By Robert Mann
When I wrote last week about the exodus of young people from Louisiana, encouraging them to stay, I omitted an important point: Those who leave and return after a decade or more may not recognize this place.
Sure, Cafe Du Monde will still be serving coffee and beignets. Every spring, we’ll boil crawfish. Mardi Gras parades will continue to roll. The Saints and the LSU Tigers will still be playing football.
Politically and socially, however, Louisiana will be a radically different state.
We’ll almost certainly have same-sex marriage (perhaps as soon as a year or two by virtue of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling). Marijuana possession will likely be legal. Almost every individual will have health insurance. The wealthy will be paying something closer to their fair share of taxes. Public schools will be better funded and teachers required to instruct students about evolution and climate change.
Within 10 to 15 years, I’m confident that those still waging a cultural war against marriage equality will generally be known as “former elected officials.” Oh, there will still be conservatives among us, but their fights with liberals will be over new matters. Many of the social issues we now debate so fiercely will largely be settled in less than a generation.
Demography, even in Louisiana, is destiny.
Before too long, our politics will be dominated by a diverse generation of individuals born between 1980 and 2000. If you have teenage children, or ones in their 20s, you know that they have a very different view of the world and politics than their elders.
Louisiana’s young people, for example, are twice as likely to support gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana as those over age 65. Nationally, 68 percent of individuals age 18-29 believe in human evolution, as compared to 49 percent of those 65 and older.
This is not to say that the millennial generation will adopt traditionally liberal positions on every issue. That’s especially true in Louisiana, which will likely remain more conservative than the rest of the nation. (Belief in evolution, by the way, is not a liberal position; it’s science, which many conservatives have rejected.)
A national poll of Millennials, conducted last year by Harvard’s Institute of Politics,found that 41 percent of them claim no party affiliation (only 24 percent are Republican; 33 percent Democrat). While liberal on most social issues, they tend toward fiscal conservatism, although they strongly support some traditional government programs.