Monday, November 10, 2008

Brief Reign of the Boomers

Another first in Barack Obama's presidency is change from the generation born when millions came back from World War II and began to beget--Baby Boomers, the first of whom are now eligible for early Social Security benefits.

For a noisy cohort, the Boomers produced only two presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. This year, they and the rest of us ended up with a choice of two men whose times of birth bracketed their own. For the best-educated, wealthiest generation in American history, this is a meager presidential output.

How so? The conventional wisdom about Boomer self-absorption doesn't explain everything. This is, after all, the generation of the 1960s' college idealists acting out passionate new ideas about sex, gender, race, war and politics.

They held the media spotlight briefly but never cohered into a political force. In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama disdains “the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation--a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago.”

Did, after all that turmoil, Boomers terrify the Silent Majority into the Reagan Revolution and then retreat to fuel the "greed is good" decades that led to Wall Street bubbles and today's crippled economy?

That might, in part, explain the political transition from Clinton's slipperiness to the retro Contract With America and finally Bush II's Neo-Con radical hubris.

But in writing the Boomers' political obituary, there should be some nostalgic credit for rearing the Generation O children who comprised the under-30 demographic that helped put Obama into the White House.

Will their iPhone, text-messaging, blog-reading, Facebook idealism last longer and accomplish more? Stay tuned.


ConnectingTheDots said...

Interesting article. Relevantly, many prominent experts and publications have pointed out that Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and GenXers.
You may find this page interesting: it has, among other things, excerpts from publications like Newsweek and the New York Times, and videos with over 25 top pundits, all talking specifically about Obama’s identity as a GenJoneser:

Ron Davison said...

Generation Jones? Is that like GI Joe? In any case, I guess that's me.
It is interesting that a post-baby boomer candidate would introduce a candidacy that seemed more defined by domestic agenda. Even in the midst of two wars, it seemed that Obama's was more post-war than anti- or pro- war.