America's Future Depends on the Determinant Middle | Opinion

There are hardly any certainties in politics—much less political polling. However, one of the few certainties that polls on political attitudes have consistently demonstrated is that young people are far more likely than their older counterparts to have a belief in a vision of America that includes reshaping it root-and-branch. In practice, this amounts to college campuses inundated with attempts to abridge free speech, "cancel" historical figures and create a type of fascistic monolithic groupthink that President Woodrow Wilson could have only dreamt of.

Fox News recently released a poll that, on one hand, confirmed what we already knew. But, on the other hand, it also shined light on some new truth.

What did it confirm? It confirmed that the under-30 crowd is more prone to beliefs that indict our country to its core than is any other age group. Thirty-nine percent of people under the age of 30 would describe our Founding Fathers as "heroes," while 31 percent would describe them as "villains." This is in stark contrast to the 77 percent of those 65-and-up who classify our Founders as "heroes" and the mere six percent who would describe them as "villains."

Thirty percent of people under the age of 30 want statues of Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to "be taken down," while 47 percent want them to "stay up." To put this in context, 81 percent of those who are older than 45 and 88 percent of those who are older than 65 want those statues to "stay up"—nearly a 40-point difference.

These numbers do not reflect the portion of my generation that is simply left-of-center; rather, the numbers reflect the portion that has an interest in condemning America itself. Left-of-center versus right-of-center political debates are healthy and necessary, but our current political foes are those who would like to uproot the entire system.

The good news is that extremists are not actually representative of my generation—30 percent support here and 40 percent support there is not enough to fundamentally change the American system. The radicals may be the loudest, but they are not a majority.

Those in opposition are not in the majority either, though. In truth, the people who will shift the balance of opinion will be those who currently identify in the political middle—or as the people who respond that they "don't know" their opinion on these various issues. In the new Fox poll, this group represents about 20 to 30 percent of registered voters under 30. This group is what I call the "determinant middle." It is the group of unengaged young people who will be the determinant factor as it relates to the future of our national politics.

High school graduation during coronavirus
High school graduation during coronavirus Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Because, in radio host Erick Erickson's words, the determinant middle will be "made to care" by those who would like to build a "new" American system, there is reason to fear that those in the middle could acquiesce due to indifference.

However, it seems as though there is more room for optimism than pessimism. The fact that this determinant middle exists is grounds, in and of itself, to see a vibrant opportunity to claim the majority and bear strength in numbers against the relatively low number of radicals. This is a fight that must be fought—not one that can be preemptively conceded as a lost cause.

To win the determinant middle, we must promote an outlook on the world that puts in context the truly unique historical moment we are living through—and we must foster gratitude based on that context. It is not hard to find ways to bash America and side with the 30 percent of young people who want to see it fundamentally redefined—after all, there are more than a few issues that we continue to face. However, we must tell a story that recognizes America's faults, while still recognizing and appreciating that the civilization that we live in today is more unique and more prosperous than any other civilization throughout human history.

The issue is not that the story we should tell is unpopular, but rather that it is not being offered in the first instance. Beginning on my second day of AP U.S. history in high school, we were assigned reading by Howard Zinn with no alternative perspective assigned. When the education system offers a singular perspective, it will only be the few who seek out additional information who will get an accurate picture of our history; everyone else will be left with a picture frame only half-filled.

If we want to win the determinant middle, we must offer that middle a perspective of which they have long been deprived. When we do that, we will find that our story, and our vision, can win in the end. We know the future is up for grabs, and it is the job of all of us to help take it.

Jack Elbaum will be attending George Washington University in the fall. His writing has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner and The Daily Wire. You can contact him at

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.