The Generation Gap

 

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”
— Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Some sociologists have disproved the widely held notion that people become more conservative as they get older, and while that may be the case, and therefore old does not necessarily equal conservative, statistics verify there is still a generation gap between the percentages of older and younger people who vote. Old people turn out to vote in a higher percentage for their age group than young people do in their age group. Old for our purpose here is over 50, which encompasses Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and the Greatest Generation. Young is under 50, which includes Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z.

 

The two largest demographic groups of voting age are Baby Boomers and Millennials. In this year, Millennials will surpass Baby Boomers in numbers as Baby Boomers continue dying out. For all that, the voice of Baby Boomers at voting time remains louder than that of Millennials, because the percentage of Baby Boomers who vote remains higher than the percentage of Millennials who vote. Baby Boomers remain in control of the leadership and apparatus of both major political parties, and that led to the debacle of the 2016 presidential election.

March for Our Lives Fox News
The March for Our Lives protest took place on 24 March 2018 in Washington, D.C., and other cities, when hundreds of thousands of students and others marched to demand common sense gun control in the wake of deadly school shootings in the United States. Photo by Mobilus In Mobili.

In the Democratic Party, leadership foisted Hillary Clinton on everyone, and she turned out to be a candidate with little appeal to voters outside of the Coasts and the big cities, a fact that polling consistently pointed out heading into the election, but which the Democratic leadership chose to ignore. For the Republican Party, the crowded field of candidates in the early primaries allowed the demagogue who eventually overtook the field to win with vote percentages only in the teens and twenties, and with that he was able to pick off his rivals one by one, aided by high amounts of free media coverage for his outrageous comments and behavior.

In the end, we got the president we deserved, we meaning all of us, voters and non-voters alike. A dismal statement, but one we need to come to terms with by election day in November 2020. It seems we have all overestimated the liberal leanings of Baby Boomers as a group, and perhaps popular culture is responsible. News coverage of Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and ’70s, the enormous changes in fashion and entertainment, the weekly confrontations on television’s All in the Family between Baby Boomer Mike “Meathead” Stivic and his Greatest Generation father-in-law, Archie Bunker, all may have contributed to a perception of Baby Boomers as liberal overall.

Looking at national Democratic Party leadership since Baby Boomers took over with the election of Bill Clinton as president in 1992, it’s difficult to deny they are in most ways more conservative than their predecessors of the Greatest Generation and particularly going back to Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) a generation earlier. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were certainly more liberal than Bill Clinton. FDR’s policies would be considered dangerous socialism today, which is why candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whose policy proposals are in line with what FDR might have done, are considered too far left by Democratic Party leadership, and therefore unelectable.

Enumerating goals can be difficult, as demonstrated here in a television skit by Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

In the Republican Party, attitudes have shifted so far right since Baby Boomers took over with leaders like Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney that even Richard Nixon, in whose administration Mr. Cheney first took part, might not have a chance to be elected president these days as a Republican. Too liberal! Dwight Eisenhower, in whose administration Mr. Nixon served as Vice President in the 1950s, would be considered by today’s Republican Party leadership, and assuredly by the MAGA (Make America Great Again) crowd, as a RINO (Republican In Name Only), despite the era he presided over being the one they pine for.

There is no evidence to suggest Millennials are overall more liberal than Baby Boomers, but unlike Baby Boomers they do appear willing to act on the most pressing concerns for humanity, starting with climate change. Unless we take action on climate change now, nothing else matters. Next is growing wealth inequity, because that leads to many other problems, among them being affordability of health care for all. Population growth also needs to be addressed, because Earth’s resources are not infinite, much as delusional capitalist economic modelers like to pretend otherwise.



A satirical public service announcement from the Knock the Vote project. Warning: foul language.

 

Down the list but hanging over every creature on Earth is the bugaboo of all generations alive since 1945 – nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are down the list because while they are obviously capable of ending everything quickly, they may be the hardest nut to crack on account of their continued proliferation being due to human nature. Addressing these problems requires becoming informed, and voting as well as activism, and it is up to Millennials to rise to the challenges their forebears have been reluctant to grasp. It’s time for Baby Boomers to let go of power if they cannot or will not contribute to battling the world’s most pressing problems, though we know it’s human nature to cling to power, and usually the grave provides the only means of separation.
— Ed.

 

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Breezin’ Along

 

Editor’s note: This post was scheduled to appear yesterday, April 15, but a severe weather outbreak in the eastern part of the country knocked out internet service in our vicinity, delaying it’s appearance until today.

 

Sales of recreational vehicles have been setting records in the past several years as the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession of 2008, and as Baby Boomers retire and adopt the RV lifestyle either full or part time. It is considered a lifestyle by the people who live it, people who read magazines and websites devoted to their concerns, and who share information with each other concerning their rigs and travels, both in person when they meet at campsites and on internet forums. Really it has developed beyond a lifestyle to a subculture, ever since Wally Byam introduced the Airstream trailer in the 1930s, and especially so since after World War II.


The subculture of RVers should not be confused with people who dwell in mobile homes, the majority of which are mobile in name only. Recreational vehicles as a category include teardrop trailers, pop-up campers, and self-contained vehicles with all the amenities of a complete home except a permanent yard. They range in price from $10,000 to $1 million. Most of all, unlike their cousins the mobile homes, recreational vehicles stay on the move. RVers tour the country and stop for visits that are only temporary, even if they may stretch to months.

DROPLET - beautiful
A modern teardrop camper trailer. Photo by PPILLON.

One rather surprising statistic about the recent boom in RV sales is how many of the vehicles are being bought by Millennials, the generation now in its teens, twenties, and thirties. RV ownership has typically been associated with retirees with a desire to travel, and it’s therefore not surprising that RV sales have increased as Baby Boomers, the largest generational share of the population, have reached retirement age since about 2010. There appears to be a different dynamic driving RV sales among Millennials, perhaps relating to the new fluidity in the service and internet economy, where jobs either are low paying and do not generate loyalty one way or the other, or the jobs are better paying in the technology sector and the workers can work from home, wherever that may be, whether near or far from corporate offices. In either case, for young people starting out and without a lot of funds, an inexpensive RV is adaptive to the modern economy while allowing them to travel and explore before settling down, if indeed they ever find the need to do so in the traditional sense of a house with a mortgage.

A montage of highlights from the 1953 film The Long, Long Trailer, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, with music for the montage provided by Perry Como singing “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze”.

There are RVers, young and old, who pick up extra income by traveling to seasonal work such as at Amazon.com warehouses, and that kind of thing will probably increase as more people take to the lifestyle and require some funds beyond Social Security, pensions, or other temporary service sector work. The employers like the arrangement, particularly as applications outnumber positions, allowing them to keep wages low, and because they are typically hiring responsible individuals with a good work ethic, even if they are in many cases unprepared for extended physical labor. Once the work is ended, both parties cut loose from each other without any further commitments, and in this case that is probably salutary for all concerned. One last thing the curious may wonder about the RV lifestyle, and that is about the relative safety of being in a RV during a lightning storm, and the answer is that a recreational vehicle constructed largely of metal top to bottom will most likely conduct a lightning strike safely to ground, though it is perhaps not wise to invite disaster by parking on the highest, loneliest spot in the countryside, or near a tree that qualifies.
— Ed.

“Gypsy”, a 1982 song by Fleetwood Mac, written and sung by Stevie Nicks, may represent different things to Baby Boomers as they age. It certainly represented several things to Ms. Nicks over the years as she progressed from initial idea to performance.

 

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