A Gen X Icon on Why America Isn’t Ready for a Gen X President

Beto O‘Rourke and the Failure of the Failure Generation

Elizabeth Wurtzel
Published in
4 min readOct 15, 2019


Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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…