Why We Need Middle-Aged Leaders to Replace Baby Boomers - The New York Times

Authored by nytimes.com and submitted by steve-eldridge

This portrait of changing attitudes is, of course, stylized for effect. But it offers the broad contours of how people often look at their world in different stages of life, yet also of how many Americans (and, crucially, not just the boomers) tend to understand our country’s postwar evolution. We see our history, and so ourselves, through the eyes of Americans now reaching their 80s.

As history, this narrative leaves a lot to be desired. But as a kind of pocket sociology of our time, it is utterly dominant. Almost every story we now tell ourselves about our country fits into some portion of the early-boomer life arc. And our politics is implicitly directed toward recapturing some part of the magic of the mid-20th-century America of boomer youth.

That moment — when many Americans trusted their leaders and went to church, when idealistic protests seemed to drive significant social change, when you didn’t need a college degree to get a union factory job that would let you support a family in the suburbs on one income — exerts an inexorable pull on our political imagination now. The parties blame each other for how far America has fallen from that standard, and politicians (old and young, left and right) implicitly promise a return to some facet of it.

That time was not imaginary. But it was not so simple either, particularly for people at the margins of the powerful mainstream consensus of the age. And it was a singular period made possible by an unrepeatable set of circumstances in the wake of the Second World War. We do ourselves no favors when we treat it as the American norm, when we ignore its costs and challenges, or when we cling to its glamour by keeping the people who lived that story in power as they age.

Our model of social change is still rooted in midcentury clichés. Younger Americans imagine that starting a family and owning a home was much easier for previous generations than it really was. They buy the broad outlines of the boomers’ nostalgia and take it to mean they are inheriting a desiccated society.

Confronting injustice, they almost unthinkingly re-enact the outward forms and symbols of college protests of the 1960s, generally to no effect. Our implicit definition of social cohesion takes for granted that midcentury moment, when America had not only been through a long stretch of intense mobilization in war and depression but was also less culturally diverse than at pretty much any time before or since.

Above all, though, our boomer sense of ourselves keeps us from orienting our society toward the future, and contributes to a broadly shared sense of despair about our country that is neither justified nor constructive. Our politics should prioritize planning for greater national strength in the medium term, but we can hardly expect quarreling octogenarians to have that future clearly in mind.

simplepleashures on June 3rd, 2022 at 15:38 UTC »

I’ll save people some time:

The article never answers the question in the headline. The majority of the article is devoted to describing how Boomers view the history of their lifetime through the lens of their own experiences, and attempting to explain why they view the world however they do.

Then it goes on to state our leaders should be mostly people currently in their 40s and 50s.

It doesn’t say what are the cultural and electoral forces making our current leaders mostly people in their 70s and 80s or how to change that.

Squirrely__Dan on June 3rd, 2022 at 14:27 UTC »

If you saw Diane Feinstein or Chuck Grassley getting behind the wheel of a car at the grocery store you’d be terrified. Why are 86+ year olds driving the country right into a shopping cart?

steve-eldridge on June 3rd, 2022 at 14:08 UTC »

Here's the non-paywall link : https://archive.ph/QdngH