A Gen X Icon on Why America Isn’t Ready for a Gen X President
I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?
— Beck, 1993
I am staring at the ceiling and pondering the failure of the failure generation.
I hear the debate tonight is the last for Beto O’Rourke, who may not make the cut for the next one. And who knows about however many more are to come in this candidate-o-rama.
What happened with him? He is a talented politician who brought punk rock to his campaign for Senate in Texas. Yes, we have all had it with white men, yes we want a more revolutionary messenger than some guy with a wife at home, but the electorate has a weakness for Beto’s thing: He is every woman’s favorite boyfriend, and he is every man’s everyman. Beto is compared to various Kennedys, because he is the Democratic classic, the voice of a new generation.
But no one under 70 seems likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee. There are several Generation X candidates who are flailing through the primaries, when we are the age that should be taking over. A 2019 Pew Research poll found that nearly half of Democrats want a 50-something president.
The Democrats have only ever won the presidency, since Kennedy entered office at age 43, on a message of generational shift. Even Franklin Roosevelt was only 51 when he first got to the White House. The promise of a young view of the world worked for Clinton and Obama just as it did for JFK.
The Republicans have been known to recruit candidates from the cardiology unit, but Democrats are the forward party. Youth is not an argument for them — it’s the whole thing.
It should be easy to clobber Trump. Not that many people like him — fewer all the time. We only worry that he will win again because he has made us apocalyptic.
This feels like the rapture.
But it’s not.
Trump can be beat.
But leave it to the Democrats to mess up by nominating someone old, someone who can’t make the generational change argument, because she is not much younger than the 73-year-old president. It looks like it will be Elizabeth Warren.
The rap on her is that she doesn’t seem 70.
In an October 13 CBS News/YouGov poll, 43% said Bernie Sanders is too old and 28% said Joe Biden is too old. Only 4% thought that about Warren. In her case, 93% believe age is not a concern.
Generation X candidates are flailing through the primaries, when we are the age that should be taking over.
Indeed, she is doing the thing that the Generation X candidates are not: She is selling her youthfulness. She is the energetic SoulCycle-instructor politician. She has plans. She has connectivity.
Electing Warren would be a bigger shift than electing a younger man because a female president would change the power structure.
But that is implicit.
Elizabeth Warren is not talking about feminism or being a woman as much as she is running on big change of all sorts.
Meanwhile, the Generation X candidates have their issues, but none are going big.
Elizabeth Warren is making daring assertions. She is making fun of people who are against marriage equality. She is playing Youthquaker.
Beto could do that. So could Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
But Beto is not even skateboarding into streaming stardom, which is what he did when he was running for Senate in Texas.
I would love a skate-punk president! Where is he?
Instead of making fun of Biden’s senility, which came across as nasty, Julian Castro should celebrate his connection to the next generation. Biden is too old to be president because he was in the Senate at a time when it was acceptable to hold positions that we now know are racist and sexist. It is no good that he worked with segregationists, because that means he was doing this when the South still pined for separate water fountains. Many of us remember Biden’s wretched treatment of Anita Hill.
Joe Biden missed his chance. It is too late.
Pete Buttigieg, who is younger than the Xers, is making the generational change argument. Buttigieg is closer to JFK’s age when he ran in 1960 than anyone else. No surprise that this is working for him. It works.
But leave it to Generation X to not play the game to win.
We are not slackers, but we have this belief that it should not look effortful. But to become president, you have to sweat and show it.
We also did not become winners because we showed up. There was this whole, “What’s so great about winning?” thing. But to be president, you have to believe winning is everything.
Not even Generation X is supporting Generation X candidates, because heaven forbid we identify that way or any way.
Generation X is all about disrespect and discombobulating.
It is about saying whatever, saying anything. We invented feeling too much, sharing too much, being too much. We are honest when we should not be. That would be a great way to get beyond the mendacity of the Trump administration.
It could still happen.
Maybe the VP slot will be filled by a Gen X candidate. It is the slacker job: all ceremony, no responsibility.
It would be our way to take the tagalong route to the top.
We will get there. I want a Generation X president. Let it be.