Only the Young

Only the Young Can Manage This

A Taylor Swift lyric pulled together my ideas about changing attitudes about winning. * Swift and Joel Little wrote and produced “Only the Young,” inspired by the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, and it is considered to be Swift’s most politically-charged song.

When I heard this song and thought about the conflict between key opponents during the 2023 Women’s NCAA Basketball tournament, I thought about the phrase, “You won; I lost.” But today, the phrase seems to have disappeared and become as forgotten as the now-extinct Dutch Elm trees. +

Joyfully, this is my fourth anniversary of the Past Becomes Present Blog. I consider unique events in American History, but sometimes I wonder what has stepped into democracy’s path. In any event, I appreciate each one of my readers. So, if you get a chance, leave me a note telling me what you’re thinking. Thanks for reading.

Athletes and most politicians work hard to achieve success, but along the way, the desire to “get there” can bend their original values and force them to make choices they would scorn just months or weeks before. The negative things we do in eagerness to succeed, what we say and do to our opponents, can take us low. We are so much better than that.

The Big Lie and the negative example it sets for using social media to advance a falsehood has seriously damaged American politics and communication among teens and pre-teens. Social media that scrambled the electorate’s brains with repeated lies and crass messaging has entered the vocabulary of teens taking sides and viciously criticizing opponents or classmates online.

The desire, no screaming need, to play the competition off the field, contend for the championship, grab the ring, get the trophy, and eventually be coveted by a professional team—repeats itself every season in every sport. Players and parents get into it, many all too aware of the notoriety, wealth, and publicity winners achieve.

When was the last time you heard someone admit they were wrong and someone else was correct?

Lincoln wrote, “You won; I lost.” to General Grant after his long-fought victory at Vicksburg. Would Lincoln reconsider today and write something like: “I’m sad; I know I was right. I don’t know why you didn’t follow my instructions, but I’m glad you stuck with it.”

In politics, we have come-to-Jesus moments just when we expect the game to end, like in 2020 when the former President called the Chief of Elections in Georgia to demand he “find” the votes to even the score, but the Georgian refused. It could have ended then; we could have avoided a two-year-plus anxiety that rocks our nation. We could have avoided the horrific scenes inside the halls of Congress on January 6, the Congressional investigations and hearings to determine the causes of the security breach, and the cost of security and court cases around the country.

Can we protect our democracy from a falsehood based on the Big Lie? To date, the system is limping through the process. But in 2024, we must require a winner and a loser. When the voting is over, after the mail-in votes are counted, when the last basket hits the net or the final field goal soars across the uprights, it needs to be final — no one gaming the opponent or spreading lies about the conclusion.

We’re still wrangling over the 2020 election in 2023, and no doubt some die-hards will still be jawboning it in 2024 and beyond. Since 2000 the issue of who won the popularity by the candidate vs. the Electoral College has come up repeatedly. It’s exhausting, though important because determining the winning candidate is essential. We can’t leave the Electoral College question until the next election, but address it now because the population centers are changing and this is not 1778 anymore when these decisions were first made.

The tight races or a difference between the popular and electoral votes are nothing new. In 2000, the Presidential Election could have gone either way. The George H.W. Bust-Al Gore marked the beginning of the popular vote going for the Democrats—Gore’s popular vote count exceeded Bush’s by 500,000 votes. Still, following the Electoral College tally that the Constitution now requires, Bush topped Gore 271 to 266, just one vote above the required 270 to win. The Court ruled for Bush. Gore did not stand on a soapbox and yell at the gods. He reluctantly went along with the decision. In 1960, Kennedy took the Electoral vote 303-219, which was not close, but Kennedy won the popular vote by only 112,827, tight in a national race. Yet Nixon did not ask for a recount. Do these races seem this long ago?

The millions of dollars poured into primary races at all levels so politicians can grab online money trees. Organizations far to their right or left seize supporters’ dollars for political campaigns focusing on cultural issues, not problems in education and child poverty, housing, and transportation. That would take some collective brainpower to jawbone those issues to the ground, eating away at them a bite at a time.

What are those millions used for? First, full-sized travel RVs circulate in six key states (ignoring the others), media companies are paid millions for ad space, and then fake messaging flows online. Finally, social media has led their gullible prime audience to believe almost anything negative about their opponent.)

We “adults,” 40 and above, certainly haven’t solved much, and with Congress cut in two with a knife politically, one questions whether the key issues will be tackled. However, we won’t ignore the problems but welcome the enthusiasm and new thinking of the 40 and under!

“Only the Young’s” lyrics urge listeners to “get out there and participate in democracy,” says Vulture’s entertainment blog writer Joey Haylock. Young people are registering to vote in many parts of the country like never before. We need this to continue to get new people and new ideas coming in. We might not like all of them and more than the under 40s like some of ours, but we’ll have new blood ideas flowing in the political bloodstream. We look to this new energy to help boost solutions to the use and abuse of social media, so it will flow without damaging its users or harming democracy. I’m a blogger! I don’t want the free flow of ideas to stop. I want to develop responsible ways to use it to benefit us all.

Above all, I encourage those under 40 to RUN–in politics, sports, and around the block to keep themselves mentally and physically in shape!

*“Only the Young” is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and released on January 31, 2020, through Republic Records, as a promotional single for Miss Americana, a 2020 Netflix documentary on Swift.

+ In the week following the NCAA Championship, lead players for Louisiana State and Iowa recognized the talent of their opponents, helping modify the earlier social media lightening that had dimmed satisfaction with the games, despite tremendous record-setting play.

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