David Freedlander ’90 Explores Millennial Organizing, Political Influence During Alumni Talk

Political journalist and Columbia University adjunct professor David Freedlander ’90 took the Calvert community through his new book, The AOC Generation: How Millennials Are Seizing Power and Rewriting the Rules of American Politics, Thursday during a virtual visit with alumni. The book, which debuted last month, presents an unbiased look at how millennials are changing politics in the United States.
David, a contributor at New York Magazine and contributing editor at POLITICO Magazine, previously spoke to alumni in October, when he described the rise of New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. His new book uses the congresswoman’s story to analyze millennial organizers and media consumers.
“My intention with this was not to make it an endorsement of her or her politics or the movement that she is a part of… but to put a marker down in this political moment and say, 'This is what was happening in 2018 in the United States of America. Let’s see where it all goes from here,’” David shared on Thursday.
While it can be difficult to speak broadly of an entire generation, David says that millennials grew up during several landmark events – the 2001 terror attacks, two wars, a recession, and social upheaval related to race and gender – and were influenced by left-leaning politicians like Bernie Sanders.
They tend to exhibit hyper-liberal perspectives and less patience for the status quo, David says.
“I think it is fair to say that young liberals are far more liberal than any other liberals and that they are far more liberal than previous generations of liberals,” he said. “As the entire cohort ages, we’ll have to see [what happens].”
According to David, millennials are changing politics by organizing around predominantly social issues, pushing back against the political status quo, and relying on social or curated media, rather than centralized media, for information.
Millennials may also lack partisan loyalty or the desire to align themselves with one of the country’s major political parties.
“You’re seeing people in general move away from the two parties as organizing principles. I think that’s true across cohorts in a way,” David said. “One thing that’s interesting about this group, including about AOC, is they see the Democratic Party as a sort of baleful force in American life and American politics, and they are consciously opposed to that.”
During the talk, David also spoke about the process of publishing the book, including his experience writing about Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez without any involvement from her or her team.
His coverage of the congresswoman began several years ago before she won her district’s Democratic nomination against incumbent Joe Crowley. David, who lives in New York, initially interviewed Ocasio-Cortez as part of a larger story about Crowley’s campaign. Around the same time, he could not get editors interested in her story.
After she won, people instantly saw her as a celebrity. David wanted to know how and why that happened.
“She was such a celebrity immediately… and I wanted to figure out, ‘What happened here?’ because that doesn’t seem like something you could attribute to her necessarily,” David said. “It seems like that it is because there are all of these other forces coming into play, and [I want] to figure out what those forces are.”
Please note that the views and opinions expressed in our alumni talk series are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Calvert School.
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.