Weep with me Ethel … We ain’t in the lead car in the parade anymore … and the millennials are on to us. What do they know that’s smarter than what we think we know?
The presidential election of 2016 has not involved a public policy debate as much as it has chronicled the ongoing struggle of Donald Trump to resemble a sentient and literate human being. As he continues to fail, it becomes increasingly clear that the reality television star, and his group of goblin advisors – Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Steve Bannon – represent the last gasp of the white conservative baby boomer.
Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the straight white male boomer’s story enjoyed cultural hegemony. To live as one of these men was to have an all-access VIP laminate around your neck, and a lifetime permission slip in your pocket. You could view and treat women as toys for your personal amusement, denigrate gay men as freaks fit for the circus, and stratify men of other races into a category of inherent inferiority. Life was good for the white male boomer, but suddenly it all started to end. Uppity blacks started to demand liberty and inclusion. “Nasty” women began to assert themselves as equals, and LGBT people demonstrated themselves to be “normal” folks as capable of achievement and decency as anyone else. Each morning the conservative white boomer wakes up realizing that his story matters a little less than it did the day before.
Faced with the erosion of their cultural power, coinciding with their own mortality, conservative white boomers could adjust and adapt to reality, keeping an open mind to new developments, while welcoming the diversification of American institutions, still cognizant of the amazing run of prosperity and influence they enjoyed. Or they could throw a temper tantrum. Most of them, already detached from the real world, opted for the latter.