Boomers, step aside. Let younger generations lead

Boomers, step aside. Let younger generations lead

By Ellen Ratner   
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). (Bryan Renbaum/TMN file photo)

What we have lost in the back-and-forth about sexual harassment these past few weeks is that many of the people who have been accused are older than 60. In my day (and I am over 60, to be sure), women had to endure “catcalls” (whistling), as well as other things such as bras being run up a flagpole. I grew up in that culture of exploitation.

Now it is totally unacceptable, as it should be. President Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “Let the word go forward from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans …” It is time that our generation stop running things and help raise grandchildren and mentor the new generations, rather than sticking around.

I am often asked about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as a potential presidential candidate in the 2020 election. My response is that she would be too old. She was born in 1949. I then respond, how about Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who was born in 1964?

My brother-in-law, Chip Espinoza Ph.D., is an expert on millennials and has written three books about them. I told him I was writing about the need for us old bats to leave. Earlier, he told me the younger generation calls us “herpes,” because we never go away.

I asked him to share some of his ideas, and this is what he said:

It has been noted that millennials are putting off life-stage milestones like career, marriage and home buying; however, older generations putting off giving up career and institutional influence presents another interesting generational phenomenon. Futurist Faith Popcorn saw it coming when she coined the phrase “down-aging” in 1991. It means 80 is the new 70, 70 is the 60, and so on. Rather than opt for supporting roles like coaching and mentoring a new generation of leaders, mature generations want to stay in charge.

In politics, parties are threatened by each other, but perhaps the greatest unspoken threat to the political establishment is new blood from within, and it usually comes bottled in youth. Rather than sponsor fresh perspectives that result from demographic metabolism, the establishment seeks to stay in control. It disrupts members of successive generations from contributing to changes in the social structure. Sociologist Matilda Riley refers to it as social lag – when outmoded social institutions fail to provide opportunity for its members who represent a growing population with expanding influence and economic power.

Names like John Conyers, Nancy Pelosi and John McCain conjure up ideology that may or may not be helpful to the future of their respective parties. Whenever an individual becomes the institution, the institution suffers.

I believe millennials and Gen Z, no matter the party affiliation, place a greater value on transparency. I believe millennials and Gen Z will suffer less from sexual harassment and pay inequity because they do not buy into the gender mores of preceding generations. The verdict is out, but my hope is that they will not be so entrenched in partisan anything that they will not be able to find a third way.

We need to find another way, as many people born in the mid-20th century have too much power.

Pelosi was born in 1940. Schumer was born in 1950. Mitch McConnell was born in 1942. They all have to go. They, like me, are too old and too steeped in the values of the mid-20th century.

Sen. Al Franken is 66 years old and was born in 1951, in the middle of the 20th century. He was born with the values and mores of that time. Segregation was still prevalent then, even though many of us fought against it. Currently, the one younger leader in Congress is Speaker Paul Ryan, who was born in 1970.

Recently, I was in Mississippi and spoke to former Gov. Haley Barbour. I told him that he should write a book about politics aimed at the younger generation. There is nothing like that written to teach the younger generation how to run, how to negotiate and how to participate.

We are looking at resignations in Congress as well as in Hollywood. The accused are mainly older people who grew up in a different time with different ways (not that harassment was ever OK) in which men treated and talked to women.

It is time that the older people give opportunities to the younger folks – Generation X, millennials and Generation Z – and, as President Kennedy said way back in 1961, to “pass the torch” to these new generations.

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