Will changing demographics automatically change politics?

I hear this claim made quite a bit:

Political scientists have marveled at the distinctive attitudes of “millennials,” born roughly between 1982 and 2003. (Thus, a single generation seems to encompass both my daughter and many of my co-workers!) They are characterized above all by tolerance but also by cooperation, liberal political views, and respect for public institutions. They form the basis not just for the Obama Democratic coalition but for the hope of a progressive politics in the future.

That’s all fine and good, but I think there’s some assumptions that have been inserted in there between the demographics of so-called Millenials and some kind of progressive future:

First, that this group will maintain their progressive personal politics.

Second, that they will enter public politics.

And third – and probably most important – that the simple equation progressive people + politics = progressive politics works.  I don’t think it does; look at the influence of money on politics.  Look at the disproportionate influence of both Southerners and movement conservatives on politics.  Look at, in other words, the structural factors that affect US electoral politics now, and tell me exactly changing demographics alone is supposed to magically lead to a progressive future.  I’m just not buying it.

I do buy, however, that it’s likely, and will be incremental, and will be viciously opposed by money and hate the entire way, but will ultimately happen: MLK’s ‘long arc of history bends towards justice’ and all that.  But that’s not the same thing.  I’ve only ever seen this claim made in a very simplified form, and in that form, I think it’s far less a given – as many people take it to be – and far more of a possibility.

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