One plain truth of American politics often passes without comment: We are an older nation than we once were. Just as the priorities and perspectives of individuals change with the passing years, so does this occur within a society as a whole, and this inevitable process is altering our country in a great variety of ways that, depending upon your political persuasion, is a cause for either celebration or despair.
In 1970 the median age of the U.S. population was a shade over 28 years of age; by 2020 our median age was already approaching 39. This stark change in America’s demographic profile has been manifesting itself in our broader cultural mores and behaviors and has certainly accounted for our national reactions to a number of recent events.
First off, I am convinced that in 1970 there would have been very limited compliance with the lockdowns and shutdowns recently inflicted on Americans in response to the advent of the Covid-19 virus. A younger population feels less vulnerable and would have been more likely rebel when faced with the draconian restrictions that were forced upon us.
However, a population dragging toward middle age is much more likely to be concerned with issues of personal safety. Witness our national fixation on all matters relating to our own health and our sometimes bizarre willingness to install devices in our homes or on our bodies to monitor our every movement.
Consequently, government officials found it much easier to panic us into abject submission to the most extreme public health measures imaginable. I cannot imagine Americans in 1970 would have been quite so anxious to inject themselves with highly experimental vaccines, stay locked in their homes for months while taking their temperatures every hour, and mask (or double mask) themselves into near-asphyxiation despite no compelling evidence this behavior provided useful protection against infection.
Older may be wiser, but it is also more afraid. The passing years clearly bring with them a sense of personal frailty that can be easily and ruthlessly exploited by those with the will to do so—and we saw this amply demonstrated in 2020 and 2021.
In addition, age-related fears about our safety likely account for a large portion of the pushback against the efforts being made by Progressive politicians to defund the police. Youth is a time when many are willing to take risks; older Americans want to cocoon in safety and are rightly appalled with the stark rises in street and property crimes.
It is no surprise, therefore, that we have seen unprecedented numbers of gun sales over the past few years. Fearing that the police have been forced into abdicating our communities to hoodlums by Woke politicians, our aging population has responded by arming themselves, and continuing appeals to public safety will likely be a major factor in the 2022 midterm elections.
Moreover, the aging of America’s population has been a definite factor in what has been a relatively muted response to the possible rollback of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
Advocates for keeping abortion laws out of the hands of State legislatures obviously had hoped millions would march in support of their position—but it seems more like thousands have responded to the call. The loudest rallies have been seen in places such as California, New York, and Illinois, the states that already operate as America’s abortion superstores. Although older Americans might still face unexpected pregnancies or have daughters, granddaughters, and nieces who might be in this predicament, the matter has become less fraught with a general population that is grayer and might actually cherish the notion of daughters, granddaughters, and nieces of their own instead of yet another aborted child.
If we listen to the voices of women who have for a variety of reasons deferred childbearing until much later in life, it seems clear that many strongly feel the safety and security they now increasingly crave might better be found in the comforts of family rather than continuing with the sad serial hookups that are more common among the young and heedless, who are the prime customers for today’s abortion services.
We live in a very different country today than we did a half century ago, and the quest for safety is changing our political, personal, and cultural priorities with each passing year. Politicians will increasingly pitch their policies to this desire, and the big question is how purely ideological differences—albeit ones with dollar signs attached—can be effectively repackaged to appeal to an older electorate seeking security above much else.
It is apparent that the idea of safety—however this might be defined—has become the preferred marketing tool of advocates pushing a wide variety of issues in America today, and the often bewildering arguments over what is safe and what is not are typically linked to appeals for more government control over our lives.
The never ending debates over gun control are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Each side of this issue assures us that either more gun ownership or less is the key to our personal safety, and advocates on both sides also focus a great deal of attention on the question of whether the vast bureaucracies of identification, registration, and enforcement that harsh new restrictions on gun ownership would require are to be welcomed or feared. Either way, the only potentially successful arguments revolve exclusively around safety as the motivating factor for voters.
Border security also fits neatly into this paradigm, and the key reason that the open border policies of the Biden administration are so extraordinarily unpopular is very simple: Most Americans view the chaos at the border as a threat to their personal safety. Democrats may choose to characterize opposition to their policies as evidence of the racism that they claim pervades our nation, but the fact of the matter is the skin color or language heritage of today’s millions of border jumpers matters little to most Americans. The strict Trump-era enforcements were popular in contrast to the current border insanity because they made a number of voters feel safer when they went to bed at night, and understanding this is the first step to addressing the immigration problems created by Biden’s ideological warriors.
Censorship of our expression is another arena where competing camps tout the safety engendered by either free speech or forcing many Americans to shut up. Being an advocate of free and open debate, I personally find it maddening that so many insist that ignorance of a full range of ideas will magically protect us from all harm. I firmly believe that the opposite is actually true, but it is certain that the censors will continue to weaponize every instance of spoken and written idiocy—or obvious mental illness—to muzzle us in order to produce the so-called safety produced by cancel culture.
Of course, many of the most determined efforts to shush our fellow Americans today revolve around the many confusing discussions regarding the apparently amazingly complicated matters of gender and sexuality. Whether the restrictions being proposed are intended to keep kindergarten teachers from advocating masturbation or silencing those who oppose puberty blocking drugs for adolescents, the rhetoric often collides with reality.
To even state there are only two genders or refuse to play the pronoun game that now preoccupies so many schools and colleges to the obvious exclusion of their primary educational missions is a cause for hectoring, expulsion, and professional retaliation because someone’s safety is supposedly being threatened by the fact of two biological sexes who, for millions of years, have born the brunt of perpetuating our species upon this planet.
Whether others—particularly children—are being made unsafe by countenancing this gender bending tomfoolery is a question that is less rarely asked today, but we have already seen that our increasingly older nation is growing weary of the circumlocutions necessary to explain birthing men and women sporting full beards and a penis. Expect that these discussions will join the recent demands for vaccine passports on the ash heap of history as today’s firebrands continue their march toward becoming tomorrow’s grandparents.
Age does have its benefits, and we can expect that as Americans continue to pay more attention to their fiber intake and blood pressures in the years to come that the weight of moderation that gathers about the waistlines of many will drive our political and cultural lives toward the sensible center, although crazy and outré individuals will still titillate and entertain us.
Safety first will eventually mean extremism last, and adequately funding our retirement plans will soon—perhaps very soon—hold more interest for us than twisting ourselves into knots in order to accommodate the needs of those who define themselves through attempts to banish safety and common sense from their daily lives.