Boomers: Meet the Plurals


America is fascinated by the skill, pluck, and personal composure of the students from Parkland, Florida who survived the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. Their initial quick success in getting the recalcitrant Florida legislature to make some modest changes to one of America’s loosest set of gun laws brought a ray of hope to a nation depressed by the inability of its civic institutions to accomplish just about anything. When the same students organized the March for Our Lives national protests demanding stricter gun laws and drawing hundreds of thousands of people to demonstrations in Washington and across America, many adults were captivated by these young people who proved ready to take on the toughest of political challenges, even in the face of long odds against their winning.

The March for Our Lives was a great coming out party for members of the Pluralist generation who have been growing up in the shadow of their better-known predecessors, Millennials. For liberal Baby Boomers, it was a chance to relive the glory years of their own youth and claim the new generation as their own.

But Plurals differ from the Boomer generation in several critical ways that make them less the heirs to the older generation’s political style and more like the rarely-commented-upon Silent Generation that preceded the Boomers. Silents were born from 1925-1945 and have the unfortunate distinction of being the only generation to not have seen a President elected among its members, although not for want of trying in recent years by Senator John McCain and Vice-President Joe Biden. Even “their war”, the Korean conflict, ended in stalemate rather than victory, leaving nothing to celebrate and little to talk about.

There are, however, some famous Silents whose role in our nation’s history suggests what lies ahead for the Pluralist generation. Boomers like to think that they invented Rock n’ Roll, but the first of that genre’s stars, Elvis Presley, was very much a Silent, if in name only. Boomers also like to take credit for the civil rights victories of the 1960’s, and some of its members were certainly important in Mississippi and Alabama as part of the Freedom Riders as well as in North Carolina’s lunch counter sit-ins. But the spiritual leader and supreme strategist of the movement was Reverend Martin Luther King, a Silent who was assassinated fifty years ago this month at age 39. Still alive and continuing her fight is one of the foremost leaders of the Feminist movement, Gloria Steinem, born in 1934, more than a decade before Boomers were even a twinkle in their parent’s eyes. So, while Boomers immediately sought to draw a straight line between the Plurals’ March for Our Lives and their own marches against the war in Vietnam, history suggests a more direct generational line runs to Silents and their efforts to change America in essentially more fundamental ways than Boomers ever accomplished.

Plurals are also much less divided than Boomers were in their 1960’s heyday and still remain so a half century later. Many of the nation’s cultural wars began in the clashes between Boomer anti-war demonstrators and the equally Boomer National Guard troops sent out to challenge them. Echoes of those confrontations can be heard today in Congress and on cable news networks as Boomers invest much of their energy in settling old scores with their ideological opponents rather than solving problems.

Plurals would prefer to take small steps toward their goal, as they did in Florida, rather than bask in the purity of their cause. But they are also more determined to achieve their goals; in contrast, many Boomers, once their attempts to completely remake America failed, retreated and focused their efforts on the pursuit of money and personal satisfaction. Plurals are more likely to exhibit the type of determination to succeed eventually that their 19th century generational counterpart did as the heroine in the movie, “True Grit.” That personality trait — grit — is one that Plurals’ parents have tried to drill into their children. The evidence so far suggests they were successful.

All of which is not to say that Boomers are either a particularly good or bad generation, just that they are different from Plurals. Baby Boomers’ role in our history was to challenge through rebellion and ridicule a conformist culture that had gone stale and lost its purpose and sense of values. That’s not the problem facing American today, nor is it the way Plurals will go about making their mark on our nation’s history.

Instead, Plurals are destined to play a role like the one the Silent Generation played after World War II--smoothing out society’s disruptions and divisions with straight talk and being willing to compromise. Should such efforts fail, as they well might about national gun control legislation, we are sure a Martin Luther King - or Gloria Steinem - like figure will arise to take the problem head on and make major, lasting change in doing so. (As Silents ourselves, we also hope that a Pluralist Elvis Presley will come along and overturn the current status quo in popular music.)

When they do all these things and more, Plurals will prove once again the wisdom of the maxim that America gets the generation it needs about every twenty years. So welcome Plurals to our national stage, but Boomers, just for once, don’t try and upstage them by claiming they are just like you. Thankfully, they are not.

Note: Jack MacKenzie, Executive Vice-President of PSB Research, was the first person to suggest members of the next generation be named Plurals and provided valuable input to this blog.

Dr. Michael Hais has served as Vice President for Entertainment Research at Frank N. Magid Associates. He earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Maryland.

Morley Winograd is a Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School Center on Communication and Leadership Policy. Morley Winograd and Mike Hais are co-authors of three books on the millennial generation. Mr. Winograd is also the President of the non-profit Campaign for Free College Tuition.

Photo: Ziggyfan23 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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America is fascinated by the skill, pluck, and personal composure of the students from Parkland, Florida...

When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the f-king phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government. Our parents don’t know how to use a f–king democracy, so we have to.
David Hogg

They're children. You can't blame them for their naiveté. A certain percentage of every generation gets enamored by the simple-minded "solutions" of the hard-left. It's been going on since capitalism made increasing numbers of Americans rich enough to send their kids to college in Europe in the late-19th Century, whereupon they lost their ability to think:

Anyone who was not a liberal at 20 years of age had no heart, while anyone who was still a liberal at 40 had no head.
—various attributions

Over the past 40 years, though, US secondary schools and even primary schools have taken up the charge to mold young minds to dogmatic cultural Marxism. It's sad. They're stupid and they don't even know it.