Memo to David Brooks: Obama is a Boomer

Posted by: David Kiley on November 4, 2008

I think The New York Times’ David Brooks is about the most readable conservative writer of our times. But his column today stopped me after the second paragraph.

“Nov. 4, 2008, is a historic day because it marks the end of an economic era, a political era and a generational era all at once.
Economically, it marks the end of the Long Boom, which began in 1983. Politically, it probably marks the end of conservative dominance, which began in 1980. Generationally, it marks the end of baby boomer supremacy, which began in 1968. For the past 16 years, baby boomers, who were formed by the tumult of the 1960s, occupied the White House. By Tuesday night, if the polls are to be believed, a member of a new generation will become president-elect.”

Memo to Mr. Brooks: Barack Obama is a baby boomer. The baby boom began in 1946 with the return of WW2 service-men, and concluded, most demographers and researchers agree, in 1964. Obama was born in 1961. He is 47. And are we forgetting that Bill Clinton was younger than Obama when he was elected?

It reads a bit odd.

Here is another misfire by Brooks: “They [Baby Boomers] produced two presidents, neither of whom lived up to his potential. They remained consumed by the culture war that divided their generation. They pass their political supremacy today having squandered the fat years and the golden opportunities.”

The culture war is not grounded in the baby boomers as a generation. It is a function largely of education level and income, mashed up with regionality. I don’t believe Sean Hannity and Rish Limbaugh appeal to baby boomers. Their audiences are extremely heavy with non-college educated citizens.

Generation X and Y, with which Obama ironically may come to be most identified (he isn’t one), are the first generations where regionality, education and income don’t divide people on culture issues. Ask most non-college educated 20 year olds in rural Michigan, and college educated 20 year olds in California, and you will find hug majorities of both groups who have no problem voting for a black president, have no issue with gay marriage, and are pro-choice.

“Republicans nominated an old warrior with a record of making hard decisions and absorbing the blows that ensue. Many of us regard him — and always will — as one of the heroes of our time.”

Brooks is on record as saying he “loves” John McCain. A hero of our time? No question that McCain’s endurance of torture in the Hanoi Hilton was extraordinary. But I would argue the reason McCain probably won’t enter the Oval office unless he buys a ticket on the $10 tour is because he is very much a hero “of another time.”

McCain’s biography since returning from Vietnam is actually quite ordinary. He left his first family, admitted to infidelity, carpet-bagged his way into the Arizona Congressional district of his attractive, socially well-connected heiress second wife sosme 20 years his junior, and ran into as many political and ethical scrapes as any other sitting Senator. And when his campaign reminded us over and over of his endurance in Vietnam forty years ago, it did little more than remind us of his age. The videos and reminders seemed weirdly disconnected from the economic crisis, as well as the issue in Iraq and Iran.

Exactly how was McCain’s captivity in 1968 good training for dealing with complex diplomatic and economic issues in 2008? We were shown the videos, and expected to connect the dots. But the picture never came into focus, especially after McCain and Palin began ranting and raving on the stump about Obama and terrorists and accusing him of unbelievable and insupportable accusations of socialism and finally of wanting to bankrupt the coal industry.

Brooks: “His upscale, post-boomer cohort has rallied behind him with unalloyed fervor. Major college newspapers have endorsed him at a rate of 63 to 1. The upscale educated class — from the universities, the media, the law and the financial centers — has financed his $600 million campaign (which relied on big-dollar donations even more heavily than George W. Bush’s 2004 effort). This cohort will soon become the ruling class.”

It seems pretty clear that the money raised by Obama was both a reaction to eight years of G.W. Bush, as well as the realization by Obama followers that it was going to take a tsunami of money to push an African-American candidate whose middle name is Hussein into the White house. I strongly suspect that if Obama was white, and named Barry Olbermann, he wouldn’t have raised so much money, because he wouldn’t have needed to.

But it’s also worth noting that Americans, especially young ones, are more “invested” in Obama as a problem solver than they have been in a very long time. Conservatives have long wanted young citizens to have more say and control over their Social Security funds as investors.

This seems to be an investment of a different kind they have made with their own money.

Reader Comments

ElectionGuy

November 5, 2008 11:01 AM

As many influential experts and publications have repeatedly pointed out, Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Xers.

Here's a recent 5 minute GenJones video which features many top pundits (including David Brooks) specifically talking about Obama membership in Generation Jones:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ta_Du5K0jk

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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