Born in 1970, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is the first generation X’er to be on a national ticket. Since the 1990’s my fellow generation X’ers have been an often overlooked group of individuals compared to the older and much larger generation of baby boomers and the World War II generation.
We’ve been called slackers, baby busters, cynical, skeptical, angry and indifferent among other descriptions. However, is this really the case now? Forty percent of Generation X’ers are from families whose parents divorced. Many became known as “latch key children.”
The Bergen County Record reported in 1995:
More than any other generation, this one is skeptical and questioning, according to Raines and others. Unlike those who grew up in the Fifties and Sixties and were weaned on Donna Reed in the kitchen or even on the quasi-traditional lifestyle of “The Brady Bunch,” twentysomethings have been exposed to diverse media images and role models, researchers say.
This generation questions authority, and itself.
At age 16, Paul Ryan lost his father, when his dad died at age 55 from a heart attack. Mr. Ryan obviously knows what it was like to grow up quickly and become independent.
The University of Oklahoma Health Science Center describes Generation X as “cynical and skeptical” but also includes other characteristics like being: independent, problem solvers/resourceful, defy(ing) authority, reality driven, and resist(ing) hierarchy.
“My dad died when I was young. He was a good and decent man,” Ryan said during his remarks after Romney first introduced him to the cheering crowd in Norfolk, Virginia. He went on saying, “I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. ‘Son you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’” Rep. Paul pointed his next comments directly at President Obama.
“Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem … and Mitt Romney is the solution,” he said.
Ryan has defied the silly “slacker” caricature mocked up for our generation. Ryan showed he is willing to take a risk and create real solutions for one of the third rails of politics—Medicare.
The media believed it correctly pegged Generation X’s thinking for years to come during Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign against then-senator Bob Dole. According to an October 1996 Associated Press piece:
While Dole’s generation had World War II and Clinton’s Vietnam, today’s young adults have drugs, terrorism and street violence. Battlefield and home front have become one. The struggles are less distinct. Politically, many between 18 and 30 — the so-called “Generation X” — consider themselves skeptical, unwilling to vote a straight ticket and resentful of the Boomer-generated conspicuous consumption of the 1980s. Polls conducted this year by MTV have shown half of young adults consider themselves middle of the road, while 24 percent feel they are conservative, and 19 percent identify themselves as liberals.
They also showed young people overwhelmingly supported strong environmental protection, a balanced budget and a higher minimum wage. A majority also back abortion rights and regulation of Internet and television content.
Sixteen years later, USA Today reported on a new poll from the National Science Foundation shows that Generation X is “unconcerned” about climate change. In 2010 UPI reported that Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted a poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, and their numbers showed that 60 percent of Generation X, ages 30-44, believed that abortion was morally wrong.
Ryan is representative of these majorities in his generation. He is not only pro-life but also argued in 2009 that more regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency would only lead to further government largesse.
Finally, it should be remembered that Gen X’ers came of age through the 1980’s—the Reagan era. President Ronald Reagan presented a strong and optimistic America to not only those who went to the polls in ’80 and ’84 but also to those of us who experienced his presidency as kids and teenagers. The notion that we later became “resentful” towards baby boomers or simply “skeptical” as a whole is just ridiculous.
“We Americans look at one another’s success with pride, not resentment, because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks, and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be improved and uplifted,” Ryan said on Saturday.
“But America is more than just a place … it’s an idea. It’s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.”
As a Gen X’er, Ryan brings optimism, energy, and pride to the Romney campaign among other qualities. The crowds in Norfolk, Ashland, and Manassas Virginia on Saturday absorbed that optimism. Furthermore, a shot of adrenaline was injected into the Romney campaign, as a result. Hopefully, the Wisconsin Republican can bring a new image as opposed to the “slacker” and “skeptical” images Generation X has been stamped with for too long.