Skip to comments.The Last Boomer?
Posted on 05/09/2012 5:35:32 AM PDT by Kaslin
If Mitt Romney succeeds in his quest for the presidency, the media will focus on his status as the first Mormon in the White House. But its even more significant that hed represent the last of another controversial cohort: the final Baby Boomer to occupy the Oval Office, or even to top the ticket of a major political party.
After more than twenty years of dominating the national political scene, the narcissistic children of the 60s finally prepare to amble toward retirement, leaving the nations highest office to leaders from less polarized and self-righteous generations. Ironically, the Boomers last hurrah in the presidential arena will almost certainly come from a starchy straight arrow utterly untouched by weed or Woodstock, rock n roll or rebellion, or other celebrated themes of his turbulent counterparts.
Of course, Hillary Clinton could confound Mitts status as the Last of the Boomers by breaking her pledge to eschew electoral politics and making a presidential race of her own in 2016 or thereafter. Even if she delayed her candidacy till 2020, shed be only 73 at the time of the election just a year older than John McCain in 2008, and four years younger than Ron Paul this year. Nevertheless, friends of the Secretary of State believe shes serious in her determination to pursue other paths of public service and personal fulfillment.
Theres also the possibility that Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, could return to the political lists to pursue the presidency and to redeem his familys honor, but his age and personal history make his identification with the 60s generation somewhat questionable. While sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss identify Baby Boomers as those born between 1943 and 1960, a younger member of that group like Jeb (born in 1953) would have missed out on most of the defining experiences of the era. For instance, President Nixon announced an end to the Vietnam draft before Jeb even graduated from prep school in 1971 and when Barack Obama, by the way, was only ten.
The high school Class of 65 the graduating class of Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and me comprised the very heart of the Baby Boom generation. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have both graduated in 1964, but it was in January 1965 that Time magazine ran a famous cover story on TODAYS TEENAGERS with the hopeful subtitle On the Fringe of a Golden Era.
That article focused on my own senior class at Palisades High School in Los Angeles, and more than a decade later provided the basis for my bestselling book (and later an NBC TV series), What Really Happened to the Class of 65? The distinguishing characteristic of our moment in history involved sudden, whiplash change that afflicted the country just as we made the always fraught transition from high school to college. Marijuana and psychedelic drugs remained extremely rare (if not altogether unknown) during our high school years, but became thoroughly ubiquitous shortly after we arrived at university. The Vietnam War enjoyed overwhelming, nearly unanimous public support when we got high school diplomas in June 1965, but within two years the rising draft calls made the conflict massively unpopular on university campuses. The Watts riots paralyzed Southern California within weeks of our high school graduation, followed by a seemingly endless series of other urban explosions over the next five years, with campus unrest and even bloody confrontations disrupting the nations most prestigious institutions of higher education.
Nevertheless, some prophets of the New Age saw all the turmoil as both hopeful and helpful. In 1970, a professor I knew casually at Yale wrote a massive bestseller called The Greening of America, proclaiming a great change among the bright, sensitive children of the affluent middle class. Specifically, Charles Reich located that change in the college class of 1969, which entered as freshmen in the fall of 1965 in other words Romneys class, and mine. There is a revolution coming, Professor Reich solemnly proclaimed. It will originate with the individual and with culture and it will change the political structure only as its final act At the heart of everything is what we shall call a change of consciousness. This means a new head a new way of living a new man. A year earlier, my law school classmate Hillary Rodham had given a commencement speech to her class at Wellesley (prominently featured in LIFE magazine) in which she similarly referred to our generational quest for a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.
No wonder Barack Obama managed to beat her in 2008 by appealing in part to the rising national exhaustion over relentless navel gazing and incurable self-importance on the part of the Boomer generation. Because he counted as some 14 years younger than a typical member of the Class of 65, and because he spent a significant portion of his childhood abroad, Senator Obama seemed untainted by the ancient and increasingly irrelevant divisions between hippies and straights, SDSers and frat boys, New Politics activists who fretted over our sick society and reflexive love-it-or-leave-it patriots. In his second book, The Audacity of Hope, the future president expressed his weariness with the endless confrontations between counter cultural and traditional values. Senator Obama wrote: In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago played out on the national stage.
He promised to transcend such pointless, paralyzing cultural battles and to launch a new era of post-partisan cooperation that would unite all elements of society across ideological and even racial lines. Instead, most Americans now view the Republic as more deeply, destructively divided than ever before. The greatest disappointments and disasters of the Obama presidency all stem from his undeniable failure to deliver his promise to pursue peace.
And what about Romney?
How could The Last Boomer possibly lead the nation beyond the vicious fights over values that actually began during his most formative years and, in one way or another, shaped nearly all his generational counterparts?
Virtually all of the leading liberal lights to emerge from the 60s generation embraced the attitudes of campus rebels and the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Howard Dean and countless others. Their conservative opponents (Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, George Pataki, John Boehner) stoutly rejected the gauzy ideals of the youth culture and embraced the values of earlier generations, but in most cases only did so after some experimentation with 1960s approaches to lifestyle and personal values. Newt Gingrich (of all people) freely confessed to his youthful enthusiasm for marijuana, and George W. Bush famously and eloquently declared that when I was young and stupid I was young and stupid.
Romney, on the other hand, never so much rejected the 60s as he remained altogether isolated from that eras ferment and torment. He never reacted negatively to the high profile fights over sex, drugs, and foreign policy that characterized the country during his university years because, for the most part, he never experienced them. He spent his freshman year (September 1965 to June 1966) at Stanford but disliked the increasingly politicized campus atmosphere and interrupted his college career to pursue his traditional Mormon obligation as a young missionary in France. Debates over the draft never seemed to concern him because he received a ministerial deferment like most Mormon missionaries and married his wife Ann (who hed pursued since high school) in March 1969, within weeks of his return to the United States. Their son Tagg arrived the next year, with Mitt and Ann living in a basement apartment and pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah a world away from the activism that affronted most students of their era in elite campuses like Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin.
When the Romneys moved to Harvard for Mitts simultaneous MBA and law school program they were raising two little boys (with three more to come) and already leading a deeply conservative family life that allowed little connection with the fervent activism that continued to characterize the campus. Almost alone of famous Boomers, Mitt Romney never let his hair, sideburns, beard or moustache grow out in some outrageously dated and embarrassing manner. In photographs from the period he remains disconcertingly recognizable the same self-possessed, clean cut, immaculately groomed figure he presents today, despite his occasional campaign trail efforts to make himself seem more earthy with his incongruous choice of jeans.
While Romneys isolation from the trends that defined most others in that famous Class of 65 might make him a dubious choice as the final presidential candidate from his generation, his distinctive experience could provide special appeal to the bulk of his fellow Boomers. Many (if not most) among the huge population bulge associated with that age group actually missed the cultural revolution known as the 60s: they fought in the Vietnam War rather than protesting it, they got jobs rather than getting high, they saw themselves as flag-wavers more than freaks. In addition, tens of millions of Boomers who may have taken a more unconventional approach back in the day have come to feel more ashamed than nostalgic about their youthful indulgence.
If Mitt Romney can unite all those who consistently shunned the counterculture with all those who once flirted with its values but now look back on those callow notions with disdain, he could easily win a majority of his fellow Boomers and, with them, the election. Romney can never pretend that he was once young and stupid like George W. Bush, but thats not necessarily a bad thing. We rightly respect him because he was never stupid. But it may be harder to forgive the fact that he was never young.
GW Bush- 1946
GP Bush- 1976
‘46-’64 not 43-60
Yeeeeupppp...you got that right BigG!
I fought the hippies in the sixties and not going to quit now!
Medved is sometimes a pinhead, but this example tops any I’ve seen yet.
Having just read your comments, I feel I am much less alone, born in 1959.
I sure hope so.
The baby boomers are the ingratitude generation. Their parents fought in a horrible war that killed millions to defeat fascism, and after they were done with that hell they wanted to go home start a family, work a good job and own a house. And of course their kids (the precious baby boomers) criticized them for that.
To tell you the truth, I feel closer to the Gen X folks, who are not into perpetual radical left stuff.
Was Romney one of those born 9 months after Roswell?
I was thrilled when this news hit. This is what we need to be directing our energies towards.
I’m a boomer (born in ‘55) and although I recall all the turbulence in the 60’s and early 70’s, I didn’t relate to it. Heck, 4 days after HS graduation, I took my Oath of Enlistment for the USAF. I did find out that many of my peers, especially in the college towns (Champaign, IL, Palo Alto, CA) didn’t like GIs and we stuck out because of our military haircuts during an era when long hair and beards were sported by college aged guys. Sometimes it was the shunning and other times it was downright hostility we were greeted with when going into town. That was total BS!
Are you implying that Romny has the mannerisms of a Conehead?
Hillary as well as about a dozen people were born 9 months after roswell which I thought was funny.
The actual definition of boomer is 1946 to 1964, according to all the major measures, feds, census bureau, etc.
Medved is an old hard core left wing propagandist, he was very radical and very involved, who moved right on some issues, all the way to where his right wing heros are candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney.
About nine and a half million boomers were veterans themselves, the difference is that they were overwhelmingly volunteers during the Vietnam War while the generation(s) who fought WWII were overwhelmingly draftees.
The Democrats became much weaker when the boomers started coming of age during the Reagan years, than they had been during their hay days of 1935 to 1975.
Look at the trajectory of Second Amendment rights for example, the boomers have almost totally rolled back the Democrat successes of the previous generations, even the 1965 Immigration Act is under threat now that the boomers are of government leadership age.
>>>In addition, tens of millions of Boomers who may have taken a more unconventional approach back in the day have come to feel more ashamed than nostalgic about their youthful indulgence.<<<
Ain’t this the truth... for me, at least. In the words of Bluto Blutarsky: “Seven years of college down the drain.” The only really positive impact of that period of my life is that it taught me that the values my parents and grandparents wanted me to follow were actually correct. *sigh*
Who you calling narcissistic? I’m a baby boomer and I’m as far from narcissistic as a person could be. Speak for yourself!
If you want to see “silent generation” (born 1925 to 1945)leadership, then start running the birth dates of the famous Hippies, bands, musicians, activists, etc, of the 1960s and early 1970s, when boomers Sarah Palin and Obama, were little kids.
And that’s barely even close at all. They were/are both Veeps and not even born in the 30s.
It’s weird, isn’t it? 10 years of births and yet not one of those millions (tens of millions?) of people ever lead this country.
I wonder if there are other instances of that earlier in our history.
My parents were older than yours, born in 1926, but they didn’t have children until the late 50s, rather old for that time.