Time for Generation Next
This is the age of meme. It is how we communicate – our love, loss, hatred, joy and political ideology. It is now also how cultural wars are fought and won.
Nothing demonstrates this better than the 2016 election. History has taught us that the candidate who best uses the newest form of media the most effectively wins the election. It was true for Kennedy, Obama and for Trump. It will be true for 2020 as well and the meme will continue to be a powerful form of new media.
One of the most powerful memes in 2019 was “OK Boomer”– the standard response by younger generations to condescending Baby Boomers who criticize them for being lazy, spoiled and having fried their minds by spending too much time on their phones. (Instead of frying them the old-fashioned Boomer way – with drugs). It’s the battle cry of the young – of generations who view the world with much more skepticism and realism than a generation brought up with the whitewashed “golden age” of television and affordable college tuition.
As a member of Generation X, I happen to agree with many of messages embedded in the “OK Boomer” movement, many of them fueled by a distrust of government institutions, banks, churches, corporations etc. that have committed some of the most horrendous crimes against both citizens and nature. However, a meme by itself is not enough to enact a meaningful, positive change in our society. What needs to happen now is to take the momentum of the meme and turn it into political action.
Traditionally, voter turnout by young people has lagged behind older voters. But that trend is beginning to shift. According to a Pew study by Anthony Cillufo and Richard Fry in May 2018, “Midterm voter turnout reached a modern high in 2018, and Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X accounted for a narrow majority of those voters according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available Census Bureau data.” This surge in activity could be a lone, positive effect of our nation’s current political catastrophe.
While part of the shift in voting age results have to do with older generations’ mortality, these numbers indicate that younger voters will get out and vote if motivated.
The key word here is “motivated.” Since younger people are more likely to vote for Democrats, it is essential that the Democratic Party embrace and inspire the younger voting demographic. This is what helped them in 2008. Their failure to do this in 2016 is what doomed them.
Despite Senator Bernie Sanders claims that voter turnout by people under 29 in the Iowa caucuses was 33% higher than in 2008, Factcheck.org pointed out that, “Sanders is referring to an increase in proportion, not the numbers of young voters.” According to Vox.com, voter turnout in New Hampshire showed a drop in young voters as well.
Young people I talk to say that “OK Boomer” is more about mentality than age. It symbolizes the frustrations of a generation burdened by the excess and opportunity of previous generations. But it also represents the chance for young people to take their frustration and use it in the voting booth to change the course of history.
The Democratic Party should capitalize on this opportunity to listen to that frustration and cultivate this new wave of voters who will be around much longer than the Democratic and Republican boomer voting blocks. It is time to change “OK Boomer” to “see ya later Boomer” and vote out anyone (of any generation) who represents archaic, repressive ideals that privilege one group over all others. We all deserve better.