Robert Nava ordered his breakfast at Eggslut and sat down to relax Tuesday at Grand Central Market, only to be bothered by a stranger.
My apologies. It’s what I do.
CNN had broadcast a town hall meeting Monday night in which five Democratic presidential candidates answered questions of interest to young people. It’s early, and this is a guess, but I see President Trump winning a second term unless young people — who skew more progressive, more inclusive and desirous of radical change — turn out in greater numbers than they did last time.
So I wanted to see what some younger Angelenos had on their minds, and how they’d choose a candidate. Not that I conducted a remotely scientific poll, but hey it’s not as if the pros got it right last time.
Nava is a young man, by my definition, at 34. Last time around, he voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and Hillary Clinton in the general.
The most important issue for Nava?
“A solid safety net,” said the landscape architect, who owns his own small company. Nava graduated from college just as the recession was taking root and saw people lose homes and jobs. “That’s what’s going to get me out and voting for a candidate, and so I think education and healthcare are the two biggest issues.”
The call for cheaper, better healthcare for everyone was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign, one of many promises that hasn’t panned out. But Nava said Sanders, who called for a single-payer system four years ago and is now pushing Medicare for all, isn’t necessarily his guy this time.
Nava wants to watch the process play out, but he’s had an eye on Elizabeth Warren. He thinks she’s onto something with her proposed tax on the country’s wealthiest families and her calls to relieve college costs and student debt.
The one person he can’t vote for, Nava said, is Trump.
“He’s degraded the presidency,” said Nava, “and he’s divided us more.”
It’s fair to say, though, that some of the local youth are convinced that Democrats and Republicans are part of the same corrupt, failed system. I asked four young Eggslut diners for their thoughts on 2020, and they told me the country was run by a white oligarchy, then asked me to leave.
I don’t necessarily disagree. But part of me wanted to ask why such rebels would stand in line at a joint that sells a coddled egg with gray salt and chives for nine bucks.
After Grand Central I headed for Chinatown, knowing that millennials always line up around lunch time for Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken in Far East Plaza. Ray’s was closed for maintenance, as it turned out, but there were still plenty of youngish folks around.
Kiel Servideo, 32, a screenwriter-turned-Uber driver, felt the Bern last time and thinks income inequality is “the issue of the day.” But he’s not all-in with Sanders this time. He’s intrigued by South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and listens carefully for a political quality in short supply — authenticity.
“Cory Booker says all the right things, but something about him doesn’t come across as authentic to me,” said Servideo.
His buddy Nick Hanes, 37, is leaning Warren after being a Sanders supporter.
“I definitely have fear of a lefty Dem losing the center, but I’d rather have someone like Warren represent the party and make a pitch to the center on why she’s better for them than Trump,” said Hanes, an insurance underwriter.
At Grand Central, Anthony Marando and Jillian Bradley, both 29 and visiting from Atlanta, said they lean left on issues like healthcare, immigration and abortion. But they fault both sides for too much rhetoric and not enough problem-solving, and Bradley said she thinks voters are too inclined to be swayed by candidates who oversimplify things.
“With our age group and the internet culture, the meme culture, people are learning about things through a picture and a headline and basing opinions on that instead of reading the whole story … and digging deep,” Bradley said.
Lindsey Mysse, 38, offered what I thought was a dark yet smart and hopeful take on the state of the union.
“I didn’t like the Bernie cult,” the software producer said of Sanders’ rise in the last primary. “Everybody was saying Bernie was going to fix everything, but they didn’t want to change their lives, they just wanted someone to fix their problems.”
Coming at us soon, he said, is a convergence of catastrophic problems that include climate change, a water shortage and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“I think America needs to change itself,” Mysse said. “I don’t think we need a leader for us to be kinder, more environmentally sensitive, to walk more and drive less … Americans need to become more sophisticated in our media consumption, more aware of how science works … and not be led astray” by public relations fog screens and political misdirection.
Call me naive, but I like this blend of jaded idealism, and I’m putting my faith in the next generation to straighten out all the messes we old-timers have created.
Mysse emailed me later in the day to apologize for being so pessimistic, and listed all the things that give him hope.
“As far as who should be president,” he wrote, “whoever is going to be the one who draws the clearest line [between] how our personal actions affect our neighbors, cities, country and world.”