What I Learned About Politics From My GenZ Niece
GenZ voters may determine the winner in the the 2020 election: A post holiday chat with a 19 year old and a review of Pew’s latest demographic research.
Bo Burnham is a “cusper”. At 29 years old he’s right on the generational cusp. He’s five years too old to be a GenZ’er and almost too young to be considered a real Millennial. He’s also a very popular comedian with the Generation Z crowd. Cuspers generally aren’t respected among the younger demographic but Burnham’s style of comedy fits nicely into a hopeful sense of angst, an intentionally laughable desperation that many GenZ’ers live with on a daily basis.
His musical comedy, an aggressive mixture of anger, disappointment, judgement and fear somehow works.
Most Millennials and GenXers would have to pay close attention to his content to discover the comedy. Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation would likely find his shtick absurd, annoying and mildly offensive.But, GenZ’ers get it.
In his musical bit “What’s Funny” an almost angry Burnham sings about the absurdity and pretentiousness of him even being in a comedy show. He compares the experience to “Shakesphere’s willy or Noam Chomsky wearing a strap-on”. He sings about the offensiveness of Thanksgiving Day. He complains about a baby laughing at keys being jiggled only to discover, later in life, that the keys were “from a Hummer”. He suggests that if he were to die happy the situation would be autoerotic. Musically raging, he sings that he hates his life and it hates him back.
It sounds depressing as hell but, if you give it a chance, it’s oddly funny.
Generation Z uses comedy, memes and language as coping mechanisms. They’re young Americans who have never known an America not at war. They’re constantly exposed to the real threat of getting shot at school for ten months a year, every year. To their detriment and dismay, they internalize the immediate, devastating effects of climate change and a forever, pending global apocalypse.
Although the demographic is, on the one hand, making an effort to survive the emotionally jarring effects of the circumstances they were born into, they’re also unapologetically planning to take matters into their own hands, right now. Unlike Millennial stereotypes, GenZ’ers actually see a future and are more than willing to fight politically for their own survival.
With the 2020 election just around the corner and just a small segment of the demographic eligible to vote (18–24 year olds), they’re still likely to represent 10% of the total voting block. Middle America’s undecided, Independent voters may not hold golden ticket for next year’s presidential candidates. GenZ might be the demographic that determines the outcome of a close election and it’s Democrats and Republicans are swinging the pendulum center-left. In the immediate years to come, ironically, the youngest voters may also be the ones who save the Republican party from itself, dragging it back toward the center.
This feature is about a 19 year old college student in New Jersey, a bunch of GenZ’ers whom I’ve been informally interviewing on Tic Tock, two comedians who make no sense to anyone over 30, a handful of memes, an absurdist language with words like “Yeet” that mean a hundred different things, Pew’s latest demographic research, a national election, unmedicated anxiety and very young lefties who might just save the Republican party.