It’s a slow, sun-burnt month, and viral righties need a new boogeyman to keep their followers appropriately steamed. With all the primetime Fox News anchors on holiday, and b-listers like former congressman and pomade man-model Jason Chaffetz assuming the hourly reins, something has to keep the Facebook clicks a-comin’.
The newest outrage of the week: damn the gerontocracy! Pack up their Depends, wheelchairs, portable oxygen concentrators, dosettes, walking aides, and posses of care workers, and send them all packing straight from Washington to The Villages!
To be fair, our rickety, senescent, grayhaired, Aspercreme-applying political leadership makes itself an easy target. In the span of one week, two of America’s most distinguished senators suffered surreal senior moments.
Senate Minority Mitch McConnell either experienced a mini-cerebrovascular in front of a dozen news cameras, or he mismeasured his tincture dosage in his morning Wheaties and was higher than that Chinese spy balloon. California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, lived up to her official title by having the seniorist of moments: during a roll call on the Senate Appropriations Committee, she started pontificating on the merits of another Pentagon-blank-check, before being ordered to just “say aye” by colleague Patty Murray. It was the equivalent of being force-fed her pills by Nurse Ratched. Days later, she quietly conceded power of attorney to her daughter.
These two instances spurred calls for age limits on Congress, or at least term limits. One viral conservative loudmouth declared, “We have way too many old, powerful people who are running this country into the ground,” before listing out a bunch of octogenarians, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, and conveniently neglecting to name Donald Trump, who is pushing the big 8-0, which in Diet Coke years is probably closer to Moses’s final age.
And to be even more fair, the walking wrinkle sacks who lead our country aren’t doing themselves any favors. The president’s penchant for malapropisms and nodding off on the job are well known—so well known, they were a long-running meme after he left the Veep office. Pelosi’s had a few verbal slips of her own, more than once mistaking Donald Trump for George W. Bush. (Who can blame her? One initiated America’s deadly and costly foray into the Middle East on a bullcrap pretext while simultaneously blowing up a housing bubble that popped so violently it kneecapped the world economy. The other one took home some classified documents.)
But at least the crone class has kept the country in decent working shape, right? Only somewhat. As Helen Andrews laid out, the boomers pillaged America, pilfering its wealth and sapping its moral core, all for their self-fulfillment. The national debt is so incomprehensibly high, it’s not worth tracking anymore. The culture that underlaid the Constitution—the virtue that George Washington called the “necessary spring of popular government”—has been replaced by a flower-power liberation ideology popularized in the ‘60s. The boomers’ children—millennials, like yours truly—have forfeited the expectation of matching the material comfort of their parents. We have dimmer prospects for wealth generation, birth rates, home ownership, and even buying a car. But at least we have smartphones! The millennial future is best summed up as: iPhone 30, but no Social Security. Oh, and plenty of sex robots to ward off the depressive feeling of loneliness.
That all rightly said, boomer ragging is easy. (Fun too!) I’ve done my fair share. But generational carping is more often scapegoating, an excuse for personal failure. Just because your ‘rents have a bigger house with a massive chest freezer and ride-on John Deere doesn’t make life an unbearable hellscape. The ever-improving standard-of-living notion is Whiggish utopianism. Society has its ups and downs. The rollicking Jazz Age gave way to the Depression, which gave way to world war, which gave way to an economic boom, which gave way to the hippie era, which gave way to ‘70s malaise, which gave way to the high-flying Reagan years, which gave way to the West’s triumph in the Cold War.
Through it all, the boomers have more or less left the country intact, even as they unwittingly tear at its seams by posting dubious Facebook memes. Which is why I reluctantly rise in defense of the gerontocracy. Not out of an obligation to the Fifth Commandment, but by recognizing the alternative: me.
Rusty Reno, a boomer himself, faults his generation for its uncompromising devotion to America’s founding principles. “Baby Boomers may praise themselves as revolutionary and transformative, but as a member of that bulging cohort born between 1946 and 1964, I can attest that we did not so much rebel against our parents as insist on their principles and criticize their compromises.” How could the same Americans who whupped the Nazis and delivered Europe from tyranny support a system of de facto racial oppression at home? How could so-called defenders of the free world nearly fry the earth in nuclear war? How could the good and glorious Allies incinerate swathes of innocent civilizations? All good questions the boomers relentlessly asked, pushed, and nagged over, until acquiring power to reform and reorient the system themselves.
Now imagine millennials, the same shakily sensitive cohort that invented “safe spaces,” in the same position of authority. The same age grouping who prefer a socialist president, believe planet-wide conflagration is inevitable, appropriate every mental illness in the “DSM-V” to get out of college exams, desire legal punishment for misgendering, would swap “The Star-Spangled Banner” for “One Margarita,” and blow house down payments on Taylor Swift tickets.
Or just think, President prima prog AOC, Instagram live-ing her glow-up routine from the White House residence before meeting with a head of state. Is that easy-to-imagine scenario preferable to Joe Biden taking the short steps into Air Force One?
For all their creaky, mind-wandering flaws, the boomers at least invoke American ideals to make a policy case. Millennials, and their younger, more clueless brethren Gen Z, are convinced the Founding Fathers were history’s villains. “When a nation starts to doubt or question its myth of origin, it is starting to lose its sense of identity and legitimacy,” wrote Carl Trueman. Millennials assuming control of America means binning the Constitution, replacing it with the 1619 Project, instituting national DEI standards, putting Dylan Mulvaney on every beer can in the country, and letting Lizzo to twerk atop the Lincoln Memorial.
Are young conservative pot-stirrers really spoiling for that kind of displacement? The gerontocracy is the only thing keeping the wokeshivtiz at bay. Once the tear-down cultural hordes breach Congress, more so than they already have, we’ll be wishing for the days when out-of-touch buffers ran the show.