eyes on the U.S.

Clinton Makes History. My Generation, With No Sense of History, Doesn’t Care

A millennial explains why her peers aren't excited about the likely first female major-party nominee for U.S. president

Millennial apathy
Millennial apathy
Molly Roberts*

-OpEd-

A female presidential candidate has clinched a major-party nomination for the first time in U.S. history. No one seems to care â€" at least not many people in my millennial generation. Not even women, although they should.

Maybe my cohort is caught up in the moment of Donald Trump: Millennial liberals may think it’s more vital to ward off an age of authoritarianism than to usher in a new era for feminism. Certainly, we’ve been distracted by Bernie Sanders: For idealistic young voters, a rabble-rousing revolutionary feels more alluring than a political pragmatist, even one with two X chromosomes.

College campuses buzz these days with talk of “intersectionality,” the notion that different forms of discrimination interact and overlap. So to many voters of my generation, being a woman alone might not seem like enough, if you’re also white, straight, rich and, by the way, a Clinton.

Carrying that name means carrying a lot of baggage. Clinton has gotten flak for policies her husband championed while president, when today’s youngest voters hadn’t even reached preschool. Detractors point to the anti-crime and welfare reform efforts that took a greater toll on African Americans than any other population â€" and for which Hillary Clinton has since apologized.

Now, as Clinton champions an extension of the policies of the past eight years over Sanders’s radical revisionism, many millennials are convinced she will always align herself at the center of the established order â€" wherever that is at any given moment.

They’re missing the point.

Many millennials find it easier to pillory Clinton for her mistakes than to praise her for her successes as first lady. But they fail to appreciate how striking those successes were for a first lady at the time. They also fail to understand why Clinton couldn’t go further â€" when it’s remarkable she got as far as she did at all.

Unlike her predecessors, Clinton didn’t ask Americans to say no to drugs or yes to literacy. Instead, she set out to remake the health-care system. Installing a first lady in a prime-real-estate West Wing office rather than relegating her to traditional East Wing duties was an unprecedented move.

Back then, Clinton was hit from the right for overstepping the bounds of the first-lady role and involving herself in policy. Now, ironically, she is hit from my millennial friends on the left for, well, having involved herself in policy.

And Clinton wasn’t viewed as a threat only because she was a woman: She was also too liberal. During Bill Clinton’s administration, critics accused her of yanking her husband to the left. Bill had promised “two for the price of one.” Yet when the package deal turned voters off, it was Hillary’s job to step back. She was, after all, just the wife.

Today, ironically again, Clinton’s ideological views present a problem for many millennial voters for the opposite reason: She is, in their assessment, not liberal enough.

My generation underrates not only Clinton’s past efforts but also her present significance. Our mothers faced gender barriers; their mothers faced even more. In the 1960s and early ’70s, when many of our mothers were children, the most obvious career choice for a woman was housewife. For those who did work outside the home, the gender pay ratio hovered around 60 %.

Women of my generation, on the other hand, grew up being taught â€" including by our mothers â€" that we could do anything. For the most part, it has played out that way. When we turn on the news, there’s often a woman at the anchor desk â€" sometimes reporting on another woman. In any given year in the ’70s, there were at most 19 women in the House and two in the Senate â€" including a four-year stretch with no female senators at all. In November, the combined number of women in both chambers passed 100 for the first time.

Our parents may have been surprised â€" our mothers were probably pleased â€" that Clinton secured an office in the West Wing at all. We see it as inevitable that one day a woman will occupy the one that is oval-shaped.

So the necessity of having that occupant be Hillary Clinton, or of having that moment occur in 2017, feels less urgent. And the notion of the first female major-party presidential nominee is greeted with a collective millennial yawn.

*Molly Roberts graduated last month from Harvard University and is an intern for The Post’s editorial page.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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