You are familiar, no doubt, with the following phrase: Youth is wasted on the young.
We never state the reverse, which is that experience is wasted on the old.
But the last few years have taught us that old people (i.e., Baby Boomers) are not particularly wise, despite their head start on the rest of us. We’ve learned that Baby Boomers are more than the largest, loudest, most self-absorbed generation in history, with a penchant to claim everything for themselves in a narcissistic orgy of materialism and shallowness that has pinned every successive generation under the rock of their arrogance and delusion — no, they are also out to destroy the world.
You see, the Baby Boomers would like credit for civil rights marches and the sexual revolution and Led Zeppelin. But really, their final legacy will likely be their fervent, almost fanatical embrace of Donald Trump (who was born in 1946 — the ultimate Baby Boomer year). Support for Trump among Baby Boomers is consistently over 50 percent, the only age group in which a majority approve of his performance.
Ergo, it is Baby Boomers, far more than other Americans, who support stuffing children into cages, cutting off people’s healthcare, kowtowing to vicious dictators, denying the very existence of climate change, and so on.
Does any of that sound like wisdom to you?
Now, because I’m a member of Generation X, I am too filled with cynicism and disdain to offer any constructive solutions that aren’t subtly ironic. So I will leave saving the world to the millennials.
I know it’s fashionable to pile on that generation. Hey, I’ve done it a few times myself (like when I roll my eyes over their incessant need to be with their friends at all times, even on their damn honeymoons).
But I admire the millennial willingness to question American norms. For example, old people shout, “Work hard!” And millennials ask, “Why should I slave away at a shitty job just to make more money for rich people and drown in the ocean of my student debt?”
That, my friend, is an excellent question.
In any case, another reason that I respect millennials — and why you should be rooting for them — is because they are the ones who will truly make America great again.
You see what I did there? Got all ironic on you. Hey, you were warned.
Here’s my point: A recent study has shown that, to phrase it bluntly, “young people are staying liberal, and conservatives are dying off.”
Yes, conventional wisdom held “that young people would naturally grow more conservative as they age, or that their Democratic loyalties were an idiosyncratic response to Barack Obama’s unique personal appeal.” But in truth, younger voters are “wildly more liberal than older ones. [Millennials have] nearly five times as many voters with liberal views than with conservative views.”
Baby Boomers, in general, are “conservative, white, and Republican, and the youngest voters are the most liberal, racially diverse, and Democratic.” Keep in mind that there is “absolutely no sign the dynamic is abating during the Trump years. If anything, it is accelerating.”
Another survey shows that 57 percent of millennials “call themselves consistently liberal or mostly liberal. Only 12 percent call themselves consistently conservative or mostly conservative.”
I’m pretty sure that if a political party can count on the future votes of just 12 percent of a generation, it will not be a major political party for much longer.
Today’s generation gap “is not based just on temporary intellectual postures. It is based on concrete, lived experience that is never going to go away.” Young people despise Trump and his xenophobic appeals to an overwhelmingly white America that is unlike their culture — an environment that would exclude them, their friends, and their families. Hell, a full 63 percent of young people say the president is a straight-up racist.
OK, so young people aren’t abandoning their progressive ideals as they grow up. What does that mean?
In the short term, say the next presidential election, it means that Baby Boomers and older generations are expected to account for less than 40% of eligible voters. Most eligible voters in 2020 will be younger, and less likely to clamor for, say, imprisoning women for having abortions.
In the longer term, it means that “Republicans are living on borrowed time,” and that the attempt to “suppress voting among poorer and nonwhite voters (who tend to be younger and also more progressive) should be seen for what it is: A last-gasp effort to extend older and whiter generations’ disproportionate power in a country becoming more secular, more diverse and more progressive.”
As we all know by now, “many conservatives supported Trump precisely because they were panicked about this trend. So far, Trump is merely accelerating the demise they feared.”
So I guess we can all rest easy, because the nightmare of Trumpism is bound to implode due the unstoppable, irreversible power of demographic change.
Well, except for all the federal judges and Supreme Court justices who will be placed into lifetime appointments, where they will have the ability to make rulings right out of the 1950s until well into the 2040s. And then there’s the long-lasting economic damage that the Republicans have already set in motion, and the grievous injuries that Trump has unleashed on our institutions and norms. And then there is climate change, where the ability to enact meaningful change is being thwarted by old people who deny basic science and will not live long enough to suffer the horrific consequences.
In fact, an alarming new study says that there is a distinct chance that human civilization will start to collapse by 2050. That’s just 31 years away.
Of course, if humanity does get pushed to the brink of extinction, and there are any centenarian Baby Boomers left, I’m sure they will look around at the devastation, deny responsibility for their cataclysmic decisions, and just blame someone younger.
That’s kind of their thing.
Featured image: Tom Woodward/Flickr