i wrote this 3.5 years ago back in january 2003 but it came up in a discussion I had recently:
WILL THERE EVER BE A GENERATION X PRESIDENT?
The current President of the United States, George W. Bush, is a boomer. So was his predecessor Bill Clinton. Boomers were born from 1943-1960 and experienced the sixties and Vietnam in their youth and the eighties prosperity/optimism in their rising adulthood. Given that most boomers are just now dominating the political landscape, I expect their generation to be a force for a long time to come.
The generation before the boomers, the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) never had a president. They still have a few chances – but I expect they never will win the nation’s highest office. People like Dick Cheney, Mike Dukakis, Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, and Colin Powell are all members of the Silent Generation – serious leaders but none of them ever becoming President.
For 32 years (1961-1993), the Presidency was dominated by the generation that preceded the Silents – commonly referred to as the G.I. Generation (or as Tom Brokaw likes to say, “the greatest generation”). Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41 all reached young adulthood during World War II. That generation effectively led America through the cold war to its completion.
Because of population trends, I’d argue that the boomer generation has a good chance of doing the same thing and will lead us through the 20-30 year war on terrorism we are now facing.
But were does that leave my generation, Generation X (born 1961-1980)? My generation is saddled right at the bottom of the baby bust. The next generation (the Millennials born from 1981-2002) has experienced one of the largest baby booms in our nation’s history. And though we are represented by people like Congressmen Harold Ford and Devin Nunes, and Senators John Sununu and Norm Coleman, we might never have a President of our own.
Assuming that the Democrats ever get their act together, Barack Obama (who is a member of our generation) would have a great shot.
I was going to add to Chris’ comment – I think Barak Obama has a great shot, he’s just barely a member of our generation (born in 1961) and he has demonstrated a lot of great features (working across party lines successfully, being upfront and honest about his past, going out into the world to learn about it – and being willing to adjust his own positions based on experiences and new facts).
I’m a huge fan of him, while I’ve moved from Illinois I follow him via his fantastic podcast (see http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/) – generally short, though he does from time to time include a speech he gave somewhere, the podcasts are a very direct way to hear him in his own voice – one of the best he’s done was a few months ago which he recorded in Jordan after visiting Iraq.
I wouldn’t be startled if Barak or possibly another Gen-x candidate won in part by managing to attract serious turnout from the millenials as they start voting in ernest – likely in conjunction with well done use of the Internet and modern technology writ large.
Hi Shannon welcome to San Francisco with your recent move! I am sure many generations (Boomers, Gen X, Y and Z) would like to claim Senator Barack Obama (born August 4, 1961) as theirs, however I have always thought the “Boomers were defined as born between Boomers 1946 to 1964…..demographers, sociologists and the media define baby boomers as those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964. (There is no law or constitutional amendment so stating; and other boundaries have been suggested. But this is the time frame most commonly used.) In 2006, that would make us between 42 and 60 years old. There are about 75 million boomers in the U.S.; currently represent about 29% of the U.S. population. ……A baby boomer is someone who was born during the period of increased birth rates when economic prosperity arose in many countries following World War II. In the United States, the term is iconic and more properly capitalized as Baby Boomers and commonly applied to people with birth years from the span 1946 to 1964, which may comprise more than one generation. The Baby Boom is the iconic term widely used to refer to the American population and culture in particular, as post WW II demographics abroad did not mirror the sustained growth in American families over the same interval. Baby boomers also had the highest median household incomes in the United States.
In his book, Boomer Nation, Steve Gillon breaks this population into two groups: Boomers, born between 1945 and 1957; and Shadow Boomers born between 1958 and 1963. In some cases the term Shadow Boomer is incorrectly applied to the children of the Baby Boomers. However this group is more accurately referred to as Echo Boomers.
It’s an interesting theory Auren, albeit a bit early to prognosticate. I think you’ll see a lot of great leaders coming out of Generation X however. One advantage we have is bridging the gap between remembering what the Cold War was like and seeing the world evolve into a much more global political and economic melting pot (including from a technology standpoint). Generation Yers won’t remember what the world was like without cellphones and email, and as a result might find it challenging to relate to the developing world, etc.
As an aside, your 20-30 war on terrorism comment was interesting, and probably true. Isn’t it really a war on Islamic fundamentalism though? Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that for some reason…I think doing so would be helpful, if only to realize that we’re not fighting terrorists, but an ideology that manifests itself through terrorism.
I agree that the “shadow boomer” will likelt produce a president which may edge out the 1964+ defined gen x demographic. Kennedy Jr was probably on track for the oval office with the predigree, etc. Obama would be another likely fit as well–though I am am skeptical if Americans are really over the race issue. The boomer’s will get 1-2 more terms probably with McCain or H Clinton.
I think McCain is part of the Silent Generation (the one before the boomers). So he’s the last great hope for the Silent Generation to have a President (Dukakis, Mondale, Gary Hart, Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, etc. are also members of the Silent Generation).
I know this is not directly on topic but I have a problem with how Mike and many others seem to not properly classify the generations.
“Boomers were defined as born between Boomers 1946 to 1964….. demographers, sociologists and the media define baby boomers as those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964.
I have a big problem accepting that birth rates define a generation rather than shared cultural experiences. A generation does not always have to be a perfect 20 years. The time frame of a generation should reflect specific shared attitudes. The generations should be redefined as follows:
G.I. GENERATION (1901-1922)-Reagan, Nixon, Kennedy, LBJ, Ford. Their children were the most radical of the boomers
THE SILENT GENERATION (1923-1936) Jimmy Carter (1924) should be the poster boy for the silent. They are great negotiators but not strong leaders. They were obedient to both the boomers and GI. Elvis Presley was very typical of this generation. Elvis would never speak out about Vietnam and would try to bridge the gap between the counter culture and the G.I.s. George Bush Sr (1924) would be an exception. He fits in more with the GI,s but was born in a cusp year.
THE BOOM GENERATION (1937-1956)- The most radical anti-war, idealist of this generation were born in the late 1930s and early 1940s yet they are never included in the traditional boom years of 1946-1964. Abbie Hoffman (1937), Jerry Rubin (1938), Tom Hayden (1939), Jane Fonda (1937), George Carlin (1937), Peter Fonada (1939), Ted Turner (1939), Richard Pryor (1940) John Lennon (1940), Joan Baez (1941), Bob Dylan (1941). You can’t tell me these activist fit the mold of the silent generation. Was John Lennon really part of the silent generation??? People born after 1954 were too young to be affected by Vietnam and to participate in Woodstock. Some of the early punk rock and heavy metal pioneers like Billy Idol (1955) member of the punk band “Generation X”, Johnny Rotten (1956) of the Sex Pistols were born during the cusp years.
Generation X- (1957-1976)-The early part of this generation born btwn 1957-1962 are cusp years, but a great majority of them will tell you they identify with generation x more than the boom generation. It might have to do with the generation their parents were from. Some of the early Xers may have been the youngest child born to G.I. parents. They might have been influenced by older siblings and identify with the boom generation, but the first-born child to parents of the silent generation are more likely to be Xers. The silent generation married very young and were already having children in their early 20s. The silents also had a high divorce rate and a good portion of Xers grew up in a dysfunctional home. I can never understand why some like to start this generation at 1965 and as late as 1968. I was born in 1970 and always felt I was more on the tail end of this generation rather than the middle. It was not just about growing up in the 1990s. Our generation came to age in the 1980s and our youth culture lasted to the mid 1990s. Our generation did begin and end with Nirvana. You must have been coming of age when MTV, New wave and heavy metal music was popular during the 1980s, and you must have been old enough to remember the polices of the Regan era. Most of our distinctive members (poster boys) were born in the late 1950’s and early 1960s. Tim Burton (1958), Bill Watterson (1958) wrote Calvin and Hobbes. Quentin Tarantino (1963) director of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, Richard Linklater (1960) directed Slacker, Ben Stiller (1965) directed Reality Bites, Mike Judge (1962) directed and wrote Office Space, Bevis and Butthead, King of the Hill. Douglas Coupland (1961) wrote Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. The bad boys of SNL, Rob Schneider (1963), Chris Farley (1964), David Spade (1964), Chris Rock (1965), and Adam Sandler (1966) were fired from SNL because the older generations did not get their humor. Most of the new wavers, hardcore punk musicians and thrash metalist were also born in the early 1960s. James Hetfield of Metallica (1963), Tom Araya of Slayer (1961), Axle Rose of GnR (1962), Henry Rollins of Black Flag (1961), Perry Farrell (1959) of Jane’s Addiction and creator of the Lollapalooza festival. New Wave, Goth, Techno, Rap, and Electronica pioneers like Duran Duran, U2, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Iced T, Run DMC, Beastie Boys and R.E.M. were all born in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The core of the alternative rock bands like Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson and Nirvana were all born in the early to late 1960s. The bands that came out of the very tail end of generation x developed the nu metal and emo sound that kids listen to today. Bands like Korn, Limp Biscuit, Linkin Park, Creed, Green Day, and Eminem were born in the early to mid 1970s. This period was also the beginning of the hip-hop culture that senator Obama likes to identify with.
GENERATION Y (1977-1995)-Most of these young teenagers and young adults were pampered as children by their boomer parents during the affluent 1980s-90s. Every one of them has a Myspace page, a Facebook account, an IPod, watches reality TV, a cell phone that has a Kazillon different functions, and they can’t remember a time before the Internet, play station and Xbox. The youth culture for the first part of this generation born btwn 1977-1981 is still heavily influenced by the latter part of generation x pop culture. Generation Y’s youth culture began in the late 1990’s and is the current culture in place today. Hip Hop, post grunge, nu Metal, and emo punk were the predominant culture for the early gen Yers. The latter part of generation Y’s culture from 1982-1995 are influenced by pop bands like ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and various stars from American Idol. Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney spears are generation Y’s version of the brat back.
My answer to this question is a resounding YES!
Visit GenXforObama.com because we are, like, so over preachy Boomer politics.