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PELOSI, OCASIO-CORTEZ, GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES, AND SOCIAL MEDIA

First of all, some housekeeping...

This post will be rather lengthy and rather dry. There will be no pictures of food and very few, if any, zingy one-liners. So settle in. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em. You'll be here for a few minutes.

Secondly, I will provide no citations. This is not my doctoral thesis. If you feel the need for citations, provide them in your response.

Onward.

If you have ever captained a team, managed a staff, or chaired a committee, and if the people that you were engaged with varied in age from the Greatest Generation to Millennials, and if you were at all effective, then you spent the time necessary to understand the differing attitudes that differing ages present. If you were effective without consciously considering those differences, God bless you. You are either an outstanding intuitive leader or you were lucky as hell. But it seems to me that today, given the headlines and the ruckus on social media concerning the new US Congress, it pays to take the time to understand the forces at work that compel folks like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to think and act the way that they do. Whether or not they understand those forces is another matter. We can but hope. For now, let's see if we can lead our leaders by example, take a step back, and try to understand.   

Pelosi fits somewhere between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. Born in 1940, Pelosi married in her early 20s to a man that she met in college while studying political science and, 55 years later, they are still married. Pelosi's mother was born in Italy. Her father was a Congressman and Mayor of Baltimore. Pelosi attended campaign rallies and political events with her father as an adolescent, graduated college with a degree in political science, and interned for a US Senator.

Pelosi worked her way up the political ladder after the family moved to California. She won some and she lost some. Eventually, at the age of 47, she won a special election as the handpicked successor to replace a deceased Congresswoman who herself had replaced her deceased husband.

Pelosi is the first woman to have been elected Speaker of the House and, as the next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President, can be considered the most powerful female elected public official in US history.

In other words, Pelosi went into the family business and has been highly successful at it.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Millennial. She also has a mother born outside of the continental United States, though being Puerto Rican means that her mother was a US citizen. Ocasio-Cortez also majored in a field suitable for a political career - international relations. But there, the similarities between the two women ends.

Ocasio-Cortez's family can best be described as working class, unlike Pelosi's high-profile parentage. At 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress. Pelosi was nearing 50 years old and had just begun her stint in Congress when Ocasio-Cortex was born. Pelosi has been married for 55 years. Ocasio-Cortez has never married. Pelosi was elected to several positions in the Democratic Party including to the Democratic National Committee before her successful Congressional run. The first time that Ocasio-Cortez was on a ballot was in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat that she eventually won.

In other words, Ocasio-Cortez has burst upon the political scene young and fresh. She's never held political office before and, as of today, she's been a legislator for less than a week.  

Is any of this important? Yes. They are markers for the differences in substance and style that we are seeing played out today.

Pelosi's generation believes in process, respect for the process, respect for authority gained through process. Pelosi's generation believes in institutional stability, in understanding institutional history, in respecting institutional traditions. Pelosi's generation views the ship of state as an oil tanker, needing a steady hand at the wheel and considerable time and patience to coax into changing course, course changes that occur slowly and in measured steps. Her career path validates these beliefs.

If you are a Millennial, I have just described a hidebound, even fossilized attitude toward government that is precisely the 'problem' with government that Millennials find frustrating. 

Ocasio-Cortez's generation wants to make an impact. Now. They have been told by their Baby Boomer parents that they are capable of anything, that they can change the world, that they are the best and the brightest. Knowing what needs to be done, they are eager to get on with it, not in increments but in leaps. Institutions that do not serve their agenda, traditions that hinder immediate progress are to be swept aside. Get with the program or get out of the way. Ocasio-Cortez's rapid rise in political prominence validates these beliefs.

And so, Ocasio-Cortez wants a special climate change committee to attack what she sees as an immediate and existential problem. Pelosi says that the House already has a committee tasked with overseeing the government's environmental policy and the ranking member, a woman who is in her sixth term, has an approval rating from environmental groups that exceeds 90%. Impasse.

Purely given their ages, regardless of their political philosophies, Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez are bound to bump heads. Is one's attitude right and the other's wrong? Not necessarily. Is the gulf between them impenetrable? I don't think so. I think that they are just different and that differences of this type can be worked through if they are understood and accounted for. They, and the factions within the Democratic Party that they represent, are intelligent and committed. We can see glimmers of readjustment and compromise already. Will glimmers be enough? We'll see.

One factor determining the ability of the Party to avoid self-immolation might be the power of social media. So let's look at that quickly.

It is not hyperbole to say that social media is addicting. That is, in fact, exactly the case. Every Like, Retweet, Share, Reply, and the dings and beeps that accompany notifications on your devices release a little dose of dopamine into the brain. That's exactly what heroin does. Those prone to addiction become dependent on that dose. And if you've been dosed since adolescence, you are well and truly hooked. That's why savvy advertisers and purveyors of conspiracy theories and Russian trolls are so heavily into social media. That's why Millennials are so consumed by it. And that's why the mainstream media focus on social media. Hence Ocasio-Cortez reacts to everything that is said about her on social media. Every interaction feeds her addiction. And that's why Ocasio-Cortez has become the darling of traditional media. MSM can piggyback on her following.

This is no criticism of Ocasio-Cortez. This is an explanation of why she is misunderstood by those who haven't taken the time to understand the forces that created her. That's why she is indeed, no disparagement intended, the latest 'shiny' thing. She creates a massive, repetitive dopamine release for herself and for her generation.

Why is this important?

A man standing on a soapbox on a street corner explaining to whoever will listen that youth soccer leagues are a plot to ingrain European socialism into the minds of American adolescents might get two or three people to listen out of the thousands that pass by if the soapbox is in Times Square. Who cares about two or three people in Times Square? But magnify that voice to international volume through social media. Easy to do. Follow that speaker, day and night, from anywhere that you live and work. Easy to do. Get a little dose of dopamine every time that your positive comment about that speaker is Liked. Every time. And you are tied to that speaker, like it or not, as an addict is tied to his dealer.

The proposition that couldn't draw a crowd in Times Square is trending, being discussed by a panel of experts on CNN, and the subject of an op-ed in the New York Times by a sitting US Senator. #soccersocialism

And so we have Twitter duels. And if you don't  get how important they are, don't think that it's worth understanding that we are all pushed and pulled by them, then you haven't been listening. So...

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