But the 2016 presidential campaign has been the boomers revenge as both major Presidential candidates are more or less boomers and the nasty personality driven politics that are a trademark of the boomer era has been taken to a whole new level this year.
Generational change is always difficult, but the baby boomers who came of age in the anti-war movements of the 1960s have had a particularly close relationship with power and how to use it for close to fifty years now. From principled protesters in the 1960s, to those running up debt, ripping out the social safety net and making excuses to put off environmental protection in the 1980s and 1990s, the baby boomers have run full circle and left this country arguably in worse shape than they inherited it.
Given how the generation came of age politically, the drift toward right-wing and supply-side economic theories as well as suburban comfort living that saw our urban centers fall into permanent decay was ironic and sad. The first generation to truly grow up with television and certain form of mass media engaged in the type of racial stereotyping that has led to the Trump phenomena, while promoting a certain degree of individualism and “american exceptionalism” that had led directly to ripping out of New Deal and Great Society-era safety net programs for those less fortunate in our society including the very racial minorities the boomers marched with to empower in the 1960s and 1970s.
Unlike previous generations that embraced Social Security and Medicare, many boomers fought tooth and nail against any sort of expanded national healthcare coverage and allowed a convoluted system that favored insurance companies over doctors AND patients to grow into an immovable behemoth. President Obama was ultimately trapped in trying to remove these obstacles while pushing wholesale health care reform. By not properly managing Social Security and Medicare as well, the most reactionary elements within the boomer generation tried to make a case to “reform” both programs – or perhaps some of the Republicans like Newt Gingrich of that generation were merely trying to sabotage FDR and LBJ-era social programs for political reasons as well as generational ones.
Cars, urban pollution along with big suburban houses and shopping malls ended up being the greatest contribution of this generation to everyday American life. Generation X and now especially the millennials have taken greater pride in urban revival, riding bikes, use of mass transit and resettling into smaller confines in revitalized urban cores. The decay of the American city did not begin with the baby boomers but almost undoubtedly advanced to extent it did thanks to them.
But this is after all generation who enjoyed the abundance of energy at a low cost yet did virtually nothing to reduce carbon emissions or move us toward alternative sources which not only were good for the planet but provide more in efficiency. The dug in corporate executives at utilities companies in this state have even gone to great lengths to concoct a sham of constitutional amendment which would prevent younger generations committed to saving the planet from doing so in this state.
The generations general unwillingness to deal with climate change and to create an image of the United States as a bullying unipolar power has hurt the image this country once enjoyed abroad. The Obama years have done much to restore the good vibes Americans and this nation long enjoyed across the oceans and seas, but the damage has not yet been completely undone.
Clinton vs Trump represents a last gasp for a generation that offered so much promise but in the end let American society and the younger generations down in countless ways. Let’s hope this campaign proves to be that last gasp for a generation whose time to influence American politics and policies has come and gone.