Wednesday, May 25, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Charles Kettering
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Campaign 2016 is ostensibly about the future of the United States. But with two nearly 70 year old candidates with long, public histories most of what we do is talk about the past. Whether its Donald Trump’s peccadilloes, Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes or any of Hillary Clinton’s alleged misdeeds, we’re spending far too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Past performance, among politicians, usually is an indicator of future outcomes. If that’s truly the case with Clinton and Trump, we’re in a lot of trouble. Given our two likely nominees, we shouldn’t be surprised they both labor under sky-high negatives. It is unlikely that they can possibly envision how most Americans 18-30 see the country or the world. Having campaigns that slice and dice data to determine the best messages to sway younger voters is missing the point. After 2016, it’s time to turn the page on a generation that has dominated the last 50 years of American life and culture.
One Last Turn Around the Carousel
This presidential election cycle has featured more than 20 aspirants for the White House. For all but three or four of them (Cruz, Rubio, Paul and O’Malley) this is their last shot to win the Presidency. Two Baby Boomers and a member of the Silent Generation are the last three options to lead the United States into the third decade of the 21st Century. The generational arc that began in 1992 as George H.W. Bush passed the torch to Bill Clinton and the Baby Boomers is coming to an end this year. This probably should have been the year that Generation X took over but, like their generation writ large, the Boomer candidates still think they’re living in the Summer of Love and aren’t ready to admit their length of tooth.
Re-Litigating the 90s
This week, Secretary Hillary Clinton lashed out at Donald Trump for “cheering on” the collapse of the housing market in 2006 (10 years ago.) But she conveniently neglects the fact that her husband, then President Bill Clinton, signed the dismantling of the long-standing Glass-Steagall Actin 1999, which kept commercial and investment banks separate. In one fell swoop, Clinton is taking the entire nation back to the 1990s. Indeed, she has had to repudiate nearly every one of her husband’s policy positions - from welfare reform to the crime bill to the Defense of Marriage Act. Just this week, a snafu within the Trump press operation made it known that The Donald plans to start hitting Clinton on Whitewater - a deal done in the 1970s that we spent much of the 90s talking about. Is this really the campaign we need right now? Are the Spin Doctors and Ace of Base waiting in the wings for their big comeback tours? Or is it grunge that’s destined for a renaissance?
Generation X, the next cohort in line for the White House (theoretically) has been denigrated since our childhood as slackers and without much faith in things. I take a different view. We are people who grew up in one world and came of age in another. Our parents loved us, but loved themselves more. We learned self-reliance and developed a wry outlook. As a group we have always tended to see the world more as it is rather than as it should be. While that may not be the most optimistic vision, at least its honest and allows for true analysis of what needs fixing. Come 2020, I hope that both parties can thank the Baby Boomers for their service and line them up to be Ambassadors to Japan. The vision of our country’s leaders - in Congress and in the White House is stuck in the past. Most of Capitol Hill received their AARP cards better than a decade ago. Speaker Paul Ryan alone represents the turning of a generational page in Washington. Four years from now, we can only hope he’s not alone.