News & Criticism

Voting for Bobo

|

David Brooks had a column yesterday pondering that certain je ne sais quois about Barack Obama that allegedly prevents Americans from fully embracing him. Toward the end, he throws out this socio-political thought balloon:

If Obama is fully a member of any club ? and perhaps he isn't ? it is the club of smart post-boomer meritocrats. We now have a cohort of rising leaders, Obama's age and younger, who climbed quickly through elite schools and now ascend from job to job. They are conscientious and idealistic while also being coldly clever and self-aware. It's not clear what the rest of America makes of them.

Brooks, for those scoring at home, is one week younger than Barack Obama; climbed quickly through the University of Chicago, and ascended from the Wall Street Journal to the Weekly Standard to the New York Times. This smart post-boomer meritocrat is known for being idealistic, coldly clever, and winningly self-aware. It's not clear what the rest of America thinks of him.

Advertisement

NEXT: Bailey on Wisconsin Public Radio at 10:00 am CDT to Talk Energy Policy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Brooks, for those scoring at home, is one week younger than Barack Obama; climbed quickly through the University of Chicago, and ascended from the Wall Street Journal to the Weekly Standard to the New York Times. This smart post-boomer meritocrat is known for being idealistic, coldly clever, and winningly self-aware. It’s not clear what the rest of America thinks of him.

    That makes it either stunning irony or acute self-awareness. I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt.

    I think people mistake logic for coldness. The notion that a person doesn’t fly off the ideological handle at every given moment is somewhat novel. Note (before the haters swarm) that I am not arguing that Obama isn’t ideologically driven, but rather that is not how he presents either his positions or his thought-processes.

  2. Since they were both born the same year as me, 1961, it makes none of us “post-boomer”, no matter how much we would like to be. No matter how little we have in common with the folks born 10 years and more before us. We are not “post”, perhaps “late-boomers” but not post, by the common, proper, definition of the term.

  3. Sure, but can Brooks stop the oceans from rising and compel the Earth to heal itself like Obama?

  4. If you pretend that the term “Boomer” signifies nothing about generational politics, but refers only to dates of birth, that’s a great point, Guy.

  5. I for one think Brooks is a douchebag.

    So now you know a little bit about what America thinks of him.

    You just need about 300,000,000 more opinions and you’ll have it nailed down.

  6. re: Baby Boomers –

    Working in the hospitality industry, I can say as a broad generalization that generationally, the Baby Boomers are fucking useless: demanding, impetuous, conceited, and entitled to a fault.

    By comparison, the best groups are seniors (who are demanding but *polite*) and twenty-somethings (late Gen X-Early Gen Y) who are generally both polite and undemanding. Mainstream Gen Xers are, at best, generally OK.

  7. So is Brooks saying that being intelligent and succeeding on your own merits is(or should be) regarded by Americans as a bad thing?

  8. from the Wall Street Journal to the Weekly Standard to the New York Times.

    Ascension? Lateral moves at best.

  9. It’s not clear what the rest of America thinks of him.

    That he [Brooks] is a pompous douche who loves to assert his personal opinions/preferences as those of “America”

  10. If you pretend that the term “Boomer” signifies nothing about generational politics, but refers only to dates of birth, that’s a great point, Guy.

    Since the term refers to those born during the post-war increase in birth rates, it, in fact, only refers to date of birth.

  11. What Fluffy said. So with ChicagoTom, that makes 3 out of 300,000,000.

  12. Is there a difference in ‘old boomer’ vs ‘young boomer’ politics?

    Are young boomer liberals different in outlook from old boomer liberals ?

  13. I hate when people group entire generations into one type. It’s worse than astrology.

  14. Since the term refers to those born during the post-war increase in birth rates, it, in fact, only refers to date of birth.

    Yes, the term “Baby Boomer” has certainly not taken on any additional meaning or connotation since it was first coined to describe a demographic phenomenon. Certainly, it isn’t used in a political sense to refer to cohort with a shared political history.

  15. Marcvs,

    I agree. At least with astrology there are 12 groups, with generations there are only 4 or 5 alive at any given time.

  16. joe,

    Yes, the term “Baby Boomer” has certainly not taken on any additional meaning or connotation since it was first coined to describe a demographic phenomenon. Certainly, it isn’t used in a political sense to refer to cohort with a shared political history.

    I agree with this post 100%. 🙂

  17. Marcvs,

    That’s why it’s important to think of generational politics in terms of issues, not positions. The right and left have very different manifestations of Vietnam-based politics, but both leftist and rightist boomer politics derive from the fights over the Vietnam War, in a way that subsequent and previoud generations do not.

  18. Yes, the term “Baby Boomer” has certainly not taken on any additional meaning or connotation since it was first coined to describe a demographic phenomenon. Certainly, it isn’t used in a political sense to refer to cohort with a shared political history.

    Joe, when you speak of ‘Baby Boomers’, are you referring to those born in the late 40′ and early fifties who came of age during the Vietnam/Civi Rights era?

  19. I’m not a boomer either, my friends.

  20. Ah, I thought that was what you were getting at.

  21. Right, Kurt.

    People who turned 18 in 1965 share a foundational political experience with people who turned 18 in 1971, which is not shared by people who turned 18 in 1979.

  22. My friends, I turned 18 in 1954!

  23. People who turned 18 in 1965 share a foundational political experience with people who turned 18 in 1971, which is not shared by people who turned 18 in 1979.

    Gotta go with joe on this one. The generational cohorts are set too wide to be used on a technical basis. Obama may be a technical boomer but he was 8 in 1969 and would not have experienced that period like somebody with, say, pubic hair and a doobie in their mouth.

  24. I think we need more refined terms for demographic groups, especially when dealing with politics.

    When hearing the phrase ‘baby boom generation’, I too think of the demographic definition of all those born between 1946 and 1964(?).

    I was born in 1968. That probably makes me Gen-X. I guess I could also possibly be a ‘post boomer’. I don’t remember anything about Vietnam and I vaguely remember Nixon and Ford as presidents.

  25. i’m the same age as obama and i’ve always resisted/resented being called a boomer. maybe we’re only a “sub-generation” at best, but if obama himself does not view himself as a boomer, that might be the most positive thing i’ve heard about him yet.

    the main difference, all conventional wisdom and over-simplification of course, is the original opitimism of the boomers, which was shattered by vietnam/watergate. they still tend to think that the “right” government can put everything back together the way it’s supposed to be. those of us who grew up w/ vietnam/watergate as a backdrop were cynical from the get-go.

    one can still be right or left w/in those paradigms, but one can hope that obama’s generational background gives him at least the hint of a doubt whenever government is proposed as the solution to some problem, a doubt that someone like ted kennedy never had, and a doubt that GWB seemed to profess only in order to get elected.

  26. While we are at the newspeak game, how about we call everybody born between 1954 and 1974 “the 60s Generation”?

  27. I don’t think I was even aware of politics until the 1994 primaries.

  28. John McCain | August 6, 2008, 11:27am | #

    My friends, I turned 18 in 1954!

    With all due respect, Senator, nobody brought you up.

  29. I agree with joe on this one. I’m only about three years too young to be a boomer in the technical sense, and I was five years old when the Vietnam War ended.

    As a useful shorthand, “boomers” refers to people who were born after WWII but were old enough to have been drafted during the Vietnam era. In any event, “generations” have more of a gradient quality than a hard border, demographically speaking.

  30. While we are at the newspeak game, how about we call everybody born between 1954 and 1974 “the 60s Generation”?

    I’d say that people who attended college from 1972-1976 and those who attende college from 1992-1996 are going to be pretty easily distinguishable.

  31. While we are at the newspeak game, how about we call everybody born between 1954 and 1974 “the 60s Generation”?

    You know, Guy, not *everything* written that you disagree with/ridicule is “newspeak”. Which is clearly your new favorite word, and irony of ironies, the way you use it, it itself *is* newspeak.

  32. I’d say that people who attended college from 1972-1976 and those who attende college from 1992-1996 are going to be pretty easily distinguishable.

    No kidding. I’m technically at the tail end of Gen X, and I have next to nothing in common with the Gen X cohort of eighteen years older than me. I think jimmy nails the feeling perfectly; being born on the cusp between “generations” makes one uncomfortably neither a full member of one or the other. I relate completely.

  33. I for one think Brooks is a douchebag.

    Damnit, Fluffy! That is exactly what I was going to say!

    Except I was going to add that it is the habit of every mediocrity like Brooks to think he is a meritocrat.

  34. Another point, Elemonope, is generational changes happen at different times in different places.

    Someone born in rural Iowa who graduated from a small school in 1969 could have had a college experience wholly indistinguishable from what someone in a different part of the country went through ten years earlier.

  35. I was born in 1968. That probably makes me Gen-X.

    Not probably, definitely!

  36. but one can hope that Obama’s generational background gives him at least the hint of a doubt whenever government is proposed as the solution to some problem,

    He grew up in Hawaii and worked in Chicago. Neither one is an antigovernment environment.

  37. My mom is a Baby Boomer (1946), and she’s nothing like the Boomer stereotype. Quite probably the worst generation in U.S. history.

    I just can’t get over how useless these candidates are.

  38. I agree with Fluffy. Brooks is a good wordsmith, but his observations are lacking in fact. Though at least he doesn’t use stories from cabbies as a replacement for man on the street interviews.

    God I hate that device.

  39. Someone born in rural Iowa who graduated from a small school in 1969 could have had a college experience wholly indistinguishable from what someone in a different part of the country went through ten years earlier.

    Very true, though I’ve noticed that those regional differences had begun collapsing by the time I started college. (I blame the Internet.)

  40. I’m smack in the middle of technical Gen-X and I’ve always despised the whole this-and-that generation bullshit. Frankly, it’s crap made up by the boomers who participated in the counter-culture movement, in order for them to falsely highlight how their generation was “involved”, important, and totally changed things. The fact that a large portion of their generation wasn’t involved doesn’t seem to occur to them.

    Just listening to my aunt and her friends talk about how fucking great and important their generation is/was while looking at the absolute zero she’s accomplished with her life is enough to make me hit the sauce when I’m visiting her.

  41. Boomer Esiason was a pretty good quarterback.

    But seriously, folks, this is one of the best things I’ve seen from Welch in a while: pithy, pointed and funny.

  42. that makes 3 out of 300,000,000.

    I call “trend”. Let’s go with it.

  43. Pro Libertate

    Could be quite a few boomers are nothing like the Boomer stereotype.

    And as for being the worst generation in U.S. history I suggest looking at “The Greatest Generation.” Beating Hitler and Tojo and all that was cool but it doesn’t come close to justifiying their pure sense of entitlement.

  44. I agree with Fluffy. Brooks is a good wordsmith, but his observations are lacking in fact. Though at least he doesn’t use stories from cabbies as a replacement for man on the street interviews.

    God I hate that device.

    William Raspberry’s cabbie hates it, too.

  45. Using baby boomer in any other context than the demographic is just fucking stupid. Baby boomer in a musical, political, recreational or whateveral context is meaningless.

  46. The greatest achievement of the baby boomers was the War on Drugs; makes you proud, don’t it?

    It kind of makes me want to round them all up, and…

  47. The fact that a large portion of their generation wasn’t involved doesn’t seem to occur to them.

    Actually it has occured to me. In fact, I was thinking of posting just that thought. But you’ve done it for me.

    Generalizations can be useful but not when they’re too broadly made.

  48. My mother, also a boomer, blames a lot of the world’s problems on the generation before her. What she thinks they did wrong is still unknown.

  49. Matt,

    Not probably, definitely!

    Apparently, just for the historical moment.

    I’m smack in the middle of technical Gen-X and I’ve always despised the whole this-and-that generation bullshit. Frankly, it’s crap made up by the boomers who participated in the counter-culture movement, in order for them to falsely highlight how their generation was “involved”, important, and totally changed things. The fact that a large portion of their generation wasn’t involved doesn’t seem to occur to them.

    Yep, right on the money. Plus, the revisionists like to get all sloppy with their terms. Has “the WWII Generation” gotten revised yet? There is actually some distinction between that one and “The Greatest Generation.”

    If these folks want to talk about people of different age groups, then they should mention that, rather than slopping up a new definition, for something already sloppily defined.

    Maybe after a few more history books are written by ‘pacifists’ of draft age in the 1960s and 1970s, the Greatest Generation will morph into the Zoot Suit Generation to show the importance of that movement.

  50. P Brooks

    The War on Drugs existed before the first motherfucking boomer was even fucking conceived.

    Its expansion to today’s levels was instigated by Nixon and Reagan. Bothe “Greatest Generation” fucks.

  51. Baby boomer in a musical, political, recreational or whateveral context is meaningless.

    That’s funny. There seem to be a pretty considerable number of people who are quite able to carry on a mutually-intelligable discussion while using the term to refer to a socio-political cohort.

  52. Generalizations can be useful but not when they’re too broadly made.

    Point full of win. Generalizations are useful, albeit easily abused, tools.

    I have found it useful to gauge reactions to particular issues (esp. privacy, technology, and aesthetics) on the age bracket of the interlocutor. There are sometimes outliers, but it is a decent predictor of overall trends.

  53. Its expansion to today’s levels was instigated by Nixon and Reagan. Bothe “Greatest Generation” fucks.

    And just who was it that scared the pants off Nixon, et al, with all their dope-induced “free love”?

  54. Elemenope,

    I have found it useful to gauge reactions to particular issues (esp. privacy, technology, and aesthetics) on the age bracket of the interlocutor. There are sometimes outliers, but it is a decent predictor of overall trends.

    I agree, but I’ll point out that this doesn’t mean they are all taking the same position, but one of a predictable group of positions.

    For example, the boomers (Boomers, Guy! Boomers Boomers Boomers, ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!) are still at each others’ throats over Vietnam, but the arguments of each side are still recognizeable as Boomer politics.

    When you see somebody in their 20s making those same arguments, they stick out. Most people in their 20s, both pro- and con- Vietnam War, argue in a way that’s recognizeably different from what most Boomers on the same side would say.

  55. Brooks and Obama are both part of Generation Jones, a categorization that has always made sense to me.

  56. There is a shift that happened in the 1970s and 80s whereby people stopped doing things and working their way up and went to the to on the basis of where they went to school or who their parents were. Yes, that has always happened but it became much more widespread in the 70s and 80s and continues to this day. For example, my father hired on with AT&T in the mid 1960s. He started as a union tech working on the equipment. After about 10 years he was promoted to manager and then progressively higher levels after that. He and the managers of his generation knew the business of telecommunications literally from the ground up. His generation was the last to do that. After him, managers were hired from prestigious MBA programs and immediately put in charge of people doing jobs they had never done and using equipment they didn’t understand. They preceded right to the top, without much understanding of anything beyond theory and how to count beans. They proceeded to run the company in the ground.

    We have two generations now of people who went to elite schools and walked into one high paying job after another but never really paid any dues or learned anything from the bottom up. Most of our political class Republican and Democrat fit this description. What did George HW Bush or Al Gore ever do that wasn’t the direct result of skipping the bottom rungs because of who their fathers were and what schools they went to? Not much. That is not to pick on them; they are typical politicians in this day and age. Even worse, the old generation elites used to do things like serve in the military which gave them some understanding of what it is to be like not to be on top. For example, McGovern and George HW Bush were both combat pilots in World War II. Kennedy commanded a PT boat. The current generation of elites never does anything like that. Without the life experience of being on the bottom rung of something, I don’t see how you ever obtain any wisdom or humility. I think this phenomenon is the root of a lot of the problems we have with our elites today.

  57. Boy David Brooks does a lot of navel gazing doesn’t he?

    Alas, another elitist east-coast political writer pondering daily in his New York Times office in Manhattan concrete canyons: “I wonder what the rednecks are thinking right now.”

    Spare me.

  58. Nice, Matt. I’d never heard of that before.

    Good point, John. I’ll add that the “working your way up from the bottom” for politicians used to include starting out at the bottom in a political machine.

  59. If you pretend that the term “Boomer” signifies nothing about generational politics, but refers only to dates of birth, that’s a great point

    If that’s true, then a 20-year-old can be a “boomer” if he likes the Beatles, defends Social Security and hates people who walk on his lawn?

  60. And just who was it that scared the pants off Nixon, et al, with all their dope-induced “free love”?

    Oh, right. And rape victims are just asking for it, right?

  61. Baby Boomers are fucking useless: demanding, impetuous, conceited, and entitled to a fault

    Wow, the author of this idiotic statement hates 78 million Americans.
    Does he secretly wish he had his own private death camp too?

  62. ed,

    A 20 year old who likes the Beatles had no experience with the political fights surrounding Vietnam, civil rights, and the SixtiesMan, and certainly didn’t experience those fights during his politically formative years. So, I’d say no.

    BTW, most people from both the pre- and post-boomer generations “defend Social Security.”

  63. For example, the boomers (Boomers, Guy! Boomers Boomers Boomers, ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!) are still at each others’ throats over Vietnam, but the arguments of each side are still recognizeable as Boomer politics.

    I hate coming down on Guy’s side on anything, but this is one of those times where a group of Democrat political wonks hanging around decided one day to frame a concept a particular way, and now Joe is all bent out of shape when people who remember the, you know, original meaning of the term don’t want to go along with this situational redefinition.

    I personally never encountered the idea that someone born in 1961 was not part of the Boomer generation until some Democrats decided it was useful to frame Obama that way, and to frame Hillary as being “caught up in old Boomer political divisions”. It’s silly, really. While a large part of the Boomers made their bones politically in the Vietnam dispute, that’s not the be all and end all of being a baby boomer. Obama was in high school when the Viet Nam war ended and when Nixon resigned. He was an adolescent and young adult when the Boomers were doing their “Me Generation” stuff in the 70’s. And he’s definitely, absolutely not part of Generation X. So how is he not a Boomer?

    Obama’s parentage, childhood, overseas experiences, etc. make it silly to try to place him culturally in any catchall US generation anyway. If you kept his life story exactly the same but had him born five years earlier, he wouldn’t be any more of a “typical” Boomer than he currently is. But just because he’s not a “typical” Boomer doesn’t mean he’s not a Boomer.

  64. “Good point, John. I’ll add that the “working your way up from the bottom” for politicians used to include starting out at the bottom in a political machine.”

    Very true. See Truman, Johnson, Tip O’Neil and Nixon as examples. Even in politics, I think there is a lot to be said for working up from the local level before stepping on the national stage. Now, alarming percentage of Congress are the sons and daughters of members of Congress. I am really disturbed by that.

  65. The pre-boom generation got us to the Moon. The Baby Boomers are mucking about in LEO, because they’re all pansies. I generalize, but there you go.

  66. Alas, another elitist east-coast political writer pondering daily in his New York Times office in Manhattan concrete canyons: “I wonder if what the rednecks are thinking right now.”

    One little word makes all the difference.

    Yes, there are people from the South and Midwest who think. They just tend not to be rednecks.

    For some reason, I am reminded of an old Chris Rock routine…

  67. To me “boomer” means coming of age in the 1960s and being eligable to serve in Vietnam. Vietnam is really the dividing line among boomers. There really is a big difference between the people who served in Vietnam and the ones who didn’t. The people who served are more like the World War II generation and the ones who didn’t tend to be more of what we think of as “boomers”. I am not saying one side is better than the other, but that is the divide. I don’t see how anyone who was born to late to face being drafted to go to Vietnam can call themselves a “boomer”.

  68. BTW, most people from both the pre- and post-boomer generations “defend Social Security.”

    And the oldest boomers are only sixty-two years old. That’s not old enough to be yelling at kids on the lawn.

    And there’s lots of boomers that can’t stand the Beatles.

    And joe, don’t even think of making a serious response to this.

  69. One other point about the boomers. The people who defined the culture during the 1960s were not Boomers. They were pre boomers born before or during World War II. Andy Warhol was not a boomer. Neither was Bob Dylan or any member of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. The cultural creativty that happened in the 1960s was the result of the generation born between the wars, not the baby boom.

  70. At least no Boomers voted in the Goldwater/Johnson election when the “Greatest Generation” and their parents tacitly endorsed the war in Vietnam, the war “for” poverty, and avoidance of dealing with an unsustainable social security system.

  71. “At least no Boomers voted in the Goldwater/Johnson election when the “Greatest Generation” and their parents tacitly endorsed the war in Vietnam, the war “for” poverty, and avoidance of dealing with an unsustainable social security system.”

    That is not true. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident and the escalation in Vietnam did not happen until spring of 1965. Johnson ran the famous little girl picking flowers folowed by the h-bomb add to paint Goldwater as a war monger. No one thought that voting for Johnson was going to escalate the war in Vietnam. In fact, people voted against Goldwater because Johnson convinced them that Goldwater was unstable and would escalate Vietnam into World War III. This of course spawned the greatest political retort ever when Johnson supporters responded to Goldwater’s campaign theme of “in your heart you know he is right” with “in your gut you know he is nuts.”

  72. Fluffy,

    I hate coming down on Guy’s side on anything, but this is one of those times where a group of Democrat political wonks hanging around decided one day to frame a concept a particular way, and now Joe is all bent out of shape when people who remember the, you know, original meaning of the term don’t want to go along with this situational redefinition.

    In case you didn’t notice, most of the other commenters are agreeing with me, and very few of them seem to be “Democratic political wonks.”

    I know the “joe is teh partisan, so he’s wrong” card is just lying there, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here. Noticing that people born in the 1960s don’t have the same political outlook of the people who went to college during the 60s isn’t exactly an observation unique to me, or even to Democrats, or even to this year.

  73. John,

    I’m not clear on what you mean by this: There really is a big difference between the people who served in Vietnam and the ones who didn’t. The people who served are more like the World War II generation and the ones who didn’t tend to be more of what we think of as “boomers”. Dick Cheney vs. John Kerry? Are you still talking about age differences here?

    The people who defined the culture during the 1960s were not Boomers. They were pre boomers born before or during World War II. Andy Warhol was not a boomer. Neither was Bob Dylan or any member of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. Also, Timothy Leary and Jack Kerouac.

    Good point about the 64 election, too.

  74. Joe,

    it is more of a general feeling of mine. The people who served in Vietnam tend to be more conservative than the ones who didn’t. There are lots of counter examples of course and it is a generalization. But, if you took a 1000 random Vietnam vets and a 1000 people who got college deferments, you would of course run the gamit in both groups. But my guess is that you would find more Republicans and libertarians in the vet group and more greens and Democrats in the college group. I would also bet you would fine more gun owners in the vet group and generally a different cutural vibe for better or worse.

  75. When I was a kid, I used to be in Generation Y. However, a few years ago, it seems we were liquidated and split between a shifted Generation X and the new Milennial generation. I wonder if that makes us a Lost Generation…

  76. How did Boomer Primero Clinton do when he got his chance to achieve Peace With Honor in the War on Drugs?
    Hint: “I did not have consummation with that spliff!”

    disclaimer: I qualify as a Baby Boomer, and it really really pisses me off when people who should (based on direct experience) know better parrot a lot of hysterical bullshit about drugs and/ or silently acquiesce to the grotesque abuse of freedom and the Constitution which has been the direct result of that hysterical bullshit. For the Children.

  77. Matt,

    I like that one but never heard of it before you mentioned it.

    Maybe if you get some of the folks at NRO to use it more it will catch on 😉

  78. John,

    The people who served in Vietnam tend to be more conservative than the ones who didn’t.

    Perhaps what’s goinn on is that the people you know to be Vietnam veterans are more conservative.

    “The people you know to be Vietnam veterans” are going to include 1) people you are close enough to (family, your coworkers) to know their veteran status, and 2) others who you aren’t close to, but who make a point of letting people know they are Vietnam veterans.

    People in the military in 2008 tend to be more conservative than the population as a whole, and I’m guessing that your family and social set is a pretty right-leaning group.

    I imagine that most people who served there and are disgusted by the whole episode, and who are now leftish, aren’t as effusive in drawing attention to their time in the military.

    From what I’ve read, the Vietnam War more or less caused the modern-day correlation between “military” and “conservative,” and that before and during that war, the military wasn’t actually further right than American society as a whole.

  79. Occam’s toothbrush,

    The cut off between Generation X and Millenials is a simple one. Do you remember a time before people had computers in their homes?

  80. I’m on the cusp too but I only very, very vaguely remember a time before Email, and have no memory of life without PCs as a common household appliance.

  81. “From what I’ve read, the Vietnam War more or less caused the modern-day correlation between “military” and “conservative,” and that before and during that war, the military wasn’t actually further right than American society as a whole.”

    I think ending the draft did that. Once it became an all volunteer force people started self selecting. Certainly, there are lots of liberals in the military. Most military officers keep their political views pretty close hold. But if I were to guess, I would say a strong majority, say 60 or 65% could be described as conservative and with the rest being some shade of liberal.

  82. “The cut off between Generation X and Millenials is a simple one. Do you remember a time before people had computers in their homes?”

    That is a good one. Another good one is “can you remmeber a time when you didn’t have cable?”

  83. One other thing Joe. When I say conservative versus liberal I don’t mean Republican versus Democrat. There are a lot of very Conservative black people in the military who still vote Democrat nonetheless.

  84. Very true, though I’ve noticed that those regional differences had begun collapsing by the time I started college. (I blame the Internet.)

    Over twenty years before ENIAC, I saw the same thing. I think I blamed the automobile, marketing, and human nature.

  85. Thats good too, John. I was born in ’84, and we had cable by the time I was 4 or so, so I don’t remember that either. The third factor I’d say is can you remember the Cold War at all? Gen Xers will, Millenials don’t.

  86. John,

    I think ending the draft did that. Once it became an all volunteer force people started self selecting. It’s tough to tease out how much is a “natural” affinity between conservatives and the military, one which existed before the end of the draft, and how much is a result of the Vietnam War itself.

    The end of the draft, and the left/right polarization over the Vietnam War, happened in quick succession.

    Based on the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who’ve run for office lately, it might be the case that the correlation is breaking down. If true, this would suggest that it was the consequence of that specific historic episode.

    And then there’s the difference between officers’ political views and that of enlisted personnel.

    And then, there’s the question of whether that disparity is explained entirely by the different racial demographics of officers vs. enlisted.

  87. Truly, the only thing we know for sure is that David Brooks has a very simple explaination, which makes intuitive sense, and is complete horse puckey.

  88. Going on BDBs idea, my “cultural” dividing line between boomers and Gen X would be “man walking on the moon seems like a big deal”. That might put the line LATER than the traditional 1964 cutoff. Maybe earlier. Im thinking for Obama the moon landing was an awesome thing, he would have been 9. Old enough to understand, or at least notice, the impact.

    Personally, I was born in that weird period in which man had walked on the moon, but we hadnt stopped doing it yet (I was born in August of ’69, so less than 1 month after Armstrong). I have a very vague early memory of watching one of the later (probably the last) moonwalks on a B&W TV. My mom kept and framed the front/back page on the local newspaper that had the first moon landing pictures in it. It was from less than 2 weeks before my birth (Aug 3rd, I think). It is hanging in my house.

    Screw Vietnam, Armstrong is more imporant.

  89. “And then, there’s the question of whether that disparity is explained entirely by the different racial demographics of officers vs. enlisted.”

    But a lot of black enlisted especially NCOs tend to be conservative as the day is long. Think Shaquill O’Neil or Tiger Woods’ fathers. They are Democrats because 90% of black people are, but they are not liberals. Further I know a lot of very liberal Democrat white people who are in the military. It is just that those are in the minority versus the people I know who are right of Goldwater.

  90. You guys are missing the best indicator of the dividing line between “Generation X” and “Millennials”: can you remember when MTV played videos and was good? If so, you are GenX, if not, Millennial.

  91. Can you remember when guys in “metal” bands wore mascara?

  92. Hmmm…I was born in 1986, so I don’t remember the Cold War (though I vaguely remember the Berlin Wall coming down, and more clearly the Soviet Coup a few years later). We didn’t get a computer in our house until I was 10, and never had cable. But we may have been unusual.

    That is a good one. Another good one is “can you remmeber a time when you didn’t have cable?”

    Uh…last month? And seeing as how I’m now watching exactly 3 channels with any regularity, I’m regretting the fact that that changed.

  93. I know the “joe is teh partisan, so he’s wrong” card is just lying there, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here.

    Yes, silly me for asserting that Joe will often buy into contrived political redefinitions of words and talk down to people who use the words as they were originally defined or as they are generally defined.

    Tell me, Joe, what does the word “racism” mean?

    Come on! Guy employed the literal definition of “baby boomer” and you treated him to your withering disdain because he should just know that people like yourself have invented a new, secret meaning of the term that just so happens to be loaded with political content.

    Noticing that people born in the 1960s don’t have the same political outlook of the people who went to college during the 60s isn’t exactly an observation unique to me, or even to Democrats, or even to this year.

    That is true, of course. But that’s different from saying that people who went to college in the 60’s are baby boomers, and people who were born in 1961 are not baby boomers.

  94. Recently I saw an article claiming that Milennial generation started in 1990, which would leave me in a no-mans land if Gen X went from 1965-1984…

  95. I don’t think you’re as typical as most. My family had a computer the same year I was born, cable around ’89 or so, dial-up internet by 1995 (AOL). MTV always sucked big time, and I don’t remember guys in metal bands wearing mascara.

    The dividing line between my generation and the next one will be “Was Nickelodeon actually good when you were a kid?”

  96. Born in 1970. The real question is: “Did you ever rent a laser disc?”

  97. All you guys suck; I’ve had multiple computers in my home since 1976 (my dad is a programmer), I had my own TRS-80 (now there’s an early GenX indicator), and he also got the first “Fat Mac” so I was word processing instead of typing by 1984.

  98. Over twenty years before ENIAC, I saw the same thing. I think I blamed the automobile, marketing, and human nature.

    I’ll give you the automobile and marketing, but I think human nature actually tends (in the natural environment) to conglomerate around small easily identified local groups. You know, the monkeysphere and all that.

    I believe that regional identification has collapsed in abrupt stages concurrent with advances in media and travel technologies. The automobile certainly did a number on the concept of a neighborhood. As they collapse, smallest, closest-knit groups seem to go first, dissolved into the larger surrounding group.

  99. All you guys suck; I’ve had multiple computers in my home since 1976 (my dad is a programmer), I had my own TRS-80 (now there’s an early GenX indicator), and he also got the first “Fat Mac” so I was word processing instead of typing by 1984.

    Even as a late Gen-Xer I grew up with a C64 in the home, and by 5th grade the school was rocking the Mac Classics.

  100. Born in 1970. The real question is: “Did you ever rent a laser disc?”

    Never rented one, but I saw ST VI: The Undiscovered Country on one when they were newish. I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread at the time.

  101. Born in 1970. The real question is: “Did you ever rent a laser disc?”

    No, but I have watched Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed on one.

    Another question is do you remember Betamax vs. VHS, and do you remember there being Betamax rentals in the earliest video stores?

  102. I guess another question would be, do you remember a time before Internet porn?

    When I entered puberty, the best I could do was set the VCR to record those 900-number ads with bikini clad women that ran at 2am, hide the tape first thing in the morning, and then whack off to that after school but before my mom got home from work.

  103. Generational markers:

    1st Video Game Console: Atari 2600
    1st computer: Commodore Vic 20
    MTV: still showed music videos
    VH1: still showed jazz
    Prevailing music format: vinyl
    Cable TV: 12 channels (three of them out-of-town affiliates for networks we already had locally)
    Star Wars: in a theater, 5 times

  104. I dated a wackjob Leftoid chick for a few months who used the assasination of JFK as some sort of social marker. Her use, not mine, btw.

    Started to go into the Saturday Night Live thing about confusing that event with RFK and where I was, etc., but skipped it and let her go on with her nonsense about it.

  105. Elemenope,

    They were actually first marketed in 1978, so weren’t very newish by 1991. The first time I saw them for rent was about 1979. One of the reasons they died, much like poor Betamax*, was that they weren’t very rugged and couldn’t stand up to the rental market. (Well, that and “laser rot,” a manufacturing flaw that caused the lexan layers holding the optical medium to de-laminate.)

    The first time I saw Star Wars outside the theater was on laser disc. Blew. My. Mind.

    *Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t some vast conspiracy that killed Betamax. They had a relatively short run-time (necessitating multiple tapes more often than VHS for the same movie) and were fragile. VHS won because it was cheaper and rugged. And most of the memories of Betamax’s superiority is based on confusing home Betamax with the professional Beta format. (Sorry, I rarely get to unleash my Audio-Visual Archivist skillz.)

  106. Fluffy, wtf are you talking about?

    If I “invented” the idea that “Baby Boomer” refers to a socio/political cohort, as a partisan gambit, why are there all of these libertoids who are already familiar with, and agree with, the concept?

    Joe will often… See, this is your problem: you have this “joe will often” storyline in your head, so you read everything I write as evidence of the conspiracy.

    If I’d written exactly the same comment as “Fred,” we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So, chill.

  107. Oh, and Fluffy?

    Here you go:

    rac?ism -noun

    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

    I don’t recall ever using the term to mean anything else.

  108. For my “generation” :

    1st Video Game Console: NES (Although the 2600 was not dead)
    1st computer: Commodore 64/Apple II
    MTV: still showed music videos
    VH1: still showed music of any sort
    Prevailing music format: cassette
    Cable TV: ~30 channels
    Star Wars: on VHS/BETA

  109. They were actually first marketed in 1978, so weren’t very newish by 1991. The first time I saw them for rent was about 1979. One of the reasons they died, much like poor Betamax*, was that they weren’t very rugged and couldn’t stand up to the rental market. (Well, that and “laser rot,” a manufacturing flaw that caused the lexan layers holding the optical medium to de-laminate.)

    True. What sold my ST VI experience was it was the first time I had seen a “home theater” set-up, complete with the surround sound and sound dampened room, laser disc, and projection/Wide CRT screen.

  110. The first computer in my home was a TI Silent 700, which used an acoustic coupler as well as thermal rolls instead of a high-falutin’ monitor.

    We also had as our first game console some forgotten brand of Pong-dedicated machine. It had built in sliding controls for going up and down. The game included Pong, hockey, and squash.

    I learned BASIC on a TRS-80, with the permanent memory residing in a cassette tape. Yes, you read that correctly.

  111. game console: Sega Genesis
    computer: Macintosh Performa
    music format: CD
    didn’t have cable
    Star Wars: on broadcast TV
    First date movie: IQ with Walter Matthau as Einstein

  112. I learned BASIC on a TRS-80, with the permanent memory residing in a cassette tape. Yes, you read that correctly.

    That’s what mine had. My god, retrieving programs was tedious. I tried to get my dad to get me a floppy drive (he had two in his XT, the bastard) but he just laughed.

    I did blow his mind by playing chess (where the colors are the only way to tell pieces apart) on a black and white screen. My color blindness allows me to associate color with greyscale, so I could tell them apart while he couldn’t.

  113. game console: 2600
    computer: C64
    music format: vinyl
    Cable: Parents too poor until 1982
    Star Wars: Theater (3 times, and I saw the Christmas Special)
    First date movie: Red Dawn

  114. My color blindness

    You couldn’t do my job or work for me. Weird. And you say I’m the defective one.

  115. I guess I’ll join:

    Game console: Atari (I didn’t have one but my friends did; I played Missile Command on the TRS-80)
    Computer: TRS-80
    Music Format: Vinyl and Cassette
    Cable: My grandparents had cable since its inception and my cheap-ass parents got it in the early 80’s
    Star Wars: in-theater, but I was 5
    First date movie: I have no idea, I wasn’t paying attention if you know what I mean

  116. You couldn’t do my job or work for me. Weird. And you say I’m the defective one.

    I have superior night vision, can tell colors in black and white photographs, and am totally immune to camouflage. One man’s defect is another’s advantage.

  117. We also had as our first game console some forgotten brand of Pong-dedicated machine. It had built in sliding controls for going up and down. The game included Pong, hockey, and squash.

    We had that. In retrospect the “Pong” era felt like an eternity to me, but the actual elapsed time between getting that machine and getting our Atari console was probably less than 2 years.

  118. I saw Star Wars in the theater when I was ten. For the record, Lucas has been tampering with that film since the first theatrical re-release.

    My first date movie was Trading Places. My date wouldn’t let me watch the movie, however.

    No one has mentioned the 8-track, I see.

  119. and am totally immune to camouflage

    WOLVERINES!

    I also have good night vision. Rods up, hoes down!

    Mostly it’s the trouble the colorblind have with matching a digitized copy to the original for the purposes of color correction. The HR department once investigated whether or not the university could be sued for discrimination. (No, it turns out.)

  120. No one has mentioned the 8-track, I see.

    My dad’s VW had one, but the tech was dead before I started buying music.

  121. No one has mentioned the 8-track, I see.

    So I guess this just outed you as the oldest person still reading this.

    Mostly it’s the trouble the colorblind have with matching a digitized copy to the original for the purposes of color correction.

    My mother is an artist with perfect color vision, and was confused why I wasn’t able to do shadowing of still lifes and the like using purples. Then she figured it out.

  122. No one has mentioned the 8-track, I see.

    My aunt had an 8-track deck in her Datsun and in her floor-console stereo, but I only had turntables until I got my first cassette deck when I was about 10.

  123. I had a friend in college who was colorblind and painter. He’d paint beautiful pictures of his wife in acid-green.

  124. My first Walkman came with a shoulder strap.

  125. First stroke object: Alicia Silverstone

    First date movie after which I got laid: A Knight’s Tale

  126. First date movie: Red Dawn

    Fucking awesome. I think that movie is best enjoyed while under the influence of psychoactive substances, though.

    I was born in 1985 & think that I’m probably a Millenial/Gen Y-er.

    Game console: Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo
    Computer: Ooh, I’m bad at this game. We had a really old floppy-disc-using console that we hooked up to an old TV when I was 8 or so. Then got a Dell that ran Windows95.
    Music Format: CDs (but still used cassettes to tape songs off the radio)
    MTV: TRL-era
    Cable: Always. 30+ channels
    Star Wars: VHS
    First date movie: The Wedding Singer (don’t hate me!)

  127. ACK!

    I am relly getting old because I missed a couple of cards on the color vision test for my last flight physical. Had to get spectacles too, for distance vision.

    Still passed the physical, after a ‘free’ (as in to-me) cardiac workup.

  128. Occam’s toothbrush,

    First date movie after which I got laid: A Knight’s Tale

    Nice. Mine was the first LOTR.

  129. I was born in the Year of the Horse.

  130. 1st Video Game Console: Atari 2600

    check

    1st computer: Commodore Vic 20

    didnt get one until ’85 PC clone

    MTV: still showed music videos

    in apparently random order

    VH1: still showed jazz

    didnt exist

    Prevailing music format: vinyl

    8 Track!!!! casette when I started buying though. Had a casette to 8 track convertor in the 77 Buick Electra I drove senior year of HS

    Cable TV: 12 channels (three of them out-of-town affiliates for networks we already had locally)

    nah, we had about 30 channels or so once cable made it to town

    Star Wars: in a theater, 5 times

    just once, opening weekend

  131. First date movie after which I got laid: A Knight’s Tale

    Angel Heart. That was some dirty, nasty, black magic inspired sex. Good stuff.

  132. First date movie: The Fly

  133. We had that. In retrospect the “Pong” era felt like an eternity to me, but the actual elapsed time between getting that machine and getting our Atari console was probably less than 2 years.

    Ditto this, I had forgotten about the pong machine. Im sure my gap was much more than 2 years.

  134. Episiarch,

    Well, I suppose, in a hellfire and blood bathing sort of way.

    robc,

    Did you vomit on your date?

  135. First Movie/Sex: The Believers (during, at the drive-in), but I finger-banged the same chick during Mannequin in a regular movie theater three months before.

    And I once got a hand-job on a log flume.

  136. “First date movie after which I got laid: A Knight’s Tale

    Angel Heart. That was some dirty, nasty, black magic inspired sex. Good stuff.”

    No fucking way. That was my first date movie to. We may be the only two people on earth who can say that. I mean really, who the hell goes to that as a date movie? I really have to wonder about myself as a teenager.

  137. Mine was the first LOTR.

    Did she make you wear a fake beard?

  138. 1st Video Game Console: Atari 2600
    1st computer used: Apple II. With LOGO.
    1st music format: vinyl
    Cable TV: 1981
    Star Wars: Fell asleep at the drive-in in my parents’ car.

    Thriller: Best. Christmas present. Ever.

  139. Did she scream out “Frodo!”? Did she make you wear the (cock) Ring? Were you alone or was there a Fellowship of The Nine? Did you use a condom made out of leaves and elvish magic? Did you let Golem watch? Did she wrestle your Balrog into the depths of Hell?

  140. First Date Movie: Harry and the Hendersons. Yup, the bigfoot movie. Oddly appropriate, sorry Angel. Didn’t quite know what getting laid was yet.

    First REAL Date Movie: the one where Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen were garbage men.

  141. Did you vomit on your date?

    Unfortunately, thats a reasonable question to ask.

    Actually, no, but the pre-movie pizza made a valiant escape attempt.

  142. joe,

    One of my first memories is falling asleep at a Dukakis rally my die-hard Dem mom dragged me to.

  143. Nice. Mine was the first LOTR.

    That movie was, for some inexplicable reason, a fucking aphrodisiac. I think it was the length, which sort of forced you to find a comfortable position (a bed? each other’s arms?).

  144. Well, I suppose, in a hellfire and blood bathing sort of way.

    ProL, I was referring to the sex we had afterwards, not the sex in the movie (though that was some crazy shit too).

    No fucking way. That was my first date movie to. We may be the only two people on earth who can say that. I mean really, who the hell goes to that as a date movie? I really have to wonder about myself as a teenager.

    But did you get laid? Regardless, I compliment you on your choice of sexually-charged movie involving sin and Satan. Think about it–it’s actually a brilliant choice to get the right kind of girl randy as hell.

  145. Epi,

    I didn’t get laid, but I got a lot farther than I had ever gotten before. So I really can’t argue with the results.

  146. joe,

    First REAL Date Movie: the one where Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen were garbage men.

    Men At Work in case you want to Netflix it. (It also starred Leslie Hope, Jack Bauer’s wife in season 1.)

    Have you always been secretly disappointed it wasn’t Hot Shots!? The irony would have been intoxicating.

  147. Did you let Golem watch?

    Do you mean Gollum, Mr. I-Read-All-The-Time?

  148. I couldn’t spell smegma or whatever.

    I’ll be in my shame corner.

  149. First date movie after which I got to first base: The Lion King (re-release)

  150. smeagle or is it smeagel?

  151. OK, I made that up. But it would have been awesome.

  152. Actually, no, but the pre-movie pizza made a valiant escape attempt.

    Actually, early Cronenberg films are extremely sexual and will get the same girls that Angel Heart affected. Videodrome is a fucking WINNAR in that respect. For the even more demented girls, Dead Ringers is a true horniness instigator. Those homemade gynecological tools do amazing things.

    “Long live the new flesh”

  153. I second the Videodrome. Although it works best on chicks that want to be burned by cigarettes, so fair warning.

  154. “For the even more demented girls, Dead Ringers is a true horniness instigator. Those homemade gynecological tools do amazing things.”

    I am not sure I want to get laid by the girl who gets turned on by Dead Ringers.

  155. “Gynecological Instruments for Operating on Mutant Women”

    In case you only dimly remember what they look like.

  156. I am not sure I want to get laid by the girl who gets turned on by Dead Ringers.

    Oh hell yes you do.

  157. Two words, dude: Trifurcated cervix

    HOT!

  158. Epi,

    Sorry, I have this thing about getting my dick bitten off…

  159. You guys just don’t get the relationship between pain and pleasure.

  160. Epi’s a Cenobite! Close the box!

  161. We have such sights to show you!

  162. First Game Console: Nintendo Entertainment System

    First Computer I used: 386 IBM Compat, MS-DOS (I still know command prompts, too!) upgraded to Windows 3.1 later

  163. Music Format: Compact Discs

    First Date Movie: Titantic

  164. What a bunch of kids.

    First computer used – MK 118 Analog Fire Control Computer. Computers with gears, synchros, resolvers and cams were fucking cool.
    First Date Movie – The Last Picture Show
    Musical Format – Vinyl (LPs and 45s).
    First video game used – Intellivision.

  165. J sub D,

    My actual first “computer” was a logic circuit for kids. You had to move wires around to reprogram it. Not mechanical, no, but primitive.

    I forgot to mention something even more ancient and unbelievable–as a youth, I used to take vacuum tubes from the TV to Eckerd’s to test them.

    I never owned an Intellivision, but I used to play a friend’s pretty regularly. I liked the sports games, with the slow-motion runners.

  166. Gen X are latch key kids and children of divorce beacuse their late Silent Gen and early Boomer Gen parents were busy trying to be Gordon Gecko or trying to find themselves.

    Millenialls are the kids from the second marriage that got all the attention and toys.

  167. Matt:

    Is Brooks running for president? And does he fit the definition of “leader”? If the answer is no to both questions, then what difference does it make whether he shares some of the same general demographic characteristics of Obama?

  168. Did she scream out “Frodo!”? Did she make you wear the (cock) Ring? Were you alone or was there a Fellowship of The Nine? Did you use a condom made out of leaves and elvish magic? Did you let Golem watch? Did she wrestle your Balrog into the depths of Hell?

    This cracked me up, cuz I’m a chick. 😉

  169. Is Brooks running for president? And does he fit the definition of “leader”? If the answer is no to both questions, then what difference does it make whether he shares some of the same general demographic characteristics of Obama?

    Because it’s funny.

    Also, because he’s defined a clearly intended-to-be-worthy-of-suspicion “cohort” that he just so happens to totally belong to.

  170. Fine.

    Did he scream out “Frodo!”? Did you make him wear the (cock) Ring? Were you alone or was there a Fellowship of The Nine? Did you use a condom made out of leaves and elvish magic? Did you let Gollum watch? Did he wrestle your Balrog into the depths of Hell?

    Dagny is not strictly girlie you know… and you might have been a guy with female screen name, an e-vestite.

  171. I forgot to mention something even more ancient and unbelievable–as a youth, I used to take vacuum tubes from the TV to Eckerd’s to test them.

    Yep. The friggin’ drug store sold vacuum tubes. The schematic for the TV was glued to the inside of the set. Damn PL, we’re old.

  172. Yes, it was the Before Time.

  173. Matt Taibbi was entirely accurate when he labeled David Brooks as an “elitist fuckhead.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.