Joe Biden Set To Decide On Presidential Bid Soon

Former Vice-President Joe Biden will reportedly decide on whether or not he'll be entering the race for President in the near future.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is reportedly likely to make a decision on whether or not he’ll run for President within the next two weeks:

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is in the final stages of deciding whether to run for president and has told allies he is skeptical the other Democrats eyeing the White House can defeat President Trump, an assessment that foreshadows a clash between the veteran Washington insider and the more liberal and fresh-faced contenders for the party’s 2020 nomination.

Many Democratic voters, and nearly all major Democratic donors, are keenly interested in Mr. Biden’s plans because of their consuming focus on finding a candidate who can beat a president they believe represents a threat to American democracy. But there is also a rising demand in the party for a more progressive standard-bearer who reflects the increasingly diverse Democratic coalition.

Mr. Biden would instantly be the early front-runner if he ran, but he would have to bridge divides in a primary that would test whether Democrats are willing to embrace a moderate white man in his 70s if they view him as the best bet to oust Mr. Trump.

“He has the best chance of beating Trump, hands down,” said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, Mr. Biden’s longtime friend and former colleague. “On a scale of one to 10, that’s probably about a 12 for us.”

Yet Mr. Biden’s skepticism about the field could alienate female and minority voters who are excited that several women and African-Americans are expected to run. Nominating a white man may also roil some Democrats who are already torn about whether a woman could win in 2020 after Hillary Clinton’s loss. And Mr. Biden’s preoccupation with winning back blue-collar Midwestern whites could place him at odds with Democrats who see greater potential for growth in the highly educated suburbs and across the booming Sun Belt and upper South.

More broadly, debate around Mr. Biden’s possible candidacy illustrates the dueling visions in the party and particularly the divisions between its pragmatic and liberal wing. Some Democrats are skeptical that a relatively moderate candidate like Mr. Biden, who has baggage like supporting the 1990s crime bill that is loathed on the left, would prevail in the primary with a message of unity and national healing rather than the fiery and uncompromising brand of populism that Democratic primary voters elevated in the midterm elections.

“In 2020, Biden-style centrism will become a toxic and losing brand of politics in Democratic primaries,” said Waleed Shahid, a left-wing activist.

The 76-year-old former vice president, who leads the field in initial national and Iowa polls, has not yet told his allies that he has decided to run. And they emphasize that Mr. Biden’s decision will not be final until he says it for himself, noting that family considerations are central. Mr. Biden sought the presidency twice before but he has also considered it at least as many times before bowing out.

But Mr. Biden has indicated that he is leaning toward running and will most likely make a decision within the next two weeks, according to Democrats within and beyond his inner circle who have spoken to him recently.

The former vice president told a senior Democratic official last week that he is both likely to run and that his aides have told him he must move quickly in this primary, according to two Democrats briefed on the conversation.

(…)

In one of his calls over the holidays, Mr. Biden repeated a variation of a line he has used publicly: “If you can persuade me there is somebody better who can win, I’m happy not to do it,” he said, according to the Democrat he spoke to, who shared the conversation on condition of anonymity to discuss a private talk.

But then Mr. Biden said something he has not stated so bluntly in public: “But I don’t see the candidate who can clearly do what has to be done to win.”

In another possible sign that he is preparing to ramp up, an emissary from Mr. Biden recently reached out to James Smith, the Democratic Party nominee for governor in South Carolina last year, about scheduling a call with the former vice president. Mr. Smith, a state legislator and friend of Mr. Biden, said the former vice president could count on an enthusiastic reception in South Carolina if he were to run.

“In the circles that I move, I think there’s almost unanimity of support for him,” Mr. Smith said.

But Mr. Smith acknowledged that in Mr. Biden’s absence, others were making moves in South Carolina. Mr. Smith said that after his defeat in November, he had heard from several contenders, including Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — none of whom, he said, could count on scooping up Mr. Biden’s network.

It’s possible that the former Vice-President will decide not to run for a third time, of course, but ever since Donald Trump took office Biden has been acting more and more like someone who is inclined to get into the race. He’s been openly critical of the Administration in ways that former politicians usually aren’t, and he’s matched Trump’s rhetoric punch for punch on more than one occasion. All of this suggests that he is inclined to run, as the reports indicate, and that he’ll be entering the race in the relatively near future.

If that happens, one of the primary issues surrounding a potential Biden candidacy, of course, would be the issue of his age and his health. The former Vice-President is presently 76 years old and would be 78 by Election Day 2020, making him the oldest person to be elected President in American history. Of course, that was also the case with Donald Trump in 2016 and, for the most part, neither his age nor the age of his opponent seemed to be an issue at all in the 2016 campaign. Additionally, Biden has had some health issues in the past, including a brain aneurysm in 1988 that was serious enough that he was at one point administered the last rites by a Catholic Priest. Biden recovered from that crisis, though, and went on to continue serving in the Senate for the next twenty years before Barack Obama selected him as his Vice-Presidential running mate, thus leading to eight years as Vice-President that was by all accounts quite successful. Nonetheless, Biden’s advanced age would likely lead to questions about his health that he would at least be required to address to some extent.

Notwithstanding those questions, Biden’s resume certainly indicates that he’s well-prepared to be President. He served for more than thirty years in the United States Senate, of course, during which time he eventually rose to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and, later, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. During his eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice-President, he was heavily involved in the formation of domestic and foreign policy and often served as a liaison between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress after the 2010 elections, during which time he was often at the center of negotiations regarding fiscal and other disputes between the two branches of government. His experience in foreign policy is quite extensive, and he has interacted with leaders on the world stage for the better part of the past thirty years or so. In other words, he is arguably the most qualified potential Democratic candidate in the 2020 field and perhaps the most qualified they’ve ever run.

In addition to this, Biden’s potential political appeal seems to fit right in with what Democrats need in 2020. While the “progressive” wing of the party may have doubts about him, one cannot deny his appeal with the white working class voters that the party needs to find a way to win back in areas such as the Midwest. To a large degree, many of these people are people who voted for Obama/Biden in 2008 and 2012 and then turned around and voted for Trump/Pence in 2016, The former Vice-President also has strong support among African-American voters, which is important both in the context of a fight for the Democratic nomination and in terms of voter turnout in the General Election.

The problem that Biden faces if he runs is that the same factors that make him what Democrats need in 2020 if they want to beat Donald Trump are factors that could pose a problem for him in running for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic Party that Biden faces in 2019 and beyond is not the same Democratic Party he faced the last two times he ran for President in 1988 and 2008. The forces that pushed those versions of the party to the center-left and away from the more left-wing positions it took in the 1970s and 1980s are now effectively the party establishment and they are facing significant pushback from the “progressivism” represented by candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and others. That wing of the party is likely to be highly skeptical of Biden notwithstanding the fact that he and his fellow “establishment” Democrats agree with them far more than they disagree. Whether they can accept the idea of Biden as the party nominee, even if he selects a young running mate from their wing of the party, could be one of the biggest questions of 2020 if it turns out that Biden does indeed succeed where he has failed twice before.

In any case, Biden passed on a Presidential run three years ago due largely to factors unrelated to politics. This time, he seems convinced that he is the best answer to Donald Trump that the Democratic Party can come up with, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that he’s right. Whether Democratic voters will agree is something we’ll have to wait to find out.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    Biden would begin his first term older than Reagan was when he left office. Heck, he’d be older than Trump would be after two terms.

    He may be in fine physical and mental shape now, but at his age that can change rapidly and without warning. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. This may be the most important election in our lifetime, and we simply can’t afford to screw it up by nominating someone whose health might suddenly decline on the campaign trail if not during his presidency. I’ve heard the suggestion that he should pledge to serve only a single term, but that would be nearly unprecedented (a few 19th-century presidents did that) and fraught with political risk. I think it would simply call attention to his vulnerability. Democratic candidates these days are expected to be practically perfect, and the GOP will pounce on the slightest appearance of frailty as they did after Hillary’s pneumonia episode (which sent her poll numbers to their lowest point during the campaign–lower than even just before the election). And given that Trump’s age is one of his biggest vulnerabilities, why sacrifice that by nominating someone several years older?

    Now, if Biden were some absolutely phenomenal candidate that no one else in the field matches up to, that would be one thing. But I just don’t see that. I happen to find him very likable, and that counts for something. But he’s got some of the same weaknesses of anodyne centrism that hurt candidates like Kerry and Hillary in the past (his answer on his vote for the Iraq War at the 2008 debate was virtually the same wishy-washy response that Kerry gave in 2004). His two previous presidential runs were unimpressive (the first, let’s remember, was destroyed over a relatively trivial plagiarism controversy, the second over his calling Obama a clean and articulate black guy). Frankly, I think he’d be depicted by the slime machine as a doddering old fool not in control of his faculties–and it would stick. Never mind that that charge is far more true of the guy he’s facing. Why muddy the waters with someone who can’t even present a stark contrast?

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  2. CSK says:

    According to TPM, Tom Steyer will be making a major announcement tomorrow.

    Kylopod, didn’t McCain flirt with the idea of serving only one term if elected?

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Just say no, Joe.
    I love you, brother…but you ain’t going to be the POTUS.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    I would have excited about a Biden candidacy in 2016, in 2020, not so much. If what makes Biden attractive is appealing, but in a younger package, ladies and gentleman let me introduce Sherrod Brown.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    Biden is really, really old. He looks great for his age, and I hope he lives for decades, but he’s really, really old. And he’s yesterday’s news in a party that is looking forward.

    I have some concern with all the female candidates being “unlikable”, and I would rather win the election than try to have a historical first and fail (again). I think there’s a misogyny that any woman running for office will have to overcome — although, if Clinton can win the popular vote, then it is entirely doable.

    But, an ancient white man isn’t the answer. Biden is probably the best ancient white man we have, and he speaks well on class issues to folks in Scranton, PA.

    The only way I could see a Biden campaign catching on through the primaries is if he were to announce his running mate before the Iowa caucuses, and they were to run as a team. One of the youngsters that is up and coming, semi-nationally known, but lacks the experience. Biden/O’Rourke has potential.

    But, what the heck, run. He does no harm by tossing his hat in the ring.

    I’m still hoping Elizabeth Warren learns how to get people to listen to her, as she is fantastic when people listen. She explains big ideas simply, but she has trouble controlling the room. She’s also old. And apparently “unlikable” because she has no penis.

    None of the youngsters — the under 70 crowd — really appeal to me yet. I suspect that will change, but for the moment… they’re all a little meh.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. This may be the most important election in our lifetime, and we simply can’t afford to screw it up by nominating someone whose health might suddenly decline on the campaign trail if not during his presidency.

    That’s a very good point. What happens if he has a major health decline during the campaign? During the presidency it wouldn’t be a huge deal, as the VP takes over. If it happens during the campaign, after securing the nomination, it means 4 more years of Dennison tearing the international order apart.

    It may not be very likely, but the odds increase with age. Removing Trump is too important to leave it to uncertain chance. Or, for that matter, to ideological purity.

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod:

    And given that Trump’s age is one of his biggest vulnerabilities, why sacrifice that by nominating someone several years older?

    I’ve been feeling more and more that Trump won’t make it through ‘20. Reinforced by today’s story that Manafort fed campaign polling data to the Russians. As someone said, the only question now is do we try Trump as an adult.

    That said, I like Biden a lot. But for ‘20 I see him as buzzkill. Do what the GOPs have done so successfully. Don’t go for the center, fire up your base. We need charisma, not policy.

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  8. Mr. Prosser says:
  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:

    Don’t go for the center, fire up your base.

    The only 2 Democratic presidential candidates that I can remember “exciting the base” were Obama and Bill Clinton in 92. The exciting the base strategy is far riskier for Dems as the large portions of the base have turnout problems. Some of the turnout problem is due to issues specific to the demographic and added to that large portions of the Dem base are subject to Repub suppression that has been implemented since 2010.

    A Gallup poll is out today on where citizens placed themselves on the left-right continuum, IIRC, 35% viewed themselves as moderate, 35% as conservative and 26% as liberal. The other 4% are confused and didn’t understand the question.

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  10. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    Kylopod, didn’t McCain flirt with the idea of serving only one term if elected?

    Hey may have considered it (I don’t know), but he sure didn’t follow through with it by making any sort of public pledge.

    I believe McCain’s age was a factor in his defeat. Not the decisive factor–probably any Republican would have lost that year–but I think it contributed to people’s unease over Palin by making the possibility of her being suddenly thrust into the presidency a lot more immediate and real than if he had been, say, 45 or even 55.

    The way age impacts voters may be more about perception than reality. McCain wasn’t just old, he looked and felt old, which isn’t always a good indicator. In the 1960 election, there was a perception that Kennedy was the more youthful and vigorous candidate, yet he was only about 5 years younger than Nixon and we now know in a lot poorer health. We saw from 2016 how easy it is to use propaganda to cast doubt on the health of the younger candidate.

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  11. Kylopod says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The only 2 Democratic presidential candidates that I can remember “exciting the base” were Obama and Bill Clinton in 92.

    Did Bill Clinton really excite the base? He ran from the center. How are you defining the Democratic “base”?

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: This poll, or others like it, are the basis for the oft repeated conventional wisdom claim that the U. S. is a center right nation. What it really shows is that most people don’t know what “liberal” and “conservative” mean. Do you think we should do more to protect the environment? Yes. Do you think we should have universal health care? Yes. Do you think we should tax rich people more? Yes. Are you liberal or conservative? Conservative.

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  13. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Just checked. According to Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, some of McCain’s campaign advisors suggested he pledge to serve only one term. He waffled a bit, but ultimately rejected the idea.

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  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kylopod:

    In 1992 the base was much different than today. Youth were part of the baby trough generation, Hispanic voters were a non issue. Today’s white working class voter wasn’t a senior citizen but was mid career and was as likely to vote Dem as Repub. Unions were stronger. African Americans played a similar role then as they do today.

    Yes Clinton ran from the center, but that was where that Dem Party was in 1992. Mondale and Dukakis were much more liberal (and excited the left wing of the party) than Clinton and they were crushed. Clinton did excite the base, it was a different base than exists today.

    @gVOR08:
    Point taken, but Dems need centrist voters in greater number than Repugs in swing states to carry them and Dems have the electoral college problem.

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  15. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: ’92 was my second election, and my first post- college. I lived in Boston’s just-starting-to-gentrify South End at the time, so the neighborhood was racially and socio-economically diverse, and had a growing LGBTQ community. I remember standing in a long voting line for hours, with a bunch of people who were excited to vote for Bill Clinton. Remember that he was the first Boomer president, the guy who played the sax and appeared on Arsenio Hall, with a wife who had (at least at that time) had kept her last name after marriage. Although there were indications, i don’t think a lot of folks realized the triangulator he would become. Instead, he seemed like a breath of fresh air.

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  16. michilines says:

    For so long there seemed to be a “next in line” thing with Republicans — of course that didn’t always work out — but they thought they had some sort of system. The trouble with the Dems in 2016 is that they tried that. No one really challenged Hillary — and I know about the whole Bernie thing.

    While I really support Biden and thought he did a great job as Vice President, he was the one choice I really disagreed with Obama on. It was as if Obama had taken the George W. path in VP selection. I was so disappointed. W ran with Cheney knowing that Cheney would never run/win as president. I think Obama knew that too. Perhaps there was a lot of push from the Clinton group to make that choice, but had Obama chosen another VP to run with, we could have avoided Trump. Who? I don’t know — but choosing Biden risked continuing Democratic control of the presidency. And here we are.

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  17. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: to add to my point: from your blog photo, you look like a millennial. I’m Gen-X. Liberal Gen-Xers grew up with Reagan and Bush I as presidents. After them, being able to vote for Clinton seemed like a revelation – especially with some of his original first term goals such as universal healthcare and allowing LGBT people to openly serve in the military (DADT was a better-than-the-status quo compromise when he didn’t achieve that goal).

    For us, voting for Clinton felt like how progressive millennials felt about being able to vote for Obama after growing up with George W. Bush as president.

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  18. Kylopod says:

    @Sleeping Dog: All you’ve told me is that the base was different than it is today, and that it was more centrist, but you haven’t defined what the base was or provided a means of measuring how it voted. Owing in part to Perot, Clinton’s overall share of the vote in various demographic categories was down compared with other candidates, including his percentage of the Democratic vote, the liberal vote, and the moderate vote. (I’m looking at the Roper exit polls.) He got a smaller share of the youth vote than Al Gore, John Kerry, and even Hillary Clinton!

    If your point is that his centrism is what enabled him to win–well, that’s the conventional wisdom. (I happen to think that’s a myth, but I’ll let that go for now.) But that doesn’t tell us anything about whether it was the Democratic “base” that propelled him to victory, as opposed to other factors. I’m not aware of any evidence that he enjoyed appreciably better Democratic turnout than other modern Democratic candidates, and his share of the Democratic vote is actually low by modern historical standards. Here, for the record, is the breakdown of the Democratic vote in elections since 1984 where the Dem was a non-incumbent, showing the percentage of the electorate that was Democratic and how well the Democratic candidate did among these voters:

    1984: 38%, 74-26 or 48% margin
    1988: 37%, 83-17 or 66% margin
    1992: 38%, 77-10 or 67% margin
    2000: 39%, 87-11 or 76% margin
    2004: 37%, 89-11 or 78% margin
    2008: 39%, 89-10 or 79% margin
    2016: 37%, 89-8 or 81% margin

    I realize the Democratic Party isn’t the same thing as the Democratic “base.” But that just further raises the question: what is the Democratic base, and what evidence is there that it showed up more for Bill Clinton and Obama than for other Democrats around this time?

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  19. Kylopod says:

    @Monala:

    from your blog photo, you look like a millennial.

    Argh. I really need to update my blog info. That photo is almost 9 years old. I was born in 1977, so by most of the standard definitions I’m still Gen-X, albeit at the cusp. People born from 1977-1981 are sometimes placed in their own category, called Xennials or the Oregon Trail Generation.

    I was, literally, born the day Carter was inaugurated (and in DC too!). I have no direct memories of Carter while he was president. When the 1988 election came around (the first one I can remember), as far as I was concerned Reagan had been president forever. I do remember paying attention to the 1992 election, but at 15, it was little more than entertainment to me. I wasn’t genuinely invested in it beyond knowing my parents supported Clinton, so it was sort of like rooting for the local team. I had almost no sense of actual issues back then.

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  20. Blue Galangal says:

    @Kylopod: I’m in a similar boat. Why demographers insist on putting me into the same generational category as my parents I will never understand. If they’re baby boomers, ipso facto I am not. But for years I watched the outer edge of the baby boom creep through the 60s like a cat-footed burglar. Kennedy was assassinated before I was born, and my parents voted for him. Not the same generation!

    I saw once a long time ago a definition for those of us born between the baby boom and Gen X that I’ve never been able to find again, but it was essentially ~1962~1977 or so, and I halfway recall it was the “envelope” generation (how about the “disco generation”?). I’m too young to be a baby boomer and slightly too old to be Gen X (although when pressed, I identify with Gen X since I have much more in common with them than with the baby boom, and both my not-very-much-younger siblings are Gen X without quibble).

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  21. James Pearce says:

    “In 2020, Biden-style centrism will become a toxic and losing brand of politics in Democratic primaries,” said Waleed Shahid, a left-wing activist.

    I laughed out loud.

    You know what’s toxic, Waleed? The idiotic prejudices of left-wing activists.

    Mr. Biden would instantly be the early front-runner if he ran, but he would have to bridge divides in a primary that would test whether Democrats are willing to embrace a moderate white man in his 70s if they view him as the best bet to oust Mr. Trump.

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  22. Kylopod says:

    @Blue Galangal: A lot of these generational categories get defined initially by where they begin, before anyone really figures out how far down the line they stretch. The Baby Boom was supposed to be a phenomenon of the post-WWII period, involving kids who came of age in the tumultuous ’60s. That’s why nearly everyone has it starting in 1946 but gets a little fuzzy on when it’s supposed to end, and that wasn’t really well-established until people started talking about Gen-X, which couldn’t start to be defined until it had been around long enough for people to make generalizations about it. (The term seems to have evolved somewhat, as it was the name of Billy Idol’s old band even though Idol himself, like most of the first-wave punks, is a boomer born in the ’50s.) At some point people settled on 1965 as the “official” start of that generation, but again, were vague about where it ended until they got around to noticing the millennials (who for a while were more commonly known as Gen-Y).

    And now, I see the same confusion over where the millennial generation is supposed to end. I’ve seen people talk as though it still hasn’t ended, and that someone born in, say, 2013 is still a millennial. But I’ve also begun to see discussions about a post-millennial generation, usually beginning around 2000, though people haven’t really settled on a term yet, nor have they come up with any new stereotypes to characterize these kids–but I’m sure they will before long.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Blue Galangal: FWIW, the Chinese talk about the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and so forth, meaning the cohort born in that decade. Narrows it down quite a bit and leaves no room for doubt.

    The original Baby Boom designation made sense. If you look at a graph, there is no question there was a big uptick in births, although it’s debatable when it starts and ends. There was a big uptick in 1940, but then a decline as so many young men were away from home. It took off again, peaked in 1948, held steady for 9 years, and then started a rapid decline. However, if you pick the cohort that had the greatest effect on society, I would mark the end as those that were 18 in 1973, when the draft ended, or perhaps 1974, when Nixon resigned. That puts the last year as ’56 or ’57. I was born in 1960 and can tell you that my age group definitely felt the game changers were older, and that we “came after”. By the time I was 18 it was already a standing joke that those who said “Don’t trust anyone over 30” were already over 30 themselves. In 1960 the Beatles were fetching young men in suits singing about holding hands. 10 years later they were revolutionaries. Revealingly, they stopped touring in 1966 because they were aging out of the teen scene that made their concerts 90 minutes of screaming and fainting teenage girls. John Lennon was born in 1940 and was of an obviously different generation than Alan Ginsberg (1926), because while they both led a counterculture via popular media, Lennon’s had real power. By the time we go to the first Gulf War (1990), the college age students had little power and already the establishment paid them very little attention, so the boomer effect was long gone by then. I would argue that the end was apparent ten years earlier, by the time Reagan was elected, (1980). Whatever you might think of the two candidates, they made very little effort to deal with youth in any way, either with thunderous disapproval ala Spiro Agnew, or with large scale recruitment ala Eugene McCarthy. For those of us born around 1960, it was already obvious we were just another part of society and nothing special.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Blue Galangal: FWIW, I like the way the Chinese divide the generations: 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and so on. Each cohort only spans a single decade and no doubt about what category they are in. It still leaves a lot of room for stereotyping: 70s want to keep their heads down, work hard, and ensure an adequate living for the family with a path to success for the children, 80s want to keep their heads up, work incredibly hard and become rich beyond dreams. 90s are spoiled princesses and princes who live off their parents efforts and are more interested in partying than working. Or, alternatively, are questioning the worth of the whole rat race. Which, I guess, makes them a mirror image of our Boomers: a tremendous dip in the birth rate which bestows such attention on this age cohort that they feel empowered to question societies fundamentals.

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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan:The original Baby Boom designation made sense. If you look at a graph, there is no question there was a big uptick in births around WWII, although it’s debatable when it starts and ends. There was a big uptick in 1940, but then a decline as so many young men were away from home. It took off again, peaked in 1948, held steady for 9 years, and then started a rapid decline. However, if you pick the cohort that had the greatest effect on society, I would mark the end as those that were 18 in 1973, when the draft ended, or perhaps 1974, when Nixon resigned. That puts the last year as ’56 or ’57. I was born in 1960 and can tell you that my age group definitely felt the game changers were older, and that we “came after”. By the time I was 18 it was already a standing joke that those who said “Don’t trust anyone over 30” were already over 30 themselves. In 1960 the Beatles were fetching young men in suits singing about holding hands. 10 years later they were revolutionaries. Revealingly, they stopped touring in 1966 because they were aging out of the teen scene that made their concerts 90 minutes of screaming and fainting teenage girls. John Lennon was born in 1940 and was of an obviously different generation than Alan Ginsberg (1926), because while they both led a counterculture via popular media, Lennon’s had real power. By the time we go to the first Gulf War (1990), the college age students had lost that aura of power and already the establishment paid them very little attention, so the boomer effect was long gone by then. I would argue that the end was apparent ten years earlier, by the time Reagan was elected, (1980). Whatever you might think of the two candidates, they made very little effort to deal with youth in any way, either with thunderous disapproval ala Spiro Agnew, or with large scale recruitment ala Eugene McCarthy. For those of us born around 1960, it was already obvious we were just another part of society and nothing special.

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  26. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    In 1960 the Beatles were fetching young men in suits singing about holding hands. 10 years later they were revolutionaries.

    I would quibble a little with the timeline there; their transition from boy band to “revolutionaries” was a lot more rapid. While they did technically form in 1960, they didn’t truly break out until 1963 (the year of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”), and less than four years later came the release of Sgt. Pepper where they moved distinctly in a more experimental, drug-influenced, and (to some extent) political direction.

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  27. Kylopod says:

    One final thought: while boomers are the generational category that unquestionably get the most crap from everyone, millennials are the ones treated with the most open condescension. The prototypical attitude toward millennials depicts them as ignorant babes in the woods who have no sense what it’s like to live in a world without smartphones or social media.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: FWIW, my kids are post-millennials and I already find myself saying to them “You guys are going to have to figure it out”, when they start complaining about the mess we left them. I’m not washing my hands and certainly understand that older generations have a lot of work to do, but the reality is that they will have to construct the world to their liking, to the best of their ability and it really is starting now (They are 19 and 21). I look at my son who is in college far from his girlfriend, an 8 hour overnight bus ride. I have thoughts about long distance romances, but they simply are not relevant. A few months ago, right before he headed to school, I was talking to him as he was (inevitably) gaming on his PC, but his MacBook was open on the desktop and there was an odd picture of his girlfriend on it, more or less sideways. And then I realized that it wasn’t a picture but rather a FaceTime session and she happened to be sleeping. They keep a video window open for hours and hours, sometimes not saying a thing. As tech savvy as I am, how can I really understand how that changes the dynamics of long (or short) distance relationships? I can chime in on the fundamentals (be honest, be respectful, learn who you are and learn who she is), or I could if he was interested in my opinion (that window has no doubt closed). But I’ve never lectured anyone about etiquette and manners when it comes to texting someone while being with someone else. How the heck am I supposed to decide what “polite” means in such a case? I can give someone grief for ignoring me when I am with them, because that’s universal, but I can’t give someone grief for including someone who isn’t physically present. It just wasn’t possible during my formative years so my opinion might be interesting (but not to them) but it is half baked.

    I also have been asking them “what will your kids think you are hopelessly old fashioned about?” They aren’t processing this question yet, but no doubt they will have to deal with getting annoyed because some young whipper snapper has a constant overlay feeding them background on you and what you are discussing, or how someone thirty years younger than them feels physical contact is gross and so the birthrate is dropping like a rock, or… who the heck knows. But they will have to figure it out. If I’m alive I’ll be curious as to what they come up with.

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  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: For what it’s worth (and speaking as a boomer), it possible that boomers get the most crap because we earned every damn bit of it. YMMV

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