Meacham Labels America ‘Center Right’
By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
In Newsweek editor Jon Meacham’s view, America is anything but boring. And the forces that shape today’s generation of voters are evidence of that.
“It is a fascinating time, it always is,” Meacham said at a plenary session at The Council of State Governments Annual Conference in La Quinta, Calif., Nov. 14.
Meacham told the crowd of state government officials that the United States is in an “unsettled ideological age.” The definitions of conservative and liberal have changed considerably, he said.
“The terms conservative and liberal deserve a second look.”
In fact, Meacham believes the nation is mostly conservative, calling Americans “center right.” He points to several clues gathered from a lifelong career as a journalist.
“We have become more conservative on gun laws,” he said, adding the public also believes health care should not be a government responsibility. There’s also a rise in the number of people opposing gay marriage, he said.
The decisive force in politics and in culture is the younger generation, or the millennial generation—those born between 1980 and 2000, Meacham said. That generation showed up in the last presidential election where Barack Obama captured 66 percent of the vote of those ages 18 to 29, Meacham said.
“They’re not going to come and make America some sort of Facebook utopia,” Meacham said, but if mismanaged, they could create generational strife.
Meacham said the country is also on the way to becoming a minority-majority nation, which he admits is a bit of a contradiction in terms. But what he means is this: By 2050 the nation’s population will rise to an estimated 438 million and 82 percent of the increase in population from 296 million people in 2005 will come from immigrants, he said.
That has some implications for state government.
“Though we’re a nation of immigrants, we tend to forget that in times of economic or social strife,” Meacham said.
Even though Meacham spoke about the changing forces on America, he said there are some things that never change. One of those things is partisanship. The Bible got it right, Meacham said, there is nothing new under the sun. The question is not if partisanship will happen but rather to what degree it will happen, according to Meacham.
Religion and politics will also be linked forever, he said, because both are about people.
“You cannot separate religion from politics,” Meacham said. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be separation of church and state but that religion is “a force that shapes us without strangling us,” he said.
“People who try to ban religion from politics are on a fool’s errand,” Meacham said.