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Sunday, March 5, 2017
History ... Politics ... Society ...

It looks as if the Baby Boomers, the rebellious youth of the 1960’s who were going to change the world in favor of peace, pot and microdot, the politicized generation that shut Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War down, have in their old age joined another revolution. But not the one that you might have expected. Once upon a time, “revolution” belonged to John Lennon. Today it’s the opening motif for the Sean Hannity Show.

An NBC News/ WSJ Poll from last week said that 52 percent of Baby Boomers approved of the job President Trump is doing, while 58 percent of Millennials disapproved. Regarding Trump’s temporary travel ban, 54 percent of Boomers said it is a necessary safeguard against terrorism, while 59 percent of Millennials said that it’s not. On the Affordable Care Act, 47 percent of Boomers said that it is a bad idea, while 48 percent of Millennials said that it’s good.

Now, if only Millennials voted in the same proportions as Boomers, Trump might right now be but a footnote to American history. But they don’t. An early estimate says that about 55% of eligible Millennials voted in November, 2016, versus around 70% for Boomers.

Still, Millennials can be a paradoxical lot, just as much so as the Boomers turned out to be. Trump won White Millennials by 48% to 43% for Clinton, with 9% voting for third party candidates — but of course, whites have become a declining percentage of the populace with each succeeding generation. Overall, Clinton won the Millennials by 55% to 37%.

Will Millennials stand in the vanguard of opposition if Trump dilutes democracy and advances autocracy in America? You would think that they would, given their feelings thus far about Trump; but don’t be so sure. Another poll from 2014 indicates that about 30% of people born in in the 1980s rate living in a democracy as an “essential priority”, versus around 57-62% for people from the 40s and 50s (i.e., the Boomers). If Trump convinces them that he will take care of their student loans and get them work, then prepare to be underwhelmed by the political idealism of the Millennials.

Our 230+ year experiment with American Democracy is certainly facing some extraordinary challenges. It has proved amazing resilient thus far, surviving even a civil war and a nuclear cold war. But there are a lot of interesting discussions going on right now as to whether it can survive the rise of master neo-populist in an age of division, disorientation and discontent fueled by increasing economic disparity and accelerating technological change.

America has been looking more and more like a land of classes and castes over the past decade or so, which creates a political vacuum that someone had to come along to exploit, sooner or later. The trends in other parts of the western world right now aren’t all that promising either, given the rise of semi-authoritarian regimes in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Venezuela and the Philippines (and perhaps France is next). The Baby Boomers are supposedly the most politically aware generation, while the Millennials have the most to lose. Will either group stand up to keep our country from wandering from its core ideal of balanced self-government? I’m still assuming that the American Constitutional system can survive Trump. But given the underlying trends that continue to tear apart our sense of national unity, Trump may be just a foreshadowing of something worse to come over the next 20 or 30 years. Being a Boomer, I may not live to see whatever that is. But given what Vladimir Putin has been able to do with Russia since 2008, I’m sure that it won’t be pretty.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:21 pm      

  1. Jim, When it comes to generations, altho I was born in the 1930s, and thus the generation to which I belong does not even have enuf people to be “classified” (not that many were born and so many have already died off), I understand the Boomers. But when it comes to the Gen X group and the Millennials, I’m at a loss to understand them. So this comment will be some unrelated tho’ts that have intrigued me over the years that might be (will be?) related to your topic.

    While stating stats for the groups (Boomers and Millennials) certainly gives a clear understanding of how they voted, I find myself wondering what it is that makes the “younger generations”, i.e., the Gen X and Millennials, tick.

    I have nieces and nephews that fall in both categories and still I don’t understand them; particularly I don’t understand what makes them tick.

    One thing that I’ve noticed for a long time (decades, I might say) is that it seems to take these younger generations a longer time to mature than it took the older generations. When they do mature, there’s something of the “whiney” about them. (Oh, life is so hard; who will help me live an easy life? type of thing.) Maybe it’s me reacting to people who had a very different USA in which they were brought up. I would not doubt that. They seem to “float” all over the place. I understand that it may be necessary for them to do so as the economic situation is so very different from the time I grew up and the time of my working life.

    And on the “float” topic: Another thing I notice is that these 2 generations seem to think that every word that comes out of their mouth is important and the world should know it. (What else are Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, etc., even tho their specific content and purpose seems to be very different; they all deal in somewhat the same thing: “ME” and how important I am. Worse: The “every word that comes out of their mouth” is often unsubstantiated, an uninformed opinion. Yet when asked for some kind of informed opinion, they rapidly and easily become offended. (A kind of “How DARE you” response.)

    I realize I’m generalizing here and may be as wrong as can be; then again, I wonder about these things.

    I think you are right that what may come over the next 20 or 30 years may be a very different America than we have lived with. But then I imagine the 1700s and early 1800s were much different from what the 1860s were during and after the Civil War. The South was fighting to preserve their way of life, slavery; and after the Civil War, that was changed. Altho the South fought for one hundred some years to hang on to remnants of what they had before 1860, they eventually and finally lost that “war”. The North had their own effects from the “great immigration” of Blacks from the South.

    Perhaps the analogy will hold for the future. It may not be an actual Civil War, but it will be a “fight” of sorts to hold on to the past as the Gen X-ers and the Millennials have known their lives to be­­still very different from earlier generations. Yet, the way people work is changing; this is definitely shown one way in the struggle “walk in” stores are having; they seem to be closing or declining inevitably; and many “stores” now are “virtual”, if I can use that term, with people buying almost everything on the Internet, even groceries. (I am one of those contributing to this phenomenon.)

    And it occurs to me that strangely enuf, a 70 year old man who does not belong to any of the generations living today may be the one who brings the change in the USA about. In whatever way the change will come it will be the life work of those living at that time. The most you and I can do is observe it, depending on how long we live.

    Then again, who knows, perhaps Trump will eventually turn out to be a footnote in history; I’ve heard members of Congress speak already about gathering what is needed to impeach Trump; I’ve heard them say, it’s still too early for impeachment; but it’s on the radar; I’ve heard a prediction of “2 years” for impeachment. Then again, that may be one of the uninformed opinions; however, it came from a member of Congress who has been there for years and should know something of how Congress works.

    With the uninformed opinions of these younger generations “floating” (changing with what is “trending” . . . and here I might say it took me literally months to figure out what that word meant) who knows what could happen. (Even Trump was elected!) After all, “trending” is basically what everybody seems to be thinking and has to say (their “opinion”) , albeit a specifically uninformed “thinking”, a what’s popular type of thing; what’s everybody else thinking and my own opinion will change when I find out: And so goes the “trend”. (It’s the best description of “trending” I can come up with and can understand.)

    And it may be that Trump may, strangely enuf, go gladly; he seems unhappy as prez. He’s a man who seems to become seriously upset when he doesn’t get his way, and not getting his way has always seemed to me to be something the president of the U.S. must learn to live with. Obama always talked “compromise” and for good reason I think. Without compromise, a prez is destined to be unhappy.

    Thus, I think change of some kind is inevitable; and it will be the life work of these younger generations. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 6, 2017 @ 7:15 pm

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