By SCOTT GRABER
It is Sunday, overcast and slightly cooler, and there’s the promise that today’s heat will be less dehumanizing and the day less debilitating.
The New Yorker Magazine has done its pre-election piece on Joe Biden. It’s lengthy — telling a story that is not entirely praiseworthy — beginning with Biden’s generation, the so-called “Silent Generation.”
A generation, according to Evan Osnos, that won the cosmic cup.
This remarkably small generation was too young to fight in World War II; too old to lead the 60’s counterculture wars; and, of course, it missed the Great Depression entirely.
“Because of low birthrates during the Depression and the war, the generation was exceptionally small—the first in American history to be smaller than the one before it. Its members enjoyed more attention and resources from their parents, smaller class sizes, and high rates of college admission. The New Deal and the G.I. Bill gave them benefits, loans and federal work programs, which thrust millions of white Americans into the middle class.”
The sociologist Elwood Carlson labeled Biden’s generation, “The financially luckiest generation of the twentieth century.”
The New Yorker contrasts Biden’s generation with today’s Millennials (born after 1980) who, hopefully, will play a significant role in the forthcoming Presidential Election.
“Millennials constitute the largest generation in America today, and the most diverse in the nation’s history. They entered the job market during the worst recession since the nineteen-thirties. People younger than 25 have faced unemployment rates more than double those of other age groups. By 2012, a record number of adults between 18 and 31 were living with their parents.”
They face an economy that has lost millions of manufacturing jobs to China, India and Brazil. The loss of these steady, less than glamorous, assembly-line jobs have sent some into opioid dependency and others into death by overdose.
“This generation has really been screwed,” Biden says in the New Yorker. “These were really the most open, the least prejudiced, the brightest, the best-educated generation in American history. And what’s happening? They end up with 9/11, they end up with war, they end up with the Great Recession, and they end up with this.”
And today this unemployed, or underemployed group is hibernating in their apartments — waiting for a vaccine — praying that whatever job they had in March will be available in November.
And yet these same Millennials have been outspoken about gun violence, climate change and this summer their young, masked faces could be seen marching in huge numbers through the streets of New York, Atlanta and San Francisco. While these Millennials are angry, they are also passionate about reform and are largely aspirational in their belief about change.
And so this brings us back to Joe and his desire to lead these kids — some who are approaching 40 — into the ranks of the Democratic Party. Biden hopes they will join the suburban women; the African American women; the Hispanics and the college educated “elites” forming a solid blue, 10-foot-high tsunami on election day.
He has gotten an endorsement from Bernie Sanders — and that will help — but there are obstacles remaining.
For starters, Biden is 77 years of age.
Seventy-seven is not a “deal breaker” but it’s cause for skepticism. Many of these kids want what amounts to a non-violent revolution, and they cannot imagine a creaking oldster like Biden waving their flag as he climbs the barricades.
And then there is Biden’s legislative history — especially the 1994 Crime Bill.
This bill embodied the “three strikes and you’re out” arithmetic; and the notion that possession of cocaine, especially crack cocaine, was worthy of longtime, throw-away-the keys incarceration. While these notions were well-received in 1994, especially in the Black Community, today they are controversial, even toxic with Millennials.
Biden, as a young Senator, was friendly with men like Strom Thurmond, James Eastland and Herman Talmadge — Senators who had risen to power in a segregated South.
He defends his friendships (and his working relationships) with these men saying, “We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy.”
His tendency to compromise, to secure half a loaf, is not consistent with the current belief, among Millennials, that there has been too much accommodation in the past. These kids believe that the only way to reform is a “Reckoning.”
But that “Reckoning” won’t happen if the Millennials don’t vote for Joe Biden.
Scott Graber is a lawyer, novelist, veteran columnist and longtime resident of Port Royal. He can be reached at email@example.com.