Young people don't vote. That's the conventional wisdom, and this year it's big news that, in the primaries, young voters surged to the polls as they haven't in a long time. In 1970, when the voting age was lowered to 18, 55 percent of the young voters went to the polls, but in recent elections that figure has dropped dramatically.
This year, though, they're coming back--mostly, no surprise, to support Obama. He has delighted them in part by challenging the baby boom generation, whose members, he has said, should "get over themselves."
From an age standpoint, it’s hard to think of another election year that has been as interesting as this one. For the first time ever, three generations are represented in the Presidential horse race. Obama has declared that it's time for a representative of a new generation to enter the White House, namely him.*
Not baby boomer Hillary Clinton, born in 1947, the same year the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. And certainly not John McCain, whose 1938 birth date makes him a son of the Great Depression. The year Obama was born, 1961, was the year John F. Kennedy exhorted Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country." Some seasoned political hands say they see in Obama the youth and hopefulness of JFK.
After 16 years of running the country, maybe it is time for our generation to step aside. But it's annoying to hear Obama sound off on the subject. As even he acknowledges, many of the social reforms we now take for granted were initiated by the 60s politics that he now called "tired." If the Democratic nomination does end up going to him, I imagine he will begin to soft-pedal the anti-boomer rhetoric. We are, after all, still the largest generation in American history and we do vote.
*According to some demographers, Obama, with his 1961 birthdate, qualifies as a late boomer. But he counts himself as part of the baby bust, a.k.a. the boomer backlash. If you doubt there is such a thing, take a look at the blog dieboomerdie.