Boomer factions just can’t get along
Updated: October 17, 2012 8:44PM
As we approach Election Day, never in my lifetime has politics been so polarized.
The two sides — left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative — seem to hate each other and do all they can to provoke, demean and demagogue each other.
Depending on where you stand, one side is good, the other is evil.
“How did it happen?” I wondered while talking politics with a friend a few weeks ago.
I decided it was our fault, and by that I mean we Baby Boomers.
Boomers started coming to power in the 1980s, took over the government in the 1990s and are in full power now across the board. What has dominated politics during this era? Nothing but ideological, uncompromising fights.
Why are we like that?
I put forward a theory to my friend.
Boomers came of age during Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. In that crucible, one side was right, the other side wrong.
It was a different experience from that of their parents, who were influenced by World War II. They had a common experience of winning the war. No matter what their politics, they had to come together to get the job done. After the war, they did everything together — moving to the suburbs, joining the VFW, creating senior centers and senior housing.
When they came into government, they brought their problem-solving spirit with them. Whether fighting the Nazis or passing the Civil Rights Act, they figured out how to find common ground to get the important jobs done.
Boomers seem incapable of finding common ground.
There was no common ground on the issues that formed Boomers. Some went to great lengths to stay out of Vietnam, burning draft cards, fleeing to Canada and organizing war protests that turned violent. For this group of Boomers, any Boomers who went to Vietnam were dupes.
It is no coincidence the nation elected seven World War II veterans, from Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush, after World War II. Since then, not one Vietnam veteran has made it to the White House.
The ghosts of those formative fights dog Boomers and infuse their fights to this day. Liberal or conservative, Boomers are convinced that one side is right and the other side is wrong, one side is good and the other side is evil.
So that’s my theory. Does it have any basis in fact?
I searched the Internet to see if there was anything out there to confirm it. Turns out, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has studied this phenomenon and has written a book about it.
He puts forth the position in greater detail than my off-hand comment to a friend in an interview with Bill Moyers that you can find on Moyers’ website.
The question is, can Boomers, for the good of the country, overcome this history that haunts us?