Leader of the Millennials? It's All How You Craft the Story
Is Barack Obama the candidate of the millennials? Well, he’s garnered the lion’s share of under-30 votes, yet he was born in 1961 – a year usually grouped with the very same Baby Boomers whose politics Obama has made a point off dismissing. Obama is a real phenomenon in CauseWired world, and I’ve written an essay over at my personal blog about how he fits into the generational question. Here’s a bit:
In the movies, the best leading men have always been able to portray younger characters – John Wayne played iconic gunslingers into his 50s, Cary Grant was the suave romantic lead into his early 60s, and Harrison Ford will reprise Indiana Jones this spring at a spry 65. Actors like Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Nicolas Cage can easily take on parts playing men a decade or more junior to their biological ages.
The more I watch the extraordinary cultural phenomenon that is Barack Obama, the more I realize that the Senator from Illinois – the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination – is a political actor skillfully portraying a much younger character, and to rave reviews at that.
Obama will turn 47 years old before the delegates to the Democratic convention are seated in August. Yet he is leading what has been described as a generational movement of younger voters, the so-called millennials who were born in the 80s and came of age in the years after September 11, 2001. He is cast by the media as being part of that movement, a much younger voice in American politics than that of Hillary Clinton – who like a lot of leading female actors, must play her biological age pretty much straight up.
But Obama is either a Baby Boomer, according to some generational studies, or he’s a Generation Xer, according to others. It’s a generational tagging quandary I know pretty well, being less than a year younger than Obama. Culturally, we’re either late Boomers without the groovy 1960s experience, or early Gen Xers without the 80s hair gel. Our group came of age in the 70s – we’re all Watergate and punk rock, Son of Sam and Bronx is Burning, CBGB and Carter’s national malaise. Reagan picked off the conservatives among us, but left the liberals with permanent case of cynicism as as we began our careers. Culturally, we were just kids when the Beatles were in their prime, but we were too old to get much out of The Breakfast Club and that 80s brat pack ilk.
More at my blog, including the discussion in comments.