OPINION | ART HOBSON: Younger people, unpleased with what prior generations have done, are ready for change in 2024

Weary young people ready for a new path

The nation and the world are not doing well. Many Americans, especially young people, think we can do better. They will be heard in the 2024 elections.

Internationally, the war in Ukraine grinds on with no end in sight, threatening to escalate to nuclear weapons. Global warming decimates the environment and can only worsen in the coming decades. America is failing in its self-appointed role as "leader of the free world."

For one particularly instructive example, the U.S.-led NATO alliance jumped into another foolish war in Libya in 2011 when it helped overthrow the regime of dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who had surrendered his nuclear weapons program a few years earlier. Aspiring nuclear nations such as Iran and North Korea surely concluded from this that such weapons are valuable in staving off hostile powers. Thus, NATO's attack on Libya significantly heightened the threat of nuclear war.

Libya is instructive because NATO's actions turned out to have implications for global warming. That nation has been unstable ever since Qaddafi's death. Gen. Khalifa Hifter, an ambitious warlord and self-declared leader of the "Libyan National Army," took the dictator's death as an invitation to conquer whatever he could, which turned out to be the eastern half of the country. However, the rival government in the western city of Tripoli controls most of Libya's funds. The resulting war continues today, leading inevitably to the decline of civil government and the decay of infrastructure.

As a result, when global warming led to extreme rains, a long-neglected and damaged dam located upstream from the city of Derna ruptured, releasing water that rushed downhill to a second dam that then also failed. Around 11,000 people, asleep that night in riverbank homes, never knew what hit them.

Thus, weather extremes, amplified by regional wars and poverty, can cause catastrophic outcomes. The planet will soon see many more such calamities.

Meanwhile for Americans, stable governance at home is very much in doubt. U.S. politics perennially offers only two realistic presidential choices. This year one of them will apparently be a narcissistic clown who has little interest in democracy and no ability to lead a nation.

The situation reminds me of the early days of the Vietnam War when the USA invaded that tiny nation on the other side of the globe to "save" it from Communist domination. Our assessment of the political and military situation turned out to be 100% wrong. Some 58,000 U.S. troops died and we lost. It would have been worse were it not for the committed opposition that saw the American war for what it really was: A paranoid attempt to control the world.

The times, they were a-changin'.

The voices of the anti-war opposition were mainly those of young people who understood that U.S. intervention would not resolve the problems of governance and poverty that plagued the world. A crucial turn occurred in the wake of the Vietcong's victorious Tet Offensive when Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded the 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, asked President Johnson to throw another 200,000 into the quagmire. Johnson's response was that he could not comply because the antiwar opposition had made further U.S. escalation politically untenable. In my opinion, these young people saved tens of thousands of lives, shortened the war by several years and put our nation on a healthier path.

Today, polls show that younger people (Millennials, Generation Z) are more likely to be liberal and vote Democratic. Because they will live longer into a dangerous future, they are most at risk from nuclear war, climate catastrophe and other mistakes of their elders. Another sign of intelligent liberal views among young adults is that they are less likely to be religiously affiliated. Donald Trump's support, on the other hand, tends to come from older people, the South and evangelicals.

It's looking to me as though the 2024 election outcomes will be a turnaround from the period 2016-2024. I'm guessing the GOP will nominate Trump and he will go down in flames, pulling the worst GOP candidates down with him. Next year could even mark the end of extreme right-wing Republican politics in America. All of this assumes, however, that Democrats will be wise enough to admit that immigration is a real problem and that changes are needed; this single issue could spoil a landslide win for Democrats.

Americans, especially the young, are fed up with the inhumane, racist, anti-LGBTQ, pro-gun, strict anti-abortion, fundamentalist, anti-science, anti-environment views of the Republican party's dominant right wing.

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