Generation Politics: Where are the Generation X Democrats?

Scott Timberg had a March 7 2016 article on Salon, noting that “The GOP has Presidential contenders from Generation X, while the Democrats have two Boomers fighting it out – why?”  As my post from last April noted the fairly large number of Republican Generation X candidates, and the fact that even before the field was whittled down to Sanders and Clinton, the Democrats were all from older generations.

I am still of the opinion that Generation X is destined to be shut out of the Presidency, as was the Silent Generation. Just the electoral demographics of being sandwiched between two larger generations kills us. I see this cycle as the last gasp of the Baby Boomers, and the successor to whoever wins in 2016 to be pulled from the ranks of the Millennials, now officially the largest generation in the US.

As to Timberg’s question of where are the Gen X Democrats? — I think they are there as he notes, but that being at least in large part influenced by the Reagan years, there are still more Republican Gen Xers than Democrats – at least among the older fraction (according to Pew).  And I think this is reflected in the Generation X politicians that we see on the national stage — more Republicans than Democrats.

Watch for a rising Democrat Millennial to give a key speech at the convention this summer.  That will be your 2020 or 2024 front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination.

A Generation X Imprint on the 2016 Presidential Race

While Gen X presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have made much more progress than I expected toward the Republican nomination, many of the stories in the news are about the electoral power shift from Boomers to Millennials.  To be sure, given the demographic numbers of Millennials and Boomers relative to Gen Xers, this is bound to be the struggle, and the major reason that I have been of the opinion that we are unlikely to ever elect a Generation X President.  However, just as Sanders is giving new hope to the previously shut-out Silent Generation, the move of Rubio and Cruz into contention on the Republican side does give some renewed political hope to Generation X.

I was amused to see the Cruz camp use a parody of the movie Office Space in an advertisement.  While I have observed that the Fast and Furious movies may be the most successful films to star Gen X actors, I see the 1999 film Office Space as summing up Generation X attitudes toward work.

By the time Office Space appeared, most of Generation X  was in the workforce and fully attuned to the rule-bound grind depicted in the movie. (Full disclosure – I own the Special Edition DVD with More Flair!)  Ask any Gen X white collar worker about “The Bobs”, TPS reports, Michael Bolton, and what they would do if they had a million dollars, and you would get an Office Space based reply.  Not to mention their red staplers.

Did I turn into Lumbergh when I became a supervisor?

So last week when this advertisement made the rounds, it seemed only fitting that it came out of one of the campaign of Generation Xer Ted Cruz.  While Marco Rubio has been more overt in talking about bringing a new generation to power (in an appeal, I think, to Gen X and Millennials) I haven’t seen him be as effective as the Cruz ad in creating social media buzz.  We shall see what happens after South Carolina.

Draft Registration for Women

The topic of requiring draft registration for women came up in last night’s Republican Presidential debate.  The question really took me by surprise, but I guess the issue has been in the news the past few months now that all combat roles in the U.S. military have been opened to women.

I am against involuntary servitude, and this includes both the military draft and other forms of mandatory “national service“.  For men in Generation X, selective service registration has been a fact of life, having been authorized in 1980 by Proclamation of President Jimmy Carter.  Since then, upon turning 18, all men have had to register for the draft.  Beyond that, we have to keep proving that we have registered, providing our selective service number in order to get Federally backed student loans and other financial aid, get a government job, or obtain other federal benefits.  Additionally, failing to register could result in a $25000 fine and up to 5 years in jail.  Some states have their own legislation linking selective service registration for men to financial aid and even to being able to obtain a drivers license.

Of course, these penalties only apply to men.  Could this have anything to do with men falling behind in college enrollments?  Probably not.  But is it fair, especially in light of opening opportunities in the military to women?  Would it demonstrate more of a commitment to equality to require women to share in this responsibility to register for the draft and face the same potential penalties as men?  At least Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush said “yes” last night.  I would like to hear what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders say on this issue. (If they were asked in their debate I missed it).  Of course, I would have rather heard them say that we no longer need to register anyone for the draft.

Generation X in the Winner’s Circle – Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz

In the Iowa Caucuses last night, Generation X Presidential candidates made a great showing with Ted Cruz taking the top spot and Marco Rubio coming in a strong third. I have written previously about the possibilities (or lack thereof) of Generation X ever having a representative in the White House.  At that time, the Generation X candidates didn’t look that strong, with the tail end boomers (Bush, Rand Paul, etc.) still looking stronger than the Gen Xers in the field.  The last six months have changed things (and not just with the strength of Donald Trump).

From the Washington Times
The betting man’s favorite.

By October, the various betting markets had Marco Rubio as the favorite to win the Republican nomination. As of this morning, he still had the best odds across a variety of betting platforms.  With Ted Cruz in third place.  So, it seems increasingly likely that we will have a Generation X candidate on the Republican side.  The Democrats are on the other side of the age divide, with either an old Boomer (Hillary) or a Silent Generation Candidate! (Sanders was born in 1941.)  And I thought John McCain was the Silent’s last possible candidate for the Presidency.

Given the small size of Generation X with respect to Boomers and Millennials, the question will be, can the Generation X candidates on the Republican side appeal to them?

Generation X Turns 50 – Finally noticed in the media!

During the first week of January this year I was going to the Metro station in Washington DC and noticed a headline on the Epoch Times – “Gen X Turns 50“.  So I picked up a copy of the paper and read a great article by Cindy Drukier on the current state of Generation X and how we got to be the way we are.  I recommend it.

Generation X graphic from the Epoch Times article.

However, I do take issue with the first line: “The first cohort of Generation X turned 50 this year – you probably didn’t notice either.”  (The article dateline is Dec. 30 2015, so “this year” would be 1965.)

I noticed!  But overall she is certainly correct.  If, like I do, you recall the media hoopla over the Boomers turning 50 in 1996, we Gen Xers certainly have not had that kind of media recognition over our milestone birthday.   Thanks, Cindy, for getting us some front page recognition for once!

New Social Security Study Gives the Bad News to Generation X

Generation X has been told since we started working that Social Security would go broke before we would ever receive any benefits.  A new study by Harvard and Dartmouth researchers puts the date at which the Social Security trust funds will be tapped out at 2033.  And the demographics at that point only bring in taxes that can pay 75% of benefits due.

For Generation X, that means that those of us turning 50 this year will see an insolvent program when we hit 68.  Or one year after the current age to receive full benefits.   I just received my statement from the Social Security Administration last week, and it lays out the difference in monthly payments for electing to take Social Security early, at 62, or waiting until you are 67.  And the difference is fairly substantial.  The question is, should the spectre of insolvency in the system make one consider taking the early retirement in order to insure that you get something back?

I don’t think we will actually get to that point of course.   Even with bad demographics due to lower than expected birthrates, there are many ways to fix Social Security.  Raising the age at which benefits can be claimed seems to make sense, given increased lifespans.  And the rate of taxation could be raised, though I would hate to see that.  Likewise one could remove the ceiling on OASDI taxation.  Although I don’t see that the last option raises that much money — the tail of the income distribution.

I fully expect that Generation X will see an increase in the age at which we can draw Social Security.  Time to start re-planning that retirement!

Generation X and the Presidency

I only noticed today that The Fix blog on the Washington Post discussed the Marco Rubio candidacy in terms of Generation X and the Presidency. As I have noted before, I am not sure that we will ever have a Gen X President.  Philip Bump at the Fix also notes that the demographic power of the Baby Boomers and then the Millennials mean that it is pretty likely that we will have more Boomer Presidents, and then of course, a Millennial – which he reacts to with mock horror.

The Fix has written before that these Generational terms are fluid and artificial.  Which of course, they are, being largely marketing terms.  But, I think that among those of us in Gen X, it is a term that we do identify with.  Whether we ever elect our own President or not.


Old and Tired Baby Boomers – 2016 Presidential Edition

It appears that others are now noticing that the Democratic party is fielding a very old slate of Presidential contenders. This is of course something I commented on several days ago, or longer in my consideration of possible future US Presidents.  So, where are the Gen X Democratic contenders?  While Gen X is slightly more Republican leaning, especially the older Xers, there are still plenty of Gen X Democrats.  Has Hillary scared everyone off until after she is out of the way?  If she wins and serves two terms, the next shot for the Gen X Democrats (or Republicans) in this scenario is in 2024.  That would make the oldest Generation X politicians 59 years old and the youngest 42.  So, I guess we still have a reasonable shot at the White House!


Gen X Politicians – Half of Announced 2016 Presidential Field

As of April 13, two of the four announced Presidential candidates are Gen Xers.  Although I have already expressed my opinion that no Gen Xer will ever be President, at this early stage we have two Xers in Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and two Boomers in Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul.

The New York Times has an article on “Who is Running for President” that looks at probable (and improbable) candidates for 2016.  On the Democrat side, the running and probable candidates are all Baby Boomers, the youngest of whom is Martin O’Malley (b. 1963).  In the “Probably Not” category the Democrats have Joe Biden, who, at 72, might be the Silent Generation’s last hope at putting a representative in the Oval Office.

On the Republican side, the field is a bit more diverse (age-wise) with twelve running or probable candidates.  The oldest (probable) candidate is Rick Perry at 65, and the youngest candidates are the 43 year-olds – Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio.  Among the NYT Republican list then, there are 4 Xers and 8 Boomers.

As I noted before, I don’t see any of the Xers as having a real shot. The folks at Five Thirty Eight beg to differ, calling Rubio the GOP’s first real contender and electable and conservative in optimal proportions. But Time will tell!  I did find it interesting that Rubio did explicitly call out this election as being a generational choice.

Joe Skipper/Reuters
Joe Skipper/Reuters

Generational Shift at the Daily Show – from Boomer Jon Stewart to Millennial Trevor Noah

Kind of analogous to my contention that Generation X may be shut out of the Presidency, as were the Silent Generation, it looks like we are being skipped over by Comedy Central for delivering political commentary and fake news.  The Daily Show has just announced its new host, Trevor Noah, who was born in 1984, solidly in the Millennial age cohort. He is of course replacing tail-end Baby Boomer Jon Stewart (b. 1962) in the host’s chair.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Comedy Central.  In addition to getting into early trouble for his tweets, it remains to be seen if Noah can connect with the GenXers, who, would appear to be the bulk of The Daily Show’s current audience.  Of course, it is surmised that Comedy Central is trying to reach a younger audience, and the Millennial cohort is larger than Generation X, so it would make sense over the long term to target them.