Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are lining up for what may well be their last shot at pulling the levers of leadership. Some analysts studying the changing demographic nature of American society say that their cruise ship of influence has already sailed, with two major trends impacting the Boomer generation: age and demographic change.
The baby boom generation got their name from the surge of births in the U.S. following World War II, as a massive wave of American military personnel moved on from conquering the world to building a house and a family. This population bubble rolled through the 1970s and all but took over the political process for nearly forty years.
A Flicker of Doubt
The baby boom generation prided itself on being the kids of war heroes and grew up with a sense of both national and personal invulnerability. There were plenty of hints both in 2000 and 2004 that the demographics of the nation were changing and boomer political fortunes were on the wane, but the bubble didn’t really pop until 2008. If 2008 was a surprise, then 2012 was when the crushing reality really hit home. The baby boom generation, by itself, was no longer enough to win a national election. Soon the incessant march of time will similarly bring an end to boomer candidates.
No matter who wins, we’ll have what may be our last baby boom president. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were born within 18 months of each other in 1946 and 1947. The vice-presidential candidates both come from the later period of the Boomers and it’s likely, after either the second Clinton Era or the Trump Era subsequent candidates will come from a later generation.
Can’t Fight the Math
The changing demographics of both age and race in America has already had a great impact on our political lives. In states like North Carolina, where Republicans have previously enjoyed an overwhelming majority, the demographics are trending blue. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by nine points in recent polling and there is ample evidence to support the idea that Clinton’s lead will reverberate along down-ticket races. While there’s little danger that the state will flip either legislative body, the GOP could lose the governor’s mansion and the numbers do not bode well for the future. All that struggle comes despite the fact the GOP added staff in 12 swing states, including North Carolina, after 2012. If the GOP can’t hold North Carolina, how firm is their hold on any previously reliably red state?
Race is a Factor
While there seems to be some denial at work that race is a factor, once again the numbers tell a different story. In 1980 white voters were eighty percent of the electorate. In 2012 the percentage of white voters had fallen to seventy-two. Without a change in direction, the Republican party is going to continue to marginalize itself with people of color. As things stand today, even if 100 percent of non-college-educated white males voted for Trump, he still falls short of victory.
Only the fact that Democrats have marginalized the liberal arm of the party has kept the country from lurching sharply to the left. Even so, the tide is flowing in that direction and without a more defined move to the center and minority outreach the GOP, as we know it today, could fade away along with the fabled baby boom generation.