This weekend I finished Bruce Cannon Gibney’s Generation of Sociopaths How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. I hesitate to recommend the book as a “must read” because it’s point is somewhat repetitive throughout the course of the book making it seem more like a personal attack on an entire generation rather than a statistically backed takedown of an entire generation. In fact, you could make the case that the book is both of those things at the same time depending upon where you are at in your reading.
Nevertheless, I believe that the core tenant of the book—America’s problems are, fundamentally, caused by the selfish behavior of the Baby Boomer generation—bears some consideration as we muddle through the second year of the presidency of someone who the Baby Boomers basically elected.
In essence, I believe the story can begin and end with Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency. Donald Trump is a Baby Boomer having been born in 1946 at the beginning of the cohort born from approximately 1943 through approximately 1964. He represents all of the worst characteristics of the generation—narcissism, aversion to authority other than that derived from their own person, indifference to facts or expertise, hostile to criticism, inability to consider sacrifice, lack of empathy, and so on. You even get some of the other characteristics like divorce, love of television, taste for fast food, and an attraction to ostentatious displays of affluence. It is as if the Baby Boomers decided to create a 151 proof version of all of their bad traits and put that person in the White House.
Baby Boomers are even to blame for this man’s election. Don’t believe me? Check out the voting statistics behind the 2016 election by demographic cohorts. Older, white males who identified as conservative loved Donald Trump. Basically, you Uncle Carl who likes to get lit at Thanksgiving and tell everyone at the table that America is going to hell elected the worst president in modern memory. Knowing Baby Boomers the generational cohort will likely take no blame and pin the result on everyone but themselves. Good lord!
But why did Baby Boomers elect Donald Trump over another member of their generation? Do you remember the move The American President? Toward the end of the movie President Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas, excoriates his political nemesis Bob Rumson, played by Richard Dreyfuss:
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character and you wave an old photo of the president’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. And you go on television and you call her a whore.
If that does not sound like the playbook of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign I do not know what does. It is like he saw the movie, the man likes his television, and said, “I got it. I will be just like Bob Rumson!” Add in Fox News, Twitter, and a Russian connection…you get the idea.
While we can place blame for the election of Donald Trump on a lot of different factors with baby boomer support being just one, I think the special election for Senate in Alabama was a more insightful example. By all accounts, the Republican candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions should have been elected in a cakewalk over any Democrat, unless Nick Saban decided to run for the office as a Democrat. However, the Republican party put forth Roy Moore, Jr. as a candidate because when it’s primary season you never know what kind of crazies are going to make the ballot. Just ask Virginia’s state GOP how that is going.
When all the voting was done Roy Moore, Jr. lost to Doug Jones in a fairly close election. Given the outlandish nature of Roy Moore, Jr. as a politician, judge, and basic human being it should have been a disaster for the GOP. What happened? Makes supported Roy Moore, Jr. 56 to 42 according to exit pools. Even more telling was that people over the age of 45 supported Roy Moore, Jr. by a large margin. The exit polling from this race is just fascinating. You can disagree with policies all day long but when you cast your vote for a man with no regard for the law who happens to be a serial pedophile just because he is a Republican you are evil. Thank god that African Americans, women in particular, turned out in force for Doug Jones and saved our democracy the spectacle that could have been.
Sorry baby boomers, but the evidence is starting to make me agree with Bruce Cannon Gibney and I did not want to do that. The challenge facing us is to sweep aside this generation of leaders and put people in place who actually want to solve problems as opposed to ensuring that largesse continues to flow.