Nestled between the numerically muscular baby boomers and tech-savvy millennials, Generation Xers have suffered a glaring drought of political power, having never had a president elected from their generation.
As the 2024 election slowly starts to gain some steam, Gen. Xers have an opportunity to ensure they don’t miss the train to the White House. Historically, prior generations began taking the reigns around middle age, making conditions ripe for Gen. Xers to guarantee they don’t get lost in the dustbin of history.
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“It’s about time — well overdue. Generation X is what I would call the lost generation country,” Thomas Whalen, associate professor of social sciences at Boston University and Gen. Xer, told the Washington Examiner. “We’ve kind of gotten lost in the fabric here, and it would be refreshing to see someone represent the generation.”
Sometimes dubbed the “New Lost Generation,” Gen. Xers are typically pegged as being born between 1965 and 1980, coming of age in the Reagan and Clinton eras in the shadow of the Watergate scandal and turbulent Vietnam War.
Perhaps the most watched Gen. X Oval Office contender at the moment is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been speculated as a potential primary challenger to former President Donald Trump, who just announced his 2024 campaign on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Should he win in 2024, DeSantis would be the fourth-youngest president in U.S. history.
Other names such as Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Beto O’Rourke have also been floated. Vice President Kamala Harris, born on October 20, 1964, barely missed the cutoff and is generally considered a boomer, though generational boundaries can often vary.
Some Gen. Xers have sought to claim credit for former President Barrack Obama, though at age 61, he is generally defined as a boomer as well. Obama had a unique place among boomer presidents, which just wrapped up four successive Oval Office stints of about 28 years ending with Trump’s departure. He is the only one of the four not born in 1946 with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Trump were all being born in the same year. Obama was born in 1961.
“Barrack Obama I guess technically he’s a baby boomer, but he was really Generation X,” Whalen surmised. “I think Generation X embraced Barrack Obama as their president more than any other politician.”
Gen. Xers flocked toward Obama in 2008 and appeared to warm up to him again in 2012, but have since seemingly lurched a tad to the right.
“Gen X, I need a word. What the f*** are you doing,” Brianna Wu, executive director of the progressive Rebellion PAC tweeted after the 2022 midterm elections. “You are not allowed to listen to Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine or Stone Temple Pilots until you get your s*** together. SHAME.”
Wu, who describes herself as being on the cusp years between Gen. X and the millennial generation, pointed to research from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University that appeared to show a large swath of Gen. Xers backing Republicans in the midterm elections.
“We have a vague memory of the protests that were with Vietnam and all the turbulence — the Cold War, the threat of nuclear Armageddon. And I think there is healthy skepticism, cynicism in Generation X,” Whalen explained. “I would not call my Generation X ideological — I think I’d call it more pragmatic.”
At this point, all living preceding generations before Gen. Xers have snatched the presidency, now that the silent generation managed to squeak one of its own into the White House during the last election via President Joe Biden.
With the Silent Generation drought resolved and the boomers having had their fill, Gen. Xers are theoretically next in line.
Similarly positioned as a generational middle child of sorts, the Silent Generation had been overshadowed in the presidential arena by the greatest generation, which had seven contiguous presidents spanning 32 years from former President John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush.
Hoping to avert flaming out, Gen. X is starting to face competition from millennials, which has touted rising political stars such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Gen. Xers are also outnumbered by their surrounding cohorts. Millennials account for about 83 million Americans, compared to roughly 65 million Gen. Xers and 75 million boomers, depending on precise definitions for the generational boundaries, per the New York Times.
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With the oldest Gen. Xer ringing in around 57 years of age and the youngest 42, the so-called “New Lost Generation” still has time to find itself and put up someone up for the nation’s highest office. After all, Biden commenced his presidency at 78.