Republican fortunes are again on the upswing as the 2022 midterm elections loom. A series of Biden administration legislative wins over the summer, along with the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, appeared to be mitigating projected Democratic losses in November. But persistent inflation, a recessing economy, a worsening national crime wave, a slew of foreign policy embarrassments, and other gaffes have combined to put the Republicans back in a decisive lead.
A New York Times/Siena College poll published on Monday gave the GOP a four-point advantage over the Democrats among likely voters. In most categories, the breakdown by age demographic is about what one might expect. Wide-eyed younger voters still favor the Democrats, who enjoy a twelve-point lead among 18- to 29-year-olds, and an 11-point lead among 30- to 44-year-olds. Among those aged65 and older — now mostly the baby boomers of yore — the parties are tied at 48 percent each.
The decisive Republican advantage emerges among those squeezed in the middle, the only group, in fact, that gives the Republicans any sort of majority. According to the poll, voters between the ages of forty-five and sixty-four favor Republican control of Congress by an astonishing twenty-one-point margin, 59 percent to 38 percent. Most people in that age group fall within Generation X, a once unknown commodity (hence the “X”) born roughly between 1962 and 1979.
What makes X-ers like me (born in 1977) so damn conservative? In the context of 2022, there is no great mystery. We grew up in the 1980s, a blessedly simpler time when life was fun and carefree, when the USA was cruising toward Cold War triumph, and when truth, justice, and the American way were both time-tested certainties and the unstoppable wave of the future. As far as we knew, we were living in the best of all possible worlds, riding our bikes without helmets, going to raves without social media tracking our every move and pill, knowing our moms and dads couldn’t be helicopter parents if they had the whole Army Air Cavalry Brigade at their disposal. Every problem had a solution. Every feeling found a form. Every dream became a reality.
Moronic boomers took our complacency for laziness. We were derided as “slackers,” dismissed as the first generation who would live worse than our parents. We were chided for our cynicism toward the Sixties ideals that our elders still mouthed but had abandoned so hypocritically that for us they were little more than a good laugh when the adults left the room.
For a brief moment, we were the Brat Pack ready to take the reins in a Pax Americana. Then, as the college students and young professionals of the 1990s, we watched the boomers piss it all away. Scandal followed scandal. Power grab followed power grab. One institution after the next was corroded by corruption and greed. By the end of the decade, the first boomer commander-in-chief left us wondering what the definition of “is” was as he testified in the first presidential impeachment trial in 130 years. The boomers knew they had failed. But rather than admit it, they retreated into Bob Dylan’s tedious word salads and hid behind corporatized Beatles lyrics.
Of course their values struck us as hollow and empty. The much promised better world — and the opportunities we were meant to have so long as we jumped through their achievement hoops — never materialized alongside all the wars and recessions. Like the latch-key kids we’d once been, we found our own solutions. We became self-reliant, self-directed, and self-assured. Our medium was sarcasm because nothing left to us was sacred or even authentic. More of us believed we would live to see UFOs than Social Security checks. To the mass irritation of our parents and teachers, we tuned in religiously to the satire of South Park before it got preachy, The Simpsons before it got zany, and Saturday Night Live before it sucked.
We watched with bemusement as the younger generation born after 1980 — the millennials now poised to vote Democratic despite it all — grew up coddled and medicated, enslaved by technology, unable to solve basic problems without turning to parental helicopters. Their entitled ways became even less intelligible as they spouted identity politics and grievance tropes gleaned from our failing schools and universities, using them to whine, shame, and scold their way into the lower echelons of the workplace while taking gruesome bites of avocado toast to help the overprescribed Xanax and Adderall go down. The irony with which they expressed their discontent seemed pointless and sad.
To our immense frustration, the boomers cultivated millennial dependency and helplessness, all while keeping real power, success, and independence out of their emotionally impaired reach. “You will own nothing and you will be happy,” an arch boomer recently told them without discernible objection. Is it any surprise that more American millennials view socialism more favorably than capitalism and vote that way? For both sides of this codependent intergenerational alliance, the ideology of the left offers to provide for their ever greater needs while absolving them of all responsibility. There’s an app for that. It is called the Democratic Party.
Generation X-ers are caught in the precarious middle. Our financial fortunes have been broadly held back by Boomers unwilling to pass the torch, and are coveted by millennials. The freedoms we knew and cherished through our young adulthoods are now ever more forfeit to the nihilistic abstractions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” which are demanded by our insecure juniors and mandated by our browbeaten seniors. The uplifting unity we felt when the Berlin Wall fell has yielded the crude, hackneyed divisions of identity politics and a digital age atomization so thorough that 65 percent of young Americans do not feel comfortable having a face-to-face conversation. Our natural esteem for success and prosperity is locked in mortal combat with the crippling self-doubt, poisonous envy, and consequent ill will of the generations surrounding us.
For the X-er, the choice is clear. One party, whatever its faults, vibes morally and ethically with the spreading of human happiness and success tempered by traditional values. The other party tries to enforce alien moral and ethical vibes as a precondition of human happiness and success at the expense of traditional values, especially if they get in the way of its peculiar vision of “social justice.” Nearly six out of ten X-ers are drawing on their halcyon childhoods to find the right way forward.