Rod Dreher

The new British prime minister is the first major world leader who comes from my generation. He is 43. I am 43. Anybody care to venture how a Gen X world leader will be different, both in style and substance, from Baby Boomers? Obama is an interesting case because though he’s technically a Baby Boomer, he does seem to be more of a Gen X figure. But there’s no doubt that Cameron is the first Gen X world leader of the first rank. He is also bound to have a different point of view on economics — he came of age under Thatcher, after all, and did not have his political consciousness formed by the economic struggles of the 1960s and 1970s — and on moral issues, for the same reason. The world that formed Reagan, Thatcher and their supporters was not the same world that formed David Cameron. Nor, for that matter, was it the world that formed Bill Clinton.
So, let’s have some thoughts about what qualities Generation X is likely to bring to bear on national leadership. My first guess is that there will be less of an instinct to interpret world events in conventionally moralistic terms, as did the Baby Boomers, both liberal and conservative. (I say this as someone who is fairly moralistic — but in that, I think I’m not typical of my generation). I think Gen X leadership will be more pragmatic and less idealistic, because Gen Xers, as John Zmirak once put it, inherited the hangover from the Boomers’ party. To be sure, human nature doesn’t change from generation to generation, and I don’t expect a Gen X leader to be more or less moral than those who came before. It’s just that emphases will change, because, as I’ve said, leaders of that generation will have been formed by the triumphs and defeats of their own time, not someone else’s era. My sense with Cameron is that he’s not an ideological sort of person, driven by either the values of the 1960s culture-clash, or a reaction to it. Cameron is a synthesis between the thesis-and-antithesis of the Sixties clash. And so too, in a left-inflected style, will be the first Gen X leader of the Labour Party.
Your thoughts?

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