August 30, 2008

Obama, Biden, McCain, Palin — not one Baby Boomer.

Ruth Anne observes. She -- not a boomer -- is pleased.

Back in April, I wrote:
I had been thinking that if Obama wins, it will mean that we are done with Baby Boomer Presidents, after having only 2 — young Bush and male Clinton. I thought that was rather pathetic for this big, famous generation of mine.
I got a lot of flak in the comments from people who said Obama -- Oboomer -- was a boomer. I was relying on a NYT article, "Shushing the Baby Boomers."
In taking the first steps toward a presidential candidacy last week, Mr. Obama, who was born in 1961 and considers himself a member of the post-boomer generation, said Americans hungered for “a different kind of politics,” one that moved beyond the tired ideological battles of the 1960s....

Mr. Obama calculates that Americans of all ages are sick of the feuding boomers and ready to turn to the generation that came of age after Vietnam, after the campus culture wars between freaks and straights, and after young people had given up on what ├╝berboomer Hillary Rodham Clinton (who made her own announcement on the Web yesterday) called in a 1969 commencement address a search for “a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.”...

“In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004,” he writes, “I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage.”
Now, that was written way back in January 2007. We're so much older now! How did that glowing picture of Obama hold up? Speaking of glowing pictures, click through to the Times to see what a caricature of Obama looked like, all those many months ago.

ADDED: The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII. These people thought it was the greatest thing just to have a normal, nice family life. So they had us, and we, who knew nothing but that pleasant life, found it insipid and turned on them, mocked them, and rebelled. Most of us know now what assholes we were to treat them like that, after what they went through, but they made us what we were.

So being a Boomer has to do with who your parents were. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in 1942, so she was more of a Baby Boomer herself, because she was raised by parents who went through the Depression and WWII. She lived through part of WWII herself, but only as a baby. And look how she lived her life. Obama had to build his character in response to that. Now, he did also spend a lot of his formative years living with his grandparents, and that might have produced something of a Boomer personality. But, basically, I'd say Obama is not a Boomer.

By my standard, Sarah Palin is slightly more of a Boomer than Obama, because, although she was born 2 years later, her parents were born earlier, in 1938 and 1940. Still, they mainly grew up in the post-war era, and it was their parents, Palin's grandparents, who had the key experiences that lead a person to place extraordinary value on a normal, ordinary life.

46 comments:

downtownlad said...

So the Boomer generation was 18 years (1943 - 1960) and you got 16 years of boomer presidents (8 for Bill and 8 for Dubya) thus far.

And Biden missed the Boomer generation by about one month and Obama missed it by 8 months.

And we're likely to get a whole crop of Boomer candidates in 2012 (Romney, HRC, etc.)

How in the world we're supposed to find some deep, enlightening trend from this data is beyond me.

jdeeripper said...

David Axelrod runs the Obama campaign.

Axelrod was born to Jewish parents in 1955 in New York City and grew up in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. He went to P.S. 40. Axelrod's father was a psychologist and avid baseball fan.[1] His mother worked as a journalist at PM, a left-wing 1940s newspaper. His parents separated when he was eight. Axelrod traces his political involvement back to his childhood. Describing the appeal of politics, he told the Los Angeles Times, "I got into politics because I believe in idealism. Just to be a part of this effort that seems to be rekindling the kind of idealism that I knew when I was a kid, it's a great thing to do.[2] So I find myself getting very emotional about it." At just 13 years old, he was selling campaign buttons for Robert F. Kennedy.

They are alive and lurking.

Ann Althouse said...

Did I say it was deep? Lighten up DTL. It's Saturday.

Anyway, the real topic is more like: Are we sick of Boomers? Do Boomers blight the landscape? Etc.

amba said...

Even Boomers can be bored to death with Boomers.

EnigmatiCore said...

Back then, he was an empty canvass. He told us to paint in our dreams and aspirations.

We wanted a post-partisan world, so he promised it to us, and chided the partisanship of the past.

We wanted a post-racial world, so he promised it to us, and chided the divisiveness of the past.

We wanted a world with integrity, so he promised us no corruption.

We wanted peace, so he promised it at all costs, even of defeat, which seemed unavoidable at the time.

At first, I found it very appealing, especially when Hillary had Tsu come up and with the GOP just a mess of incompetence and corruption.

Fast-forward. He's about as post-partisan as Doyle. His mentor turns out to have been even worse than Al Sharpton when it comes to racial demagoguery. We got Rezko and Ayers and strong-arm tactics and other similarities to your typical Chicago pol, which doesn't exactly scream 'clean governance.' And when victory became not merely possible but probable, he continued to promise us defeat at all costs.

Any wonder why people like me have run?

And now, the campaign that was all about hope and change is attacking the GOP nominee on experience. Meanwhile, all she had done is bring change to the dirty politics of Alaska. She reinforces McCain's message of maverick outsiders providing leadership and results, while taking Obama's campaign completely off-message and is now seemingly about the experience of his Vice-Presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

I have made my decision. I am going to vote for McCain. Not only that, for the first time this election, I believe he is going to win.

Issob Morocco said...

I thought the actual baby boom started with the return of Soldiers in 1945-46. My understanding of it is the span of years '46 to '64 which actually makes BHO and Palin both tail end boomers.

grimson said...

When most people think of boomers, they have in mind only the older half--those who came of age in the sixties. In that context, there are no boomers. But given that both older boomers and younger boomers are children of "the greatest generation," then of course both Palin and Obama are boomers because they were born between 1946 and 1964.

Peter V. Bella said...

Talkin bout or generation...

Christy said...

The bitch of it is that Obama will be elected by the generation reared by the Boomers. We boomers gave a trophy to everyone on the team and made sure that self esteem was never based on actual accomplishment. We boomers insist upon social promotion through the grades. We boomers expel kids who hit back, pat them on the head when they run and tattle, and ignore the ones who just keep their mouths shut and suffer. How can we expect good decisions from the generation we produced?

Mike Ex said...

Actually, FWIW, Barack Obama, born in 1961, is a Baby Boomer by most definitions.

The "baby boom" continued into the early 1960's. I recall Time Magazine once publishing that people born from 1945 through 1963 are "baby boomers. Strauss and Howe's recent books on the subject of generations agree with this more or less. In their system, "generational cohorts" last about twenty years.

ricpic said...

I got into politics because I believe in idealism.

Is this any less airhead than beauty contestants' standard, "I want to help people," bilge?

But Axelrod's not an airhead, he's a committed leftist, a red diaper doper baby who knows very well that if he said, "I got into politics to defeat Amerika," he'd be letting the cat out of the bag.

mrs whatsit said...

Jeepers, Christy, speak for yourself. Maybe you raised your kids like that, but I didn't -- and my birthdate puts me smack in the middle of Boomer-World. I don't know how many young people in the "boomer's children" demographic you actually know, but you might want to widen your acquaintance a little bit before damning a whole generation along with all of their parents.

Also, I don't think Obama's victory in November is quite as assured as it appeared to be a few days ago. The game has altered. As Ann said, it's Saturday, and a holiday weekend besides. Let's think thoughts of Hope and Change. ;-)

kimsch said...

I agree with Issob Morocco - the boom was 46-64. I was born in 62 and my sister was born in 64 and we were on the tail end of the boom. Mom and Dad were pre boom.

Randy said...

IIRC, Reader_Iam made a similar point about the boomer generation some time ago (it being Post WWII, or roughly 1945-1965), providing some documentation as well. I had no idea that 1943 births were included in that generation.

Spread Eagle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spread Eagle said...

The end of the boomer generation was when the birth rate started dropping, which was 1964, and as late as 1965 by some measures. The only people who peg it at 1960, a definite minority, are those who find magic in the invention of the birth control pill that year. Everybody else says 1964. Thus Obama AND Palin are boomers.

Skyler said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

When Ann says "baby boomer" it means precisely what she chooses it to mean, no more nor less.

Ann Althouse said...

See my update to the post, with my definition of what counts in deciding who is a Boomer.

rcocean said...

You can define it demographically but the culturally the boomers are those raised in the 50s and effected as young adults by Vietnam and the 60s counter culture.

Tail end boomer (1955-1964) were too young to either remember the 50s or rebel in the 60s. They didn't serve in Vietnam. The counter cultural had pretty much taken over by '73 when they starting college. No doubt some colleges were behind the times, but feminism, long hair, rock n'roll etc. were all established by the early 70s.

Holly said...

My own personal definition of Boomer is that you must have a conscious memory of JFK's assassination. I was born one month later. Sick of Boomers? You have no idea.


What this country needs right now is a generational gag order.

I'm sorry that it would affect those Boomers whose blogs I like and opinion I respect - like Prof Althouse - but hey, it's for the greater good, you know?

Mortimer Brezny said...

No Boomers. No Southerners.

Buford Gooch said...

Fatuous. Baby Boom was coined to mean what it sounds like: a marked increase in the birth rate. That increase was due to the soldiers, sailors, etc. returning home and making babies. Boomers are those born during that post-war time, 1946 to 1964 (if one confines a generation to those born during an 18-19 year period).

Randy said...

What this country needs right now is a generational gag order.

You will probably get your wish. Many Democrats are pining for a restoration of the so-called Fairness Doctrine and the more extreme among them want it applied to the internet. Playing gatekeeper, controlling access to information, defining the rules for debate, and punishing those who fail to conform has enormous appeal to some.

Der Hahn said...

Thumbs up to Holly and rcocean.

Boomer-ism is a cultural identity no longer strictly tied to the explosion of births post-WWII.

Ann, I like your definition as a starting point but I think a cut off date is needed. I was born in 1962 to parents born in the early 1920's but I still hesitate to call myself a Boomer. My person feeling is that if you didn't turn 16 before the oil embargo of 1973 (born before 1957), you had a much different set of experiences than anyone born after that date. People born after the oil shock and Vietnam didn't grow up in the era of hyper-normalcy you described, no matter what age their parents were.

EnigmatiCore said...

"No Boomers. No Southerners."

Let's throw in no North Easterners, please. Especially from Massachusetts.

AllenS said...

The label greatest generation went through the depression and WWII.

I'm a boomer, born in 1946. My impression of the label, boomer, was someone who was born to that previous generation that went through Viet Nam and world events maybe a couple of years after. There seems to be a difference in life's experiences with people born after 1960. I'm going to call that generation, the the ones who came later.

the wolf said...

The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII.

Based on that definition, I am a Boomer, although I am three years younger than Obama and never really considered myself one.

I have nothing against Boomers per se (all of my siblings are Boomers based on the traditional definition); however, I intensely dislike the Boomers who think that the world still revolves around the time they came of age. They can't get by the 60s, Viet Nam, Watergate, etc. These are the people who appear to be informing much of Obama's platform.

David said...

"The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII. These people thought it was the greatest thing just to have a normal, nice family life. So they had us, and we, who knew nothing but that pleasant life, found it insipid and turned on them, mocked them, and rebelled. Most of us know now what assholes we were to treat them like that, after what they went through, but they made us what we were."

Yeah, this is exactly right, especially the part about what assholes we were. When I was born in August 1943, my dad had already been overseas for eight months. He did not return to the USA until late April of 1945. During the war he wrote letters home nearly every day. I have those letters, and they are filled with a yearning to return to home and family, to live a life where there was some measure of control over his own days, for safety and security for himself and his family.

One of the greatest blessings this country gives its citizens is that safety and security. Even post 9/11 we take it for granted. Those who struggled through 1929 to 1945 knew better.

Michael K Pate said...

I always thought the baby boom was from 45-46 and ended in 63-64. I have always been happy withthe fact that I was born in 1966 and didn't have to consider myself a member of that group.

But my parents were born in 1935 and 1937 so, under that definition, I would qualify. I may be depressed all weekend.

Maxine Weiss said...

The boomers don't get the whole Ronald Reagan thing. They didn't vote for Ronald Reagan---Yuppies notwithstanding.

It's Generation X, those born after 1969, who came of age with the Reagan presidency.

People that came of age when Ronald Reagan was president understand the Hollywood glamour, mixed with the peace-through-strength message, mixed in with Reagan's Dixon-Illinois plainspoken charm, and full of patriotism.

That's Sarah Palin: her looks give her a kind of Reagan-Hollywood sheen, yet she's homespun and earthy and full of they goofy Disney-esque American patriotism......that makes Americans American !!!!

It's that combination of the glamour and power, mixed in with the ordinary, homespun goofy American-ness.

Reagan made Americans feel good about being American again.

As opposed to telling them how much better they could 'should' be doing.

Sarah Palin!

Randy said...

Reagan made Americans feel good about being American again.

As opposed to telling them how much better they could 'should' be doing.


Yep.

William said...

Your definition of a boomer is the best I've read. We're defined both by our parents' values and our reaction to those values. There is often a great gap between what the teachers teach and the student chooses to learn. At any rate a boomer is not so much a demographic bulge as a cluster of neuroses. Enigmaticore has it right. Boomer values are something you pass through, not absorb. High in fiber; low in nutrients.

John K said...

Don't forget that Obama himself credits his grandparents and his mother for raising him. He went to live with his grandparents at age 10.

That puts him more in Ann's definition of boomer-ness.

Skyler said...

My birthday is today, I was born in '63. By definition, I am a baby boomer. That's the definition. I can't escape that.

But culturally, I agree with Ann that I have little in common with Clinton and others born ten to twenty years before me.

But I'm still a baby boomer, however much I detest the label.

John Stodder said...

Obama is too a boomer. Even if his parents didn't touch WWII, many of his school peers were the middle and younger children of boomers. I'm a member of the peak year of boomerdom (1956), but I have brothers who were born in 1957, 1959, 1963 and 1970. They all seem like boomers to me.

I'm also confused by the notion that the baby boom started before the war ended. The origin of the term "baby boomer" was the explosion of domesticity after the war. The usual starting date was 1946.

But to stick to the point, Obama's emphasis on prestige education, his professional peregrinations, his attachment to Saul Alinsky and even his iPod choices all make him a mainstream, typical boomer. (I don't for a minute think he actually listens to Jay-Z. He's a Dylan/Stevie Wonder guy if I ever saw one.)

Issob Morocco said...

Ann, your update reads like a legal treatise and rather than clarify, fogs things up. Vets returning in '45-'46 started having kids, buying tract houses and finding jobs in industry.

Even if they were only 18 in 1945, they would have lived through the depression and WWII, so that seems a bit redundant, since I would estimate the vast majority of the boomer parents to be 18 or older in 1945. '46-'64 is the Boomer range. Certainly those close may feel an affinity, but that blurring of lines could open discussions as to the timing of the end of the Swing Music Era and start of Pop Music......;-)

blake said...

Good lord, some of you folk are being literal.

Yes, there's an actual surge in the population from '46-'64 that constitutes the Baby Boom.

How boring!

It's the cultural thing that's interesting. (Although I do like how we've managed to slam every generation mentioned, from the Greatest to the Latest.)

Now, I'd point out that the Boomer culture was not all-pervasive, and I'd bet it wasn't very prevalent up in Alaska.

Meanwhile, the hallmark of the post-Boomer generation? Well, if Boomers grew up in safety and normalcy which they eschewed, no big surprise that their children grew up with divorce and broken families, and parents who were off "finding themselves".

Which sounds like Obama.

Ann Althouse said...

Issob, I don't get your point. Obama's mother was born in 1942.

GoingLikeSixty.com said...

Power is taken, not given. If some other generation wanted the Boomer's power, they just had to step up and take it.

Downloadlad makes a great point!

Outis said...

The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII.

My parents were in there 40s when I was born in 1968. By the Professor's definition I'm a Boomer. But I can't agree with that, as I have nothing in common with those that came of age in the 1960s. You guys had race riots and Vietnam. We had disco and Pacman. I think we got the better deal, but I'm not entirely sure.

Issob Morocco said...

Most people don't Ann! The boom was a set time driven by specific factors. Being close to that time and place and living in the same era as those is the overlapping affect, but does not, in my opinion, make her a 'boomer'. That is it. She was a War Baby, an even smaller subset of folks born during the conflict.

RAM said...

Someday, we will spared all the boomer propaganda. This, my age group, has had both the good and the bad---like all other generations. Unfortunately, the bad (suburban Marxist wannabes and aging wish-they-were-hippies) have managed to dominate the discussion and skew the view.

But, in the blessed future, everything will be seen in context, at last.

OK said...

Boomers are mainly about "Us" vs. "Them". The Obama generation (mine) is about pragmatism. I look forward to 8 years of President Obama. He will take credit. He will take blame. He will offer thanks (with sincere gratitude) and he will apologise. Mostly though, he will guide America into the future they select for themselves. NOT the future the aristocracy picks out.

Tari said...

You can't say "The main thing that ought to make you a Boomer is that you were raised by parents who lived through the Depression and WWII." because that basically makes my husband and me Boomers, and that's just plain silly. His parents were born in 1935 and my dad was born in 1938. But my husband was born in 1969 and I was born in 1970. We are as un-boomer as you get - we just have, uh, "late-blooming" parents.

John said...

No, sorry. I was born the last day of 62, late-in-life baby from depression era parents. I feel no connection to the baby boom generation. Why is the boomer "generation" span longer than any other generation? I think the boomer like to include a longer span so they don't feel like their that old. The fact is, I spent my early teens listening to disco music, not Bob Dilan. I started having sex when AIDs reared it's ugly face. The fact is, there is a generation, of which Obama is a member, that has never been labeled. O is NOT a boomer. I agree with him and have always felt this way.

One friend told me one time... a Boomer is defined as someone who can remember when and where they were when JFK was shot. And as a side John Jr. never considered himself a boomer either. He wasn't. Obama isn't and neither am I!

fielden said...

I'm not a boomer. My grandfather served in WWII. My father in Vietnam. My parents were born in the 40's. They're the boomers.
Arbitrarily pegging it to 46-64 ignores the cultural connections and common experiences. My parents born 44 and 43 would be the "silent generation" even though they did not experience the great depression, went to college in the 60's and experienced every major boomer touchstone while in the same age group.

Putting me with boomers when I wasn't even alive during Eisenhower, and only during the last few weeks of Kennedy makes as little sense. My cultural connections are completely different. I graduated high school during Reagan's administration.

I think differently, act differently, and boomers are people my parents age- not mine.

I tend to think of myself as a tweener - between the boomers and the gen X'rs not really belonging to either. (I'm not a big fan of the Generation Jones moniker). But boomer doesn't describe me or capture my experience growing up in the 70's.