There is a fair amount of political science research on how generations have different political views. Some of the most influential arguments have come from Ronald Inglehart. In his book Culture Shift he argued that generations' political views are shaped not only by the current political and economic conditions but by the conditions they grew up with. Playing fast and loose with his work, this suggests that if you grew up during the depression you'll be more likely to be concerned about economic security and stability for the rest of your life. On the flip side, if you grow up in times of economic security, you'll be more likely to be concerned with non-economic issues like the environment or peace or cultural values issues like abortion or marriage.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
There are some generational issues at play in the US election now. Baby Boomers have dominated American politics for decades. The Clintons, GW Bush and politicians of their generation are all Boomers. They grew up in the economically flush 50s and early 60s and theirs is the politics of Culture War. From the perspective of my Generation, Boomers have really messed up priorities. Who cares about who gets married, when and how if you can't get a job!?
Some of the people on this blog are in Generation X (sometimes called the "Baby Bust" generation) - well, I am at least. It depends where you put the cutoff years. We grew up in the recession years of the 70s and 80s. Our childhood and high school memories are of stagflation followed by the Reagan era economic adjustments and deindustrialization of the Rust Belt and high unemployment. We were thrilled to hear Bill Clinton say "It's the economy, stupid!" We tend to be fed up easily with cultural issues and have long since resigned ourselves to the fact that the Boomers will spend all the social security money before we get to retire. Unfortunately there aren't very many of us. So we'll never get to run the country. Instead, we'll spend our lives being pushed around by self absorbed Baby Boomers and their spoiled children (see below).
But these days, all the attention is going to two different generational groups: Generation Jones and the Millennials (or Generation Y or the Boomer Echo). Generation Jones is a kind of transition generation between the Boomers and Gen X. Obama is from this group. They were born too late to get wrapped up in the Vietnam and counter culture stuff of the 60s. They were in college during the worst of the late 70s and early 80s recession. They don't have the baggage of the Boomers or the jaded cynicism of Gen Xers.
The Millennials are the children of the Boomers and Generation Jones and some of the more precocious Gen Xers (Of course Gen Xers would call early parenthood reckless). This generation is much larger than the Gen X group. They grew up in the Clinton and Bush years. They're entire lives have been spent in the midst of a record setting economic boom. They are more socially progressive than their parents were (the whole Hippie thing was always exaggerated) and they're more concerned about the environment than the economy obsessed Gen Xers. But the current economic troubles are a rude shock to them. It will be interesting to see how they react.
Here is a youtube mini documentary about Generation Jones (about 5 minutes). Here is a more political ad directed at the Millennials.
One thing that is coming out of this election is that if Obama wins (and it looks like he will) it will mark the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of Boomer domination of this country. And that is a good thing!
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 5:03 AM