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Truth is Powerful

Commentary: Decency, solution-oriented politics can reconnect next generation with democracy

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Christopher Walsh If you take a moment to look at a recent Harvard Institute of Politics youth poll, you’ll find many Americans ages 18-29 share a grim outlook on their democracy. That doesn’t bode well for a deep faith in our institutions.

Interestingly, their response to a question on international affairs may suggest one explanation for such pessimism. When asked what should be “the primary motivation for U.S. foreign policy,” a 27% plurality answered, “promoting international peace and human rights.” By contrast, only 6% said, “promoting democracy around the world.”

It’s concerning that “peace” and “human rights” are named as distinct from “democracy.” The linkage between peace, human rights and democracy should be the philosophical equivalent of peanut butter and jelly or avocado and toast.

The disconnection raises questions about how this generation associates peace and human rights with democracy domestically. As they come of age in a time of increasing polarization and declining social trust, it’s easy to understand why this gap may exist.

The Institute of Politics survey shows a majority believe American democracy is in trouble or has outright failed. To reverse this lack of trust in the system of government, young people must see a shift in how the […]

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