Politicians from three of the four living generations (Greatest Generation -60's, Baby Boomer Generation - 50's, Generation X - 40's) are battling it out for the White House.
Senator John McCain joked that he is far from being a kid. Perhaps he fits more closely in the mold of the Greatest Generation (60+).
Senator Hillary Clinton encapsulates the Baby Boomer Generation (50's) political activist, and Governor Mike Hukabee plays light '60s tunes with his rock band.
Senator Barack Obama, who just made it into Generation X (40's), is pulling on the energy of his generation and the Millennials (Generation Y) who are now students. His website even includes a group called Generation Obama.
The campaign fought between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in '92, followed by the contest between Bob Dole and Mr. Clinton in 1996, signified the struggle of Baby Boomers to take ultimate political power from the hands of the Greatest Generation. Today, the challenge Obama has mounted against Mrs. Clinton symbolizes Generation X making a play for further generational change in the White House.
One must wonder, as with all things generational, just how much is the "inexperience" argument about Obama, being used by the Clinton campaign, a veiled generational jab? Will Baby Boomers never trust anyone under 50?
There’s something unhealthy about all this Baby Boomer reminiscing. It seems to force Democrats always to look backward, to serve some unrealized ideal of government rather than a more modern and relevant vision of what government might become. There is a faint line between nostalgia and delusion, and with each passing year, those liberals who long for the reincarnation of their heroes seem ever closer to obliterating it.
Perhaps many political battles today witness liberals and progressives trying to complete the unfulfilled social change agenda(s) of the 1960s, and conservatives working diligently to rollback these changes to return to the more traditional ways of the 1950s. The past ideological battles and bruises of the Baby Boomers remain their reference point for current goals and strategies.
This battle is waged within the philanthropy community as well. Individual donors and program officers, foundations, and associations have staked-out political positions, utilizing means such as grants, conferences and research publications to advocate for politically loaded agendas. On the right like funding the school vouchers movement and on the left like supporting community organizing in marginalized communities.
In politics and philanthropy, Boomer Boomers leave emerging generations with the intertwined challenges of forming responses to the Baby Boomers and creating their own visions, strategies and approaches to improving society. There is much talk today about how emerging leaders bring technological savvy to political campaigns and to the philanthropic workplace. Online communities and cell phone communications didn’t exist when Baby Boomers hashed out their original battles, so these become a realm that Generation X and Y can claim to some extent as their own.
The question is how do these new generations go about creating a healthy relationship with the Baby Boomer Generation and the Greatest Generation.
In the political arena, perhaps politicians such as Barack Obama, offer us a clue. He seems to be able to attract an inter-generational base of supporters and his campaign has utilized the more holistic approach of Generation X and Y in their effort to create something more holistic that crosses ideological, racial, and geographic barriers.
It seems that Generation X is still in a state of reaction to the Baby Boomer Generation. Perhaps our millennial friends are less in the shadow of the Baby Boomers and are more able to define a new path. Or perhaps Generation X can be the bridge that brings the best legacies of previous generations to the needed innovations ahead.
Who knows what the generations yet-to-come will add to the mix. Only time can tell. We can only hope that as leaders from these different generations battle it out for control, whether it's in politics, philanthropy, nonprofits, or elsewhere, that we maintain healthy respect for our differences.
JUST FOR BABY BOOMERS: Share your experiences, remembrances and opinions about "Generational Influences playing out in the 2008 Election" with other Baby Boomers on our "Baby Boomer Forum"