Let me preface by saying that the National Young Feminist Leadership conference provided a substantial service in its education on cultivating political involvement. Teaching young people the means to get engaged in civic movements and political activities is an unquestionably necessary route to combating regressive policies such as abortion restrictions, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, environmental cutbacks, and a stratified health care system. NYFLC deserves must be commended on cultivating a lost American art; social capital.
I was nonetheless disappointed in the lack of progressive issues being put at the forefront of discussion. Such progressive issues include opportunity structure creation in impoverished communities, a call for single-payer health care, more affordable higher education, fighting corporate corruption and investment in renewable energy sources. These are all, I think, very important feminist issues since they are focused on the creation of “opportunity” and battling the forces that stifle said “opportunity.” These are also issues that have become increasingly popular not only among millennials, who were more or less the target demographics of the conference, but the general populace as a whole.
Not prioritizing these issues as factors to fight for in upcoming elections and/or civic movements seems like a missed opportunity for the NYFLC. Now one could argue that prioritizing these economic, populist issues would come at the expense of social issues such as fighting structural racism, sexism, and LGBT discrimination. Yet often social and economic issues are inextricably linked, with the point of progressive politics being, as Salon indicates, “to help transcend other social and cultural divisions and promote an economic solidarity that would go a long way toward overcoming deeply entrenched parochial beliefs and attitudes.”
I also found it disappointing that progressivism was not substantially brought up during a panel on voting that seemed to veer towards getting millennials engaged. Indeed there was an emphasis on how millennials are outnumbering baby boomers to the point where they are becoming a much more powerful voting force, though they tended to vote in much lower numbers and were generally less politically engaged. Though when the topic of emphasizing progressive politics was brought up, the panel relegated them to “millennial-centric” issues, suggesting that they ought not to be emphasized for fear of alienating more “moderate” and “consistent” voting blocs.
To that I say the Democrats tried the “moderate” and “consistent” route and helped elect Donald Trump. I believe that if progressive, working-class oriented issues are not put at the forefront of future candidates’ platforms, there will be an increase of the cultural divide in America, spurring more liberal candidate losses, thus ultimately benefiting the power structures of elitist politicians and their donors.
You can’t run a platform based on Trump Sucking. I repeat. YOU CAN’T RUN A PLATFORM BASED ON TRUMP SUCKING!
NYFLC has done a good job of accentuating the need for millennials to engage in social capital. Yet that social capital will mean little if future leaders do not speak to the growing momentum of progressive politics.
(featured image source flickr-Phil Roeder)