The 2020 presidential election, which will probably be Trump versus Warren, is shaping up to be the final act of Baby Boomer America. Both are of the generation that has come to symbolize the culture of those born after the Second World War. Trump was born in 1946, while Warren was born in 1949. That means both came of age with the Beatles and the Stones. Both were in college when the hippies and anti-war protesters were taking over the college campus. They are children of the 1960’s.
It has been argued many times that the Baby Boom generation is more than just the people who were teenagers and young adults in the late 60’s. According to demographers, the Boomers include people who were in college when Ronald Reagan was president. That’s fine, as far as demographics, but when people think Boomers, they think in cultural terms. The generation that grew up on the Beatles is what they have in mind, not the generation that grew up on Lynyrd Skynyrd.
That really is the important thing to keep in mind whenever discussing generational politics in America. For the Boomers, the 60’s were a vastly different time from the 70’s, in terms of the culture and outlook. The 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, in contrast, are not wildly different culturally. It’s like how the 50’s and early 60’s are really the same culture. The cultural revolution that stated in the 1960’s really did change the country, so by the 70’s it was a totally different experience for young people.
Of course, the Democratic side of the battle has yet to be decided, but the signs are all pointing to Warren winning the nomination. The polls say Creepy Uncle Joe is the favorite, but observation says otherwise. At some point in the fall, he will be found wandering in his bathrobe, demanding to talk to President Nixon. At that point it will be time to take his campaign keys away and pack him off to the home. His support will then flow to Warren, the next demographically pleasing option for them.
There’s also the fact that Warren is quietly drawing huge crowd to her speeches, which is always a sign the voters are at least considering a candidate. The feminist white women in the party think it is there turn to have a candidate. More important, they think they were robbed in 2016. Warren is not just a less corrupt and less repulsive version of Hillary Clinton. She captures the seething rage of that demographic. Hell hath no fury like a scorned, menopausal feminist clutching her dream catcher.
The 2020 presidential campaign will be two sides of the 60’s Boomer culture, facing off against one another in one final battle. The male side, represented by Donald Trump, is nostalgic for an America that no longer exists. Trump sees himself as this generation’s Ronald Reagan. Instead of morning in American, though, it is dusk in America. His tenure is a cargo cult of sorts. He and his supporters seem to think if they carry on like it is 1985, it will suddenly become 1985. Trump is pure nostalgia.
Warren is the feminine side of this battle. Unlike Trump, she is not pining for a return to Reagan’s America. She is all of the liberal Boomers in the 80’s and 90’s, who talked about the terribleness of Reaganism, while enjoying the benefits. Just as Boomer feminists talked like Betty Friedan, but lived like June Cleaver, this side of the Boomer political culture publicly hated Reagan and the 80’s economic boom, but privately benefited from it. The conscience of the 60’s was always forgiving.
Then there is the more personal aspect of it. In terms of popular culture, Trump really is the quintessential Baby Boomer male. He made a lot of money, but will never have much to show for his time. Everything about Trump is wrapped up Trump the person, the selfish, boorish oaf living for the moment. When the wife got too old, he traded her in for a new one. When he hit middle-age, he bought a sports car and started dating young women. His story will be one of endless self-indulgence.
Warren, for her part, is the other side of that coin. She is the scorned ex-wife, who got the house and filled it up with trinkets from the various self-actualizing fads she got into after the divorce. In between glasses of chardonnay, she will spend hours telling you about how awful her ex-husband was during the divorce. She is the woman, who rejected the lifestyle of her mother, but at some point, when it was too late, realized her mother was right all along. That is the real source of her bitterness.
The 2020 campaign promises to be Trump running around the country telling his fans about all the winning, while Warren runs around wagging her boney finger at them, telling them about how she has been wronged. It will be the cad versus the nag, largely a fight among white people about how best to go into that dark night. On the one side will be Trump nostalgic for a lost America. On the other will be Warren, haunted by an America that never was. Two characters from a soon to be forgotten past.
Neither side will have much to say about what comes after them, because they are from a generation that thought they would live forever and never grow old. The people who swore they would never trust anyone over thirty, now can’t spare a second to consider the future of those under 30. It’s going to be two perpetual adolescents throwing one final tantrum, demanding the rest of us indulge them one more time. It is the last hurrah for a generation that will buried, not praised, by those who follow.
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