Describing the Baby Booms politics is like the Indian parable of six blind men trying to describe an elephant, except more so. Its an elephant (and a donkey) trying to describe six blind men. The Baby Boom is politically fractured. You could consult polling data on the subject. But a generation thats expert at lying to ourselves has no trouble pulling George Gallups leg. We were supposed to be very liberal back in the 1960s. But the first thing that happened after the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 was a landslide victory by Richard Nixon.
Today Baby Boomers who are younger or female tend to vote for the Silly Party. Baby Boomers who are older or male tend to vote for the Stupid Party. Then there are the independents, proud of not knowing which is which. The Baby Boomer presidents that weve had so farBill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obamaare spread as far across the political map as you can get without going to Pyongyang.
Given all the liberties weve taken, the Baby Boom ought to be libertarian. We should be adhering to the Clinton Rules. That is to say, the rules the Clintons exemplified: Mind your own business, and keep your hands to yourself. Hillary, mind your own business. Bill, keep your hands to yourself.
But the libertarian creed of individual dignity, individual liberty and individual responsibility comes with that responsibility kicker. And theres the Atlas Shrugged doorstop, which got some Baby Boomers all excited and the rest of us wondering who hid the Strunk and White.
What we actually are is antinomians. Its a theological doctrine. The Baby Boom wasnt much given to studying theology (except to avoid the draft). But we seem to have figured out this one. Antinomianism is the belief that faith (the Baby Boom has a lot of faithin itself) and grace (the Baby Boom has been graced with a lot of good things) allows men (and, let us hasten to add, women) to be (according to Websters Third International) freed not only from the Old Testament law of Moses and all forms of legalism but also from all law including the generally accepted standards of morality prevailing in any given culture. Thats us in a nutshell.
This makes it all the more surprising that Baby Boom politicians have created a welter of legal and regulatory intrusions on private life. Theres NSA. And my kids have to wear hockey helmets to play puff billiards.
But were a contradictory generation. And its fun to make rulesfor other people. Besides, most politicians are Baby Boomers these days. Its a politicians job to pass laws. The Baby Booms politics may be confusing, but this doesnt mean we arent good at them. Weve mastered the political skill set with our generations enormous powers of BS, using BS in the technical political science sense, meaning political science.
Some say the Baby Boom has made American politics polarized. No, 1861that was polarized. MoveOn.Org? Tea Party? We have game on. Weve got tremendous depth of bench. The point spread is zero. We came to play. The Baby Boom is great at politics. Other generations are just jealous.
|P.J. O'Rourke, a Founding Member of the Board of Advisors for the Independent Institute, is Americas leading political humorist and the best-selling author of 20 books. After graduating from Miami University of Ohio and attending the graduate program at Johns Hopkins University, ORourke began his career of skewering both the left and the right on the ends of his razor-sharp one-liners. He will be the master of ceremonies at the Independent Institutes 30th anniversary gala dinner, focusing on The Future of Liberty, Sept. 22 at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco.|