Will There Ever Be Another ‘Baby Boomer’ President? Let’s Hope Not.

WASHINGTON -- JAN 7: In the oval office, Former President George Bush., President-elect Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Washington, D.C., January 7, 2009.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Joe Biden is not a Boomer. He’s too old. He was born in 1942 and still uses words like “malarkey.” Kamala Harris was born at the tail-end of 1964, which makes her a Boomer by some definitions, but she listens (or pretends to listen) to Tupac and Snoop Dogg, which is more like Generation X.

So when Donald Trump leaves the White House, this country may well have seen its very last Boomer president ever.

Thank goodness.

The Boomers are a landmark generation. Most generations have their moment on the national stage and then make way for the next after a decade or so. Boomers have dominated every sphere of American society, not for one decade, but for six and counting. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that their record has been one of narcissism and profligacy.

Their rule was inaugurated by Bill Clinton, the first president of his generation and by far the most “Boomerish.” Even before his sexual incontinence led to his impeachment, he was known to be a slave to his appetites. Strobe Talbott’s kids called him “the guy who eats all the ice cream” because, when he would visit their house in D.C. as governor of Arkansas, that’s what he would do.

He certainly knew how to sound idealistic. In his D-Day anniversary speech in Normandy in 1994, he pledged that the Boomers would honor their parents, the Greatest Generation. “They struggled in war so that we might strive in peace,” he said. “We are the children of your sacrifice.”

But the Boomers took the inheritance that their ancestors had done so much to build up, and spent it. All the institutions that were functioning well enough when the Boomers were entrusted with them — the churches, the family, the economy — will be passed on to the next generation in a state of disrepair.

How idealistic is that?

George W. Bush was a better man than his predecessor, but he had a typical Boomer vice, too: expecting things to be easy. Democracy doesn’t just emerge from foreign soil if you clear a space for it. Bourgeois virtue doesn’t suddenly replace short-sightedness if you put people in houses with easy mortgages.

Maybe Bush expected things to be easy because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But the entire Baby Boom generation was born into privilege, too. They enjoyed the greatest prosperity, the tightest job market, the widest range of consumer goods of any rising generation in American history. No wonder they think affluence is the natural state of affairs.

Barack Obama doesn’t identify as a Boomer. “When I think of Baby Boomers, I think of my mother’s generation,” he has said. But he, too, suffered from a painfully Boomerish desire to be cool. They were a generation that, more than any other, elevated style over substance.

The only good Baby Boomer president was Josiah Bartlet, and he wasn’t even real. His creator was Aaron Sorkin, who is such a quintessential Boomer that he gets an entire chapter in my new book, Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster. His show The West Wing was a liberal fantasy, the perfect encapsulation of what Boomers thought politics should be like.

No one loves The West Wing more than D.C. insiders. Armando Iannucci toured the Obama White House when doing research for his own show, Veep, and he discovered that they were “absolutely obsessed with the TV show The West Wing.”

Reggie Love, Obama’s body man, “was showing me around and he said, ‘Here’s the Roosevelt office, this would be where CJ and Josh…’ It’s you! Why don’t you say, ‘This would be where I would sit down’? They’re very excited by the fictionalized versions of themselves.”

Even President Obama, during the government shutdown in 2013, turned to economic adviser Gene Sperling at one point and said, “You know, what the hell, I should just be like Bartlet and just walk down there” — referring to season 5 episode 8, when President Bartlet walks on foot to the Capitol.

It’s a bad idea for a country’s political class to be operating as if their lives were a TV show. But it’s worse for us Millennials, because it’s not even our fantasy. Fifty years after they came of age, and long after they should have exited the stage and made room for subsequent generations, it’s still the Boomers’ dream world. We’re just living in it.

Helen Andrews is the Senior Editor at The American Conservative and author of the book, “Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster.”

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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