Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Paul Ryan is not a good sample of potential Gen X political leadership

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If I had $100 for every time I’ve heard that Paul Ryan is the first Gen X person on a major presidential ticket, I could pay off the deficit. The only problem is that he’s not the first.

The sitting president, Barack Obama (1961), is Gen X. So is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (1964). Ryan (1970)  is only the third.

Baby Boomers, who are the ones making this error, erroneously count those born between 1961 and 1964 as Baby Boomers when they belong to Gen X. Yes, we’ve been taught that Baby Boomers go from 1946 to 1964, even though Gen X is defined as 1961-1981.

Baby Boomers have been a generation that has constantly needed its ego stroked. These people lived it up when they were young, then cracked down on young people when they themselves got old. They tried to save the world, but when they sold out, they could convince themselves otherwise.

Previous coverage:

Obama health care summit good TV but bad policy
Obama vs. McCain = Generation X vs. Traditionalists: Which direction do we take?

We keep hearing that future generations are going to be more tolerant of social issues such as gay marriage. The problem is getting some of those younger people into higher office.

Paul Ryan might indeed become vice president in 2013, but assuming that he won’t, the future of Gen X in this process isn’t much of a short-term future.

Barack Obama will be 56 years old in 2017, and if he wins in 2012, Obama will join that ex-presidents section forever since he won’t be able to run again.

The top Democratic names are definitely Baby Boomers: Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. No one knows if either of them will run, but they will have distinct advantages should they choose to enter the race. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (1963) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (1954) are possible contenders, though Warner is definitely a Baby Boomer.

Keynote speakers usually scream “future” and both parties submitted Gen X nominees: Julian Castro (1974) for the Dems and Chris Christie (1962) for the GOP.

For the GOP, assuming Romney loses, Rick Santorum (1958) and Michele Bachmann (1956) are Baby Boomers. True, Paul Ryan could run as could Sarah Palin. However, their record for mendacity might render them powerless beyond the primary campaign.

Bill Clinton was the first Baby Boomer to be elected president in 1992. Al Gore was the second Baby Boomer vice president after Dan Quayle. Between Al Gore and George W. Bush, the choice was between fellow Baby Boomers. John Kerry was born (1943) just before the Baby Boomers kicked in.

Ryan and Palin were picked in part because of the potential for the youth vote. Though they were young, and clearly younger than their running mates, their appeal — based on policy — didn’t appeal to those young people. Young people, who already feel ostracized thanks to screwed up economic policies kicked in under Baby Boomer leadership, certainly aren’t going to vote to cut off their economic future under the Ryan budget.

2016 may not be the continuation of the Gen X trend under President Obama, but at some point, Baby Boomers are going to have to trust a younger generation to do better by them than they did to us.


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