The Baby Boomer generation has become a magnet for a certain kind of potent political criticism.
By some accounts, as youthful revolutionaries, they ruined the 1960s; as the “Me Generation,” they wrecked the ’70s; in yet another incarnation, as yuppies, they trashed the ’80s; careening into their reckless and naïve later years, they created unfulfillable social and economic expectations in the late ’90s that led to a crash and protracted hangover in the 2000s; and this decade, unwilling to relinquish center stage in American life, they gave us a Clinton-versus-Trump matchup that left many voters wishing it could all have been at least a little different.
If every culture needs a scapegoat, the Boomers have performed admirably. But something more than mere vindictiveness or ritual is behind the case against the Boomers.
Now, however, Americans will have to start thinking differently about the problems that have bedeviled the United States since the end of the Kennedy era.
According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, for the first time, the troublesome generation and what’s left of its elders have been overthrown as a bloc.
“Millennial and Gen X voters outnumbered Boomers and older voters, 69.6 million to 67.9 million,” as the Brookings Institution observed. “This gap will only widen in future elections: death and infirmity will steadily thin the ranks of older cohorts while rising turnout rates among younger voters will continue to swell their share of the electorate. In addition, naturalization will steadily increase the number of Millennials born outside the United States who are on track to attain citizenship.”
Of course, for a few more election cycles, which may well prove decisive to the future of the country, there’s a catch: those figures assume that voters actually vote. And as Boomers who have long tried to amplify their ideological fortunes by unleashing the potential of “the youth vote” are well aware, younger citizens just can’t be counted on to turn out in very large numbers. Just at the moment that Boomers are retiring from the commanding heights of economic life, their political influence could turn out to be more outsized than ever.
A new Portland State University study reveals the potential size of the actual gap between the older and younger electorate. In Seattle’s 2013 election for mayor, researchers found, “73 percent of registered voters 65 and older cast ballots, while only 35 percent…