The latest gone-viral meme on social media is “OK, boomer,” a phrase that some millennials apparently trot out to show disdain of bloviating baby boomers. It is not hard to imagine that the words could have been uttered in the Democratic candidates debate on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, when the lone millennial in the race, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, faced his much older opponents.
The slight wouldn’t work on two of the frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, because they were born before the post-World War II baby boom began. But it would work on Elizabeth Warren who, at 70, is on the leading edge of the baby-boom generation. And a clash between Buttigieg and Warren is likely during the continuing race for a couple of reasons.
First, there is the philosophical difference that separates them on health care. Warren has come out for eliminating the entire health-insurance industry in favor of a government supervised system of Medicare for All. Buttigieg has staked out a more moderate approach, proposing Medicare for all who want it but leaving Americans the choice of keeping their current private health insurance if they prefer that to a government scheme.
Buttigieg has leaped ahead in polls in Iowa, passing Warren, who had been steaming along in first place. Suddenly, the young mayor has been discovered by voters who are worried that Warren and Sanders are too far left to get elected president and who are also concerned that Joe Biden might just be too old to run an effective campaign against President Donald Trump.
Many Democrats have questions about Buttigieg, as well. Is he too young? Is he too inexperienced? Is the country ready for the first gay president? So far, that last question appears to be a minor issue. The experience question is tempered by the fact that the current president came into office with fewer credentials than Mayor Pete; unlike Trump, Buttigieg has served in the military, has run a government and has an actual, discernible intellect. The age question may not matter much, either. If he were elected, he would be just a couple years younger than Theodore Roosevelt when he became president – and T.R. ended up on Mount Rushmore.
Since 1993, we’ve had four boomer presidents in a row – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump – with very mixed results. There may be plenty of voters who feel an urgency to pass the torch to a new generation.
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