Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke more truth than she may have intended in her farewell speech. “The hour has come for a new generation to lead.” She was referring to the resignation of leading the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, but the sentiment applies across culture, including the field of 2024 presidential candidates.
Pelosi is part of the Silent Generation, born between 1928 and 1945. Just like President Biden. So are 11 U.S. Senators and 27 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. It has been a long time since the eighties could enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
But it is the Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 who dominate, representing 68 senators and 229 representatives. The 117th U.S. Congress was the oldest, with an average age of 60 at a time when the country has an average age of 38.
It’s a classic setup for a failed succession. The surest way to compromise on a multi-generational farm is for Grandpa to continue to make all the decisions while his adult children and grandchildren grow increasingly discouraged and drift away. A smart jack starts handing over the reins while he’s still there to advise and knows when it’s time to play more golf.
That was the image that came to mind when the New York Post made fun of Donald Trump last week with a front page under the unfolded banner “Florida Man Makes Announcement – Pg 26” calling him an “enthusiastic golfer.” Trump is just six months shy of being part of Biden’s Silent Generation, barely making the Boomer ranks with a birthday in June 1946. And it’s time he started golfing more.
The announcement of Trump’s presidential campaign last week was disappointing in many media outlets, but he still has fans. A boomer on Facebook responded to the suggestion that it was time to hand over the reins by mocking the next generations’ abilities to pick them up. Generation X? Still fluttering through life. millennials? They get their news from TikTok. Generation Z? What are they actually doing? Well, they don’t talk politics with the Boomers still hanging out on Facebook.
If they’re not ready, whose fault is it? Looking at us, boomers.
With every election this century, pundits write pieces complaining about the lack of enthusiastic youth participation in elections. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. They are not involved in the process.
There’s a growing movement (okay, full disclosure here, I’m trying to start a movement) to pledge never to vote for anyone over 70. In the age where expressing an opinion makes you kind of an “ist”, I mentioned “ageist”. I’m not quite 70 yet, but I can see it from here, so that attempted slur is age-related in itself. I am definitely an ‘opinionist’ and in my humble opinion we have a problem if we don’t make room for the next generation to take responsibility.
It’s not just a political problem, it’s a problem in every social institution we rely on for a healthy community. It’s often easier for the old hands to keep making the schedule or take care of business with the neighborhood council or the fire department or a local community organization, but we really need to get all hands up and get them on deck. Too often an older generation doesn’t realize that the only way for the next generation to step up is to take a step back.
The tension could erupt into a hostile takeover of Thanksgiving turkey cooking by a frustrated millennial, or a dismissive look from a boomer over a pie that just wasn’t as good as grandma could bake. I hope your Thanksgiving Day experience embraced both a time-honored tradition and the beginning of a new one. That novice pie maker will get better with practice, given the space and support to try.
Boomers need to start making room, like the old farmer finally letting the “kids” start making decisions. Pelosi’s resignation sets a good precedent for the 2024 presidential field. And for the avid Florida golfer who made an announcement last week: Sit down, boomer.
Please contact Sue Lani Madsen at [email protected]