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The Future of America: What I Learned at the Ohio License Bureau Troubles Me

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Today, we drove to the Ohio License Bureau in Defiance to renew the plates for our SUV. When we arrived, the place was crowded. We watched others come to the counter to do their business with the state as we waited our turn. During our time at the bureau, four young adults heard their number called and came to the counter to get their driver’s license or plates. Each of them was asked, “are you registered to vote?” and all said no. When asked if they would like to register to vote, these young adults said no. I saw in these young people the future of America. The oldest was twenty-nine, the youngest eighteen. Yet, they had already checked out of the political process. Why is that?

We know that young Americans are generally more liberal, more tolerant, and less religious than their parents and grandparents. They are the key to defeating Trumpism and fascism in this country. Yet, many of them have no interest in participating in the political process. Polly and I have six children. Mom and Dad have voted in every election since they were eighteen (1976 and 1975). We modeled to our children the importance of voting. Yet, two of our children have never voted. This distresses me to no end, especially when they bitch, moan, and complain when politicians do things they don’t like. Both of them tell me that they think the system is broken; that there’s no difference between the two parties; that nothing changes.

While it would be easy to rebuke these young adults for not doing their civic duty, perhaps we should spend our time listening to their reasons for not voting. Perhaps the system IS broken. Perhaps both parties ARE the same. It’s easy and convenient to look at the Republican Party — the party of fascism and Trump — and self-righteously list all the ways the Democratic Party is different from the Republicans. Different how? Both parties are in bed with corporate America. Both parties are warmongers. Both parties are out of touch with working-class people and people of color. I am not suggesting that the two parties are equivalent, but I refuse to buy the notion that the Democrats are the party of the people.

Joe Biden was elected for one reason: he wasn’t Donald Trump. He wasn’t my first choice, my second choice, nor was he my third choice. When I hear that Biden plans to run in 2024, I say, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Biden and the Democrats have bungled their way through the first two years of his term. Most galling are the unforced errors such as Biden’s indifference towards the effect of inflation, rising gasoline prices, and higher rent on working-class and poor people. Brittney Griner, a women’s professional basketball player, is being held in Russia. She was supposed to have a phone call recently with her spouse, a call that never happened. The state department fucked up this call, so it had to be rescheduled. Last week, the Biden administration threatened public schools with withholding money for school lunch programs if they didn’t comply with its interpretation of Title IX guidelines for LGBTQ students. Nice look. Submit or we will take away funding for providing free and reduced lunches. From the border problems in the south, to its mishandling of refugees, to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the war in Ukraine, all I see is incompetence. We liberals and progressives like to hang on to the morsels the Democratic Party throws our way, ignoring the decay, dysfunction, and rot.

Granted, there are structural issues that are strangling the life out of our Republic: the filibuster, the conservative Supreme Court, the military-industrial complex, global warming, and laissez-faire capitalism. Maybe these young adults see what we lifelong voters can’t or won’t see. We keep thinking the next vote will change things; that the next president and next congress will usher in a better tomorrow. And when that doesn’t happen, we repeat the same worn-out process over and over again. Maybe it is time for us to get off the merry-go-round.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    I have been listening to the testimony about the January 6, 2021 riots. While I am sure some young people don’t participate in the democratic process because they’re not thinking about the future, or out of sheer laziness, I can’t blame them for being blasé or even cynical. After all, can anybody say, with any certainty, that Donald Trump or his fellow grifters will pay any price, monetary or otherwise, for what they’ve done.

    Young people I talk with believe—with at least some justification—that the system boils down to this equation: money = power. Most of them don’t have the left side of that equation, so they believe they don’t have what’s on the right side. They see rich people behaving badly and getting off scot-free. Meanwhile, they know that one mistake —or even an accusation, whether or not it has any basis in truth, can ruin the rest of their lives.

    Of course, the things I’ve mentioned are reasons why people should vote, at the very least. But I think that until someone who actually “does what they’re supposed to do” and attains power—and, most important, uses that power for something besides enriching him or her self.

  2. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    My daughter and son are 22 and 20, and they had a heck of a time convincing their left-leaning friends to vote in the 2020 election after Bernie did not get the nomination. My kids kept saying, you don’t have to like Biden, but if you don’t vote we could have 4 more years of Trump. What’s worse?

    Is the system broken? Absolutely. Is it worse now that stares are further disenfranchising voters? Absolutely. But we have to still try

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You raise a good point about Bernie Sanders. He was my #1 choice both times. Many young adults saw in him the prospect of a better tomorrow, a more just and equitable society. When Sanders bowed out, young adults became discouraged. Their idealism was met head on by pragmatism and political chicanery (with the DNC deliberately working to thwart Sander’s campaign).

  3. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    “Most galling are the unforced errors such as Biden’s indifference towards the effect of inflation, rising gasoline prices, and higher rent on working-class and poor people. Brittney Griner, a women’s professional basketball player, is being held in Russia. She was supposed to have a phone call recently with her spouse, a call that never happened. The state department fucked up this call, so it had to be rescheduled. Last week, the Biden administration threatened public schools with withholding money for school lunch programs if they didn’t comply with its interpretation of Title IX guidelines for LGBTQ students. Nice look. Submit or we will take away funding for providing free and reduced lunches. From the border problems in the south, to its mishandling of refugees, to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the war in Ukraine, all I see is incompetence.”

    Bruce, what would you have Biden do? And how is inflation, gas prices, rent, his “error”? refugees, afghanistan, Ukraine, I see all of those put in place by his predecessor.

    I’m not sure about the call to russia, but I honestly have little sympathy with people who go to Russia at all. I do disagree with withholding lunch money to schools if they fail at LGBTQ+ things, that punishes the wrong people.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Biden can start by shutting his damn mouth. Telling people that inflation, higher prices are the price we all must pay for “democracy” is offensive and indifferent (as rich white men are wont to do).

      Biden is a capitalist, and because he is, he’s content to let the economy go where it will. As a socialist, I vehemently disagree with this path.

      When asked whether he was concerned about rapidly rising rent prices, Biden said no. No compassion, no attempt to relate to struggling working class people. Again not a good look, especially from a man living in government housing with servants and free healthcare.

      If Biden runs again, it will fracture the Democratic Party. That said, I’m not sure who I’d vote for. The AntiChrist? 🤣🤣

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Everyone knew Biden was careless with his words, as was Trump. That said, public perception is set by how and what our president says. His indifference towards working-class people (and seeming forgetfulness of campaign promises he made) has not gone over well with many Democrats. People are hesitant to criticize Biden lest it helps the Republicans. I’m well past that point.

          Biden got us out of one war (albeit incompetently) and right into another one; one the Chomsky made clear in piece we’ve been marching towards since 2004.

          What I want to see is competence. What I (might) get instead is $4 a week for ninety days to “help” with gas prices. Woo, sure glad for all that cash.🤬🤬

          Biden is not the only problem. Congress plays a big part. The short term solution is to elect more Democrats, but it’s unlikely that’s going to,happen. It’s likely the Democrats will lose the House and Senate in November. And then a do-little Congress and President will become a do-nothing Congress and President.

          • Avatar
            clubschadenfreude

            Again bruce, what would you have him do? What does “competence” look like? What is a “competent” way to end a war?

            Politicians do make campaign promises that are often forgotten or can’t be fulfilled. That’s why we should remind them.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    One problem I see with the Democratic establishment–which includes the President and the mayor of my city, Eric Adams–is that they are, in their own way, telling people that the state of the (dis)union is “God’s plan”–without, of course,mentioning God. In other words, they tell us that inflation, wars and the like are just things “we have to live with” or adapt to. As an example, here in New York, Eric Adams is telling women not to stand by themselves in subway stations. While that might make some sense from a safety standpoint, it doesn’t address the reasons why people are sexually assaulted or pushed onto subway tracks. Among those reasons are an economic system that greases the chute when people lose their jobs or homes, and the lack of a healthcare system that includes mental health treatment based on research, not on opinions. Many of those problems can be traced back to an ethos that prioritizes violence and the tools of destruction over that which can rebuild and nurture.

    (That, by the way, is one reason why authoritarians oppose abortion rights: They accept it as a “given” that lives will be lost because of their other policies, and their solution is to replace those lives with new ones, never mind that too many of those newborns are doomed to live as dysfunctionally as the ones who died because of inhumane policies. In other words, a military-industrial complex that restricts or denies a woman or anyone else agency over their body is, by definition, fighting a war of attrition.)

    Many years ago, I considered myself a Libertarian. There are still a few tenets of that philosophy that, interestingly, doevetail with my current social- democratic (with a small “d”) values. Among them is something Justin Raimondo said: The Democrats and Republicans are simply two wings of the “War Party.” He, rightly, pointed out that people like Nancy Pelosi (whom he challenged for her Congressional seat), Hilary Clinton and, yes, Joe Biden are just as much a part of that “war machine” as Dick Cheyney, Bush pere et fils, John McCain or any board member of Raytheon, Blackwater or related companies.

    Now I’ll tell you what the real difference is (drumroll) between Trump and Biden. The latter is sending aid to Ukraine. Trump, on the other hand, would have supported Putin, if he’d done anything. Otherwise, as Raimondo might have said, they’re both War Presidents.

    So, I don’t expect that voting for the most liberal candidates I can find will change much. But I think its important to continue to make the point that change is necessary, and to make that change, however incremental. You can kindle a flame if it’s still flickering, but not if it’s snuffed out.

  5. Avatar
    Ange

    When I was younger the reason I didn’t register to vote every time I moved to a new place was this… as soon as you register they start hounding you to do jury duty. After I registered in a new state, I got called to jury 9 times in a year. They keep summoning you till you serve if the case gets postponed at last minute. This disrupts one’s life if you work and if you are disabled or work night shift they expect you to suddenly be a morning person and show up at 8am for jury. Also around election time the register voters get constant phone calls from politician offices. And if you are unregistered you don’t get this harassment. I know many friends don’t register for the same reason. I have one friend who unregistered for this reason and I didn’t even know that was possible.

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Bruce Gerencser