The role of our generation in the government shutdown and everything else that matters in politics.

So as we are moving into the second week of the government shutdown, I thought it might be worth investigating the place of our generational Representatives in this mess.  Based on what I said the last time politics came up here, you might think they have quite a bit to do with it.  And it turns out they do, though not as much as I would have thought before actually crunching the numbers.

I did a bit more research after that last post to see how our generation is being represented in congress.1  In the House of Representatives, there are 84 Republicans and 44 Democrats: 66% Republican.  Compare that to the 53% overall for the House.  This post from the Atlantic lists 32 congressmen that are behind the government shutdown.  Of those 32,2 12 are from our generation, which doesn’t sound like much: 38%.  But when you consider that our generation only makes up 30% of the House, it appears that we are more heavily represented in these extremists than we are in general.3

In order to compile this information, I looked at this Wikipedia page, sorted by age, and then clicked on the link for each one of them in our age range in order to see which party they were in.  It was kind of tedious, it would have been convenient if Wikipedia had included political party in the initial list, but I noticed a few things while I was doing this that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  First of all, I noticed that people my age look a lot older than I feel: not very helpful, I know.  Secondly, I noticed that whenever anyone’s entry included phrases such as “the first ever” or “the only current”, they were always a Democrat.

I’m not a bisexual, a Hindu, or a paraplegic, but in a country that includes bisexuals, Hindus, and paraplegics, at least a democratic one, it seems reasonable that there would eventually end up being a governmental representative for such peoples.  And it seems interesting to me that every time we have some politician who is just a little bit different, whether it’s one of these firsts I mentioned above, or whether it’s just a hard to pronounce name, they inevitably end up as a Democrat instead of as a Republican.  Of the Congresspersons born in the 1970s, there are three white male Democrats.  There are lots of other Democrats and lots of other white males, but the two don’t often go together for the batch of Congresspersons born in the same decade as I was.

I have to admit this data saddens me a bit.  I like the fact that there are people being elected who are the “first ever” of something.  I don’t like the fact that they all end up in one political party.4   But unfortunately, there are still a lot of racist people in this country,5 and they vote.  And apparently these sorts of people always vote for Republicans.  Some Republicans struggle with this, with how they can get back the black vote.  But inevitably they realize it’s just not going to happen, so they go ahead and run that Willie Horton ad anyways.  And the divide just gets worse.  I’m not saying that most Republican politicians are racist, I’m saying that most of them wouldn’t get elected if there weren’t a large number of other people that were racists voting for them.  This article even ties that incessant fishing for the racist vote to this latest government shutdown.

I’d like to think that we are the first colorblind generation, that all those racist voters are old people who will eventually die off.  After all, we are the first generation to grow up entirely in integrated schools.  And I think that for the most part, we’ve become more tolerant of other cultures as a result of that.  But reality is never quite so neat.  The reality here is that there are two truths: we are the first color blind generation, and we are also the last generation of hate-filled bigots.  It might seem paradoxical that both of these can be true at the same time, but if you think about it they both have to be true at the same time.  And we’re the ones who ended up in that paradoxical turning point.

Our generation has brought a lot of firsts to the House of Representatives.  But I’m afraid that history will end up remembering us not for those firsts, but for the unfortunate lasts that are even now garnering the nation’s ire.

1-      I’m using the birth years 1962-1982 to define our generation for the purposes of this analysis.

2-      Interestingly, of the three females on that list, all of them are Boomers.

3-      And by almost exactly the same ratio that our generational representation in the Republican party exceeds the percentage in the House as a whole.

4-      I suppose I should admit that I have a bit more trust in markets determining things than I do in government elites.  I never was a big fan of Obamacare: I thought our president should have spent his efforts on other things.  But it’s the law now, so we should just move on with our lives.  It really is not the end of the world.

5-      I know because they tell me in hushed voices that us white people will no longer be the majority in this country in another twenty years or so.  They say it with the grave look on their face you might expect if they were talking about an asteroid that was about to destroy 90% of the species on the planet.


2 Responses to “The role of our generation in the government shutdown and everything else that matters in politics.”

  1. Great words. But as I am not a US citizen and I’ve been there for a while, I only want to say that the racism exists and it is not an old people problem. Your generation have a lot of work to do in America about this topic.

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