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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nobody Puts Baby Boomer In The Corner

by digby

From a commenter to an article in TNR:

What a lot of pundits and commentators have overlooked in their response to Obama's words in San Francisco is what they continue to overlook about his candidacy. It's the same thing overlooked by every aging generation when they fail to realize their own dwindling relevance. If it's too real, you're too old. Political candidacies can be compared to each other only so much. Bigger patterns in American culture sometimes outweigh them. That is the case in this election cycle because the baby boomers are falling off the political map. Generation X'ers, my generation, are coming into their own. They are giving Barak Obama unprecedented amounts of money online every chance they get. Just like me. I am politically motivated and excited by the things he says, because no one else even comes close to understanding what I think. Hillary has no clue. Mccain is a dinosaur and most of the pundits don't get it either because they are all so old. Just like John Judis. We will carry Obama to victory on our shoulders, pushing these old people with their old ideas and fears and prejudices out of the goddamn way. You've ruined our planet, our country and our reputation. We are sick of it and we will change it - RIGHT NOW.

Actually, "generations" don't do anything. Individuals do. But he's not the first to say such things --- after all, many Boomers themselves famously used to say "don't trust anyone over 30."

The fact is, however, that Barack Obama is a baby boomer himself. Yes, the cohort stretches from 1947 to 1964. He was born in 1961. He's closer to my age than Hillary Clinton is and I'm right in the middle of the boom.

Here's a little primer from the census bureau about the generational cohorts.

The US Census Bureau generally considers the following demographic birth cohorts based on birth rate, which is statistically measurable:

  • Classics (born from 1900 to 1920)
  • Baby Bust (I) (born from 1921 to 1945)
    • early cohort (born from 1921 to 1933)
    • late cohort (born from 1934 to 1945)
  • Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964)
    • Leading Edge Boomers (born from 1946 to 1957)
    • Trailing Edge Boomers (born from 1958 to 1964)
  • Baby Bust (II) (born from 1965 to 1976)
  • Echo Boomers (born from 1977 to 1994)
    • Leading Edge (born from 1977 to 1990)
    • Trailing Edge (born from 1991 to 1994)

(There's a larger discussion of this at this Wikipedia page which breaks down the cohorts into the more familiar "Generation X, Y, Millenial" etc and attributes certain events to shaping their worldview. I think it's a little facile, but you might find it interesting.)

I do think it's probably useful to be aware that the oldest baby boomers are not even collecting social security yet and are likely to live another 20 years beyond that. I can't begin to collect for another fifteen years (and I'll be paying into the system all that time, by the way.)

I don't point this out to try to excuse the allegedly ruinous horrors perpetrated by members of my generation. (Hey, at least we didn't start a world war!) But it's foolish to think our age group is politically spent, no matter how much everyone may want it to be so. As I said, Barack is a boomer too --- everyone born in the country from the age of 44 to 61 is. And when you look at that obscene bulge you can see that we are going to dominate politics for quite some time to come, for better and worse.

It's just something to keep in mind as we analyze how policy and politics are going to be played out in the future. A huge concentration of wealth and political power is in the hands of people my age and is likely to remain so for a good 20 to 30 years, especially as we old codgers retire and have more leisure time to spend obsessing about politics --- which we have always loved to do. We're not falling off the political map any time soon.

I'm sorry. It's just the way it is.

Update: To be clear: I'm not saying that Boomers will run things until the day they die, merely that they are just too huge of a cohort to become irrelevant before they've even retired. There are just too many of us.