At the ripe age of 74, Bernie Sanders wants to be president. As unlikely as this seems, Sanders has captured the imagination of many of the Millennials and Generation-Y’ers who voted the left-progressive Barak Obama into office. With no clear political successor to Obama with the charisma and social cred of the two -term current U.S. president, Obama’s supporters are there for the taking. And Sanders, sensing the apex of his own political career and the weakness of both the Democratic and the Republican fields, has ably stepped in.
It is ironic when one considers what generation Sanders really represents. Not the Millenials or Generation-Y; not even Generation-X. No, Sanders is a member and the leading representative of the Baby Boomers–that group of folks born during and right after World War II. It was the Boomers that were greasers in the 1950s, war protestors in the 1960s, free spirits in the 1970s, ardent careerists in the 1980s, inflators of the 1990s economic bubble, and detonators of the housing bubble in the 2000s. It is the generation retiring right now with multi-million dollar 401(k)’s, guaranteed medical care, and a nice backstop of Social Security, living in gated retirement communities in Florida or some other southern clime.
Amidst all of this isolated prosperity, Boomers still like to think of themselves as democratic socialists. Boomer dinner parties regularly feature nostalgic discussions of the Scandinavian welfare states and muted outrage at the depravities of both Bush administrations. If it wasn’t for the ignorant war mongers and rabid religious conservatives, they say, it would be possible to make real progress in this country.
This sort of cognitive dissonance might make it possible for Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president. It was Boomers who through their social activism almost brought the US to its knees at the height of the cold war. It was the Boomers who seized the reins of most U.S. corporations and engineered the greatest destruction of job security in its history. It was the Boomers who created the dot-com bust and housing busts of the late 20th and early 21st century that obliterated trillions of dollars in private wealth. It was the Boomers who bought the foreign cars and foreign goods that brought down the biggest U.S. industries, eliminating millions of American jobs.
Tom Brokaw, the former news anchor, famously called the folks that fought in World War II the Greatest Generation. By this measure, Sanders and Boomers represent the Un-Greatest Generation–the least of all generations. This means the fawning admirers of Sander’s leading political positions–unionized workplaces, wealth distribution, universal healthcare, free college tuition, hydrocarbon-free energy, and a reduction in prison populations–in fact come from the generations most victimized by the Boomers’ acts.
It was the policies of Boomer corporate managers that ensured that real wages of workers have not risen in two decades. It is the Boomer promotion of the idea that anybody and everybody should have a college degree that has essentially commoditized and devalued the baccalaureate degree while simultaneously inflating a trillion dollar bubble in student debt. It was Boomers who outsourced millions of jobs to overseas workers and flattened corporate organizations, destroying the career prospects of the later generations that toil in the endless cube farms and call centers that make the bonuses and dividends of Boomers possible.
The U.S. job environment is so awful that most new positions for Millennials are created in the gig economy–low paying freelance assignments with no benefits or job security. Thus to no one’s surprise, Millennials can’t afford to buy a house, or even most cars. Many still live at home with their Generation X parents. The coddling Millennials received while growing up has back-fired, and they find the world a harsh place. They certainly aren’t going to play the bullshit corporate dead-end game their Boomer grandparents created. They’re pissed off, and they want some of the same economic opportunities and security enjoyed by earlier generations.
Well they are in luck. Because Bernie Sanders, the shining beacon of the Un-Greatest Generation, wants to give it to them.