The Bernie Effect vs the Baby Boomers who will not go away

The Bernie effect? A new poll shows young voters see a big role for government” says the Washington Post.

And yeah, they do, but they don’t vote. Voting rates don’t rise to a level where they actually have a fundamental impact on elections until after age 40, by which point people begin voting in numbers more than 50% (it goes up about ten percent every ten years of age). By that point they will not be as far to the left. They will be left, just not left like Bernie Sanders. Another thing that is not discussed is just how few Millennials there actually are, because America’s birth rate is the lowest it has ever been and will only continue to drop as the last big wave of immigration–from Mexico in the ’80’s and 90’s–age and their children have children at the same rate as everybody else. To make it worse, from a Millennial POV, is the fact that people live so much longer now, and remain healthy and active and voting into their 70’s and increasingly into their ’80’s. There is nothing even remotely as effective as AARP for the under thirty voters (and in fact, the Sanders campaign has been a flop at getting Millennials to vote in the 60%-80% numbers Bernie assumed he would be getting, and it wasn’t until later in the campaign that his numbers surpassed Obama’s in 2008.) This has made Baby Boomers–who were a huge demographic bubble, much larger than Millennials–uniquely dominant in that we are living so damn long, and voting the whole time. There are far more voting Boomers now than there are voting Millennials (I did the math…and if I remember right I think there are about 25 million more voters over forty-five than Bernie has voters under thirty.) Boomers are also the most conservative generation at least since the 1920’s, far more conservative than their parents, aka the Greatest Generation (seriously, that is the demographic term), and their kids, aka Gen Xers. (Millennials are Boomers’ grandkids). Baby Boomers voted for Reagan and both Bushes. (Indeed, while the majority of us boomers voted for neocon George W Bush, our parents rejected the original Goldwater in a landslide.) Being so conservative, despite our hippie mythology, Boomers will be a damper on the leftward trend of the country for the next twenty years. The country will finally get back to the neo-New Deal-type orientation (neo-New?) but it won’t be this year, or four years from now, or even eight years. It will be sixteen years from now at the earliest. More Boomers will be dead than alive by then. (The same way that more New Dealers were dead than alive when Reagan was elected.) In the meantime, we can expect moderate liberal Democrats and more looney Trump Republicans as our presidential nominees. Hillary and the Donald are likely the template until Millennials enter middle age.

Presidential elections are about issues, sure, but even more they are about shifting demographics and birth rates and death rates and life expectancy and the long sweep of history. Change comes, but it takes time, and a lot of old people have to die first, especially when birth rates have plummeted and the great waves of immigration have dried up. The reason for this is simple: people tend to vote the way they first voted, and will vote that way their entire lives, and will only stop voting that way when they stop breathing.


The Millennials today will have their presidential election year about the time they morph into grumpy middle aged people who actually vote. 2024, maybe, or more like 2032, when today’s eighteen and twenty-nine year olds are thirty four and a thoroughly disagreeable forty five, respectively. As for the geezers, well, some of us will be there for it, and some will never have our year, we’ll be memories. The luck of the draw. But it won’t be the baby boomers’ world by then anyway, thankfully, we who voted more for Nixon and Reagan than Gene McCarthy and George McGovern, we who helped sweep the Reagan Revolution into power and helped it dismantle the New Deal. This mess we’re in today is as much our fault as the establishment we railed against way back when. We can’t blame it all on the Greatest Generation. Half of us voted for Reagan, even icons like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Ramone were card carrying Republicans. (You gotta serve somebody, Bob said. Keep on rockin’ in the free world said Neil.) And a lot of us Baby Boomers will wind up cranky old Republicans, chasing left wing Millennials off our lawns. No, we fucked up, sold out, gave up. The New Deal generation never let the US descend into income inequality hell like we did. They had their priorities right. And it’s hard to imagine that Millennials won’t eventually do something about getting those priorities right again, once they get off their aging asses and vote. Continue reading