Millennial Makeover predicted the shift in politics based on generational theory. Hear the authors describe their work.
Millennial Makeover is a book that came out March 2008 and describes how the Millennials would affect the upcoming election. It is based on the ideas of Neil Howe and William Strauss. I found this recording of a C-Span show where the authors give a summary of their research. It’s worth a watch if you are interested in the interaction of generational research and politics:
I should probably get a copy of the book (which just came out in paperback) to fill out my library…
The clash of ideologies predicted by William Strauss and Neil Howe in “The Fourth Turning” is certainly hitting it’s stride now. I found an article that is particularly telling with regards to how these ideological battles are being fought. The article is supposedly about ridiculous spending items in the stimulus plan, but it has an interesting undercurrent. Ruben Navarrette Jr. (a Generation X’er born between 1961 and 1981) writes about the “pork” in the plan here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/02/navarrette.stimulus/index.html
His commentary is mainly focused on Nancy Pelosi (who is part of the Silent Generation, born 1925-1942) and how she wanted to get birth control into the plan and had an extremely weak argument about why this should be in the plan. Navarrette draws a fascinating parallel to Margaret Sanger who was the founder of what became Planned Parenthood. Sanger was a controversial figure because she was in favor of Eugenics, which was a policy adopted by the Nazis to control racial makeup of society.
The interesting part of this is that he quotes a statement from Sanger from 1932:
“the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race such as … [those] barred by the immigration laws of 1924.”
Here’s the generational connection: according to the turning of generations we are at the beginning of the crisis (started in about 2005), perhaps only a few years in. If we look just a few years into the start of the previous crisis (started in 1929) we would come up with the year 1932. It is interesting that Navarrette would use an argument from that period to go after Pelosi. The similarity to that period is that there was a huge ideological clash going on and there was a battle for control of public perception, just like today. Like in my previous posting where Gore was accused of trying to brainwash kids like Nazi youth, I think we will see more and more of this sort of reference over the next few years. Each side in the ideological battle will try to paint the other as the absolute enemy, and referring back to the enemy in our last major crisis (the Axis) will be a favorite tactic. Watch for it.
(if you are curious to learn more about the basics of generational research, go to “Start Here“. It includes links to Strauss and Howe’s original works as well as my interpretations).
Want to know how to really upset parents of Millennials? Ask Al Gore, who managed to do just that by suggesting that teenagers not listen to their parents.
This video from Glenn Beck’s show, which was recorded by one of the kids at the conference, and her father (probably a Gen X’er) was upset enough to go on the show and talk about it. This has been making the rounds at lots of conservative blogs, many of which are comparing Gore’s statements with indoctrination of Nazi youth. As a die-hard liberal, I don’t buy the politics here, but I think the generational aspects are fascinating.
It’s not surprising that a Boomer (Gore) would suggest that kids rebel against their parents. That was the approach of the entire generation – knock down the institutions built by their parents (the GI Generation). But he made a HUGE mistake in thinking that this generation of kids (Millennials) and their parents (Gen-X and some Boomers) would react well to trying to divide them. Gore could definitely use some generational coaching.
This is very much part of the battle that will unfold over the next 10 to 15 years as various Boomers try to convince the Millennials to follow their particular ideology. Asking them to rebel against their parents is unlikely to work (as the Millennials are generally very close to their parents), but that won’t stop Boomers from trying. The reaction of the Gen X parent is very typical as we tend to be a fairly over-protective bunch and don’t want representatives of institutions telling us how to parent.
How could Gore have changed his approach to make it more likely to be heard? He could have appealed to the kids sense of purpose and tendency to want to work together. By saying something like, “We are all counting on you, the young people, to help change the world for the better. Your parents are counting on you. I am counting on you. The problems are big, but if we work together we will overcome them. And all of you will be a big part of that success.” By putting a positive message and tying their parents into the equation, he could have really gotten them on board. But, instead, he’s being accused of being an evil Nazi overlord.