generations and civic generations. Baby boomers, says Casey, are idealists. His generation, the millennials, are civic ... um, civil ... civilians ... civicisticists? Casey doesn't help me out with a noun.

George McGovern mobilized his civic generation, who'd grown up seeing an active federal government saving South Dakota's skin. They saw government as an effective tool for solving problems. (Hmm ... even McGovern's Republican colleague Karl E. Mundt liked government building dams and Interstate highways.) The idealist baby boomers looked at Dad McGovern and Grandpa FDR and reacted with conservative idealism (starring McGovern contemporary Ronald Reagan, who shows generational theory is a sociological explanation for how the electorate works, not a psychological explanation of how each individual will vote).

Casey sees idealists currently in charge of South Dakota. He spotlights the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act as a perfect issue to frame the differences between those idealists and the new civic generation which Casey sees rising against the idealists in charge. South Dakota's idealists reject Medicaid expansion on principle, saying we shouldn't take money from an unreliable, debt-ridden government. Casey says nuts to that. He and his civic friends just want to solve problems:

A couple of Ph.D. economists from the University of Nebraska-Kearney delivered a report to state legislators in Pierre last month. Over the next seven years, they found, the net impact on the state of South Dakota revenues alone is estimated to be $64 million dollars! ... [I]t gets better when we calculate the economic benefit for the state that Medicaid expansion would bring. That number is $1.04 billion over seven years. And oh, by the way, we get to provide health care for more than 48,000 South Dakotans who don't currently have it ... [Ryan Casey, speech to Sioux Falls Rotary Club, 2014.03.31].

Casey clearly hopes that generational theory predicts a civic generation supplanting idealist power to do practical, if Lefty, things like expanding Medicaid. I find that prospect appealing, but if Casey is right, does generational theory doom our aspirations? In 35 years will Casey and I be the complacent old white men at Rotary, shifting uncomfortably in our seats as some young whippersnapper tells us that her generation is kicking us out and bringing back good old Reagan-Daugaard conservatism?

Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard on this site.

Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.


08:19 pm - Wed, April 2 2014
Bernie said:
Cory, maybe I'm just defensive about my generation -- but I know lots of young white men and women (including a bunch in the state legislature) who opposed health care expansion .... and a lot of old white guys who worked hard to get it started. So don't be stereotyping us old folks you young whippersnapper.

I spoke at the Sioux Falls Rotary a week earlier with Rep. Mark Mickelson in a legislative recap, and we both talked about Medicaid expansion, and my sense from reading the crowd was that more than half of them seemed to agree it was foolish not to expand. We're making progress and seriously I am appreciative of you and Ryan and all the younguns that are fighting for the future.
05:38 am - Thu, April 3 2014
dave tunge said:
I agree with Casey's generational theory. I disagree that us baby boomers are idealists.......a better term would be realists.
As I see it, the "new" generations concept of life and government revolves around the principle that dismisses the ingenuity and hard work of the baby boomer generation. Most would like to clock out at 5 pm, have the weekends & holidays off, live for today, and spend more time on family and fun. Not a bad program. The entrepreneurs of my day missed out on a lot of that.
What I also see happening as the result of the new generational theory is the rapid encroachment of government in all aspects and the inability of this generation to pay for it. Our freedoms are eroding, government is growing, and there are now more "takers" voting than there are "providers".
Maybe I'm just an old guy who still knows what a great country we once had, the freedoms we knew, and the pride associated with having the greatest generation as our mentors and role models........I just don't see that with these millennials.
06:58 am - Thu, April 3 2014
anonymous said:
I was hoping Cory would write about this from Kelo last night.

SIOUX FALLS, SD - Challenges to a U.S. Senate candidate's nominating petitions bring some uncertainty, for some, to the ballot for the June primary election.
Cory Heidelberger, a blogger with the Madville Times, filed a formal challenge on Tuesday with the state, claiming more than 1,000 of Dr. Annette Bosworth's petition signatures are invalid.

If the South Dakota Secretary of State finds he's right, Bosworth's name will not be on the ballot as a Republican candidate for Senate. Her attorney said the challenges "contain wild leaps of logic."

"He's got an ax to grind against Dr. Bosworth, no surprise he would try to do something like this. At the same time, we're not concerned," Joel Arends, Bosworth's Attorney, said.
08:37 pm - Thu, April 3 2014
Bernie makes an important point: it's hard to generalize the worldviews of each generation. It's hard to tell where one generation stops and the next starts. As Bernie notes from experience, there are plenty of young conservatives bucking the trend Casey is hoping for.

I wonder: even if generational theory explains national political cycles, could South Dakota or other places buck those cycles and serve as little eddies that concentrate the refugees from the prevailing generational shift?

(Stay on topic, anon.)
03:28 pm - Wed, April 16 2014
Robert X said:
"George McGovern mobilized his civic generation,"
There is no evidence that McGovern did any such thing.
McGovern mobilized a decidedly radical generation highly motivated to act with a great deal of incivility. He beget and suckled the radicalized generation of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn and Jeremiah Wright. Rewrite his history as a "populist revival" if you wish, but he became so popular that within a few years, the populace voted him out of office. Casey's weird assertion that McGovern helped usher in the New Deal's populist revival is at odds with his political birth in 1956.
The only movement or revival McGovern ever led was an endless promotion of Geo. McGovern.
03:30 pm - Wed, April 16 2014
Robert X said:

And just to name another historical inaccuracies from Casey:

"To establish a national economy in the first place, the United States invested in enterprises like the Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad. "
The US did NOT invest in the Erie Canal--the Eric Canal was largely funded by private investors, with the State of NY pumping in large amounts.
The transcontinental railroad (UP) was privately financed; the US did donate large tracts of land, but not subsidies. As the US Sup. Court later held, these land grants were not subsidies since the increase in value of the land due to the railroad exceeded the value of the land grants.
Casey: The US government financed the invention of synthetic rubber? No.
Casey: The US government financed the interstate highway system? I guess if you consider taking the wages of US workers via a federal gas tax to fund highway construction is government financing, then yes. In the end though, the US taxpayer paid for the roads they use.
Casey: The US government funds vaccine research. Mostly inaccurate. Well over 60% of vaccine research comes from vaccine sales and private investors.
Casey: The US government funding led to the creation of digital photograph No. Eastman Kodak did with its own [private] research dollars.
And on and on...
Giving credit to the US government for creating infrastructure and devices that it had little to do with is sloppy and not very intellectual. A "theory" based on wishful thinking is zealotry.

Sounds like Casey has excelled at getting free bases for the bean ball.
10:57 pm - Thu, May 15 2014
Ryan Casey said:
Robert X, who is obviously a right-wing ideologue living in a fact-free zone, might've maintained a shred of credibility with some readers if he'd only taken issue with some the lesser-known historical examples I cited, such as the Erie Canal or the invention of synthetic rubber. But when he asserts that the U.S. government did not finance the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, well, that's just laughable. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that Robert is also one of the guys who thinks President Obama was born in Kenya, and the 8 million people who signed up for Obamacare in the first open-enrollment period is somehow a vast government conspiracy lie. Also, the polls are all skewed and Mitt Romney is going to win in a landslide. Er...
07:51 am - Sat, May 17 2014
Ryan Casey said:
Also, I'd like to qualify and/or clairfy a bit of Mr. Heidelberger's characterization of generational theory. It is incorrect--or at least misleading--to say that Baby Boomers are idealists in the way we commonly use that descriptor. In other words, it's not as if generational theory suggests that Boomers are idealist people generally. Rather, they are a generation categorized under the "Idealist" archtype, which is to say that they are inward-looking and moralistic, unlike the "Civic" type generations like the GIs and Millennials, which tend to be more outward-looking, team-oriented problem solvers. You can read more about these archtypes in Strauss & Howe's seminal book, "Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069."
08:29 am - Wed, May 28 2014
Robert X said:
I note that Mr.Casey failed to address any of the factual mistakes that I raised.

"If he'd only taken issue with some the lesser-known historical examples I cited, such as the Erie Canal or the invention of synthetic rubber."

Well, I did take issue with your characterization of the Erie Canal.

Moroever, if the taxpayer funded highway trust fund that is used to pay PRIVATE contractors can be described as "US funded", then I suppose evrything is funded by the "US government", and that's no laughing matter!

I'm going to go out on a limb as well and guess that Mr. Casey has a reading comprehension issue.

Dude, facts sux!

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