There was an interesting article Wednesday on MPR about how many young people no longer associate with a political party. It had some interesting statistics and conclusions, but it got me thinking about my generation (Gen X) and how we’ve fared politically. Generation X is defined commonly as people born between 1964-1980. It’s one of the smallest generations in history, due to the advent of readily available birth control and a spike in separations and divorce. It’s also a generation that got hit very hard during the recession of 2008, as many of us were smack dab in the most promising points in our careers. I can say with personal experience, that it’s taken 8 years for me to get back to being more financially stable since the bubble burst.
When you look around politics though it’s apparent that our small size has also hindered our abilities to affect policy. Currently Generation X only holds a quarter to a third of the seats in congress. The majority of the legislature is controlled by the Boomers (the generation before Gen X). This means that most policy that is enacted is based on a worldview of a generation that was born in the 1940s. This is one of the reasons that I am also a proponent of term limits for congressmen and women. When someone sits in political power for 30-40 years, their ideas stagnate, and the viewpoints of those younger than them never are heard.
There is some hope. Say what you will about Paul Ryan or Cory Booker, but they are at least Gen Xers, and are showing a more ambitious attitude about policy. You may not agree with their viewpoint, but their attitude is one of ‘getting things done’. Our generation needs more people their age, from across the political spectrum, in power to bring about real change that matters to those of us who are entering middle age.
My biggest fear is that my generation will end up being consumed by the generation coming after us, before we have a chance to make our contribution. That’s the problem with small generations, squished between larger ones. You end up being eclipsed by both the old and the young, trying to give some influence wherever you can.