And it’s about time.
Born in October 1964, Harris is just three months shy of what most official demographers consider the start of the Gen X era — typically, those born between 1965 and 1980. Still, she was born the same year as Keanu Reeves, Courteney Cox, Courtney Love and Melissa Gilbert. Need more proof that she’s true Gen X?
Like other Gen Xers, Harris is part of the adaptive, resilient cohort that went from analog to digital and Reagan to Obama without a stumble, all while the boomers and millennials bookending us bickered.
As a latchkey child of non-European immigrants who has Salt-N-Pepa, Prince and Phil Collins on her summer playlist, Harris — a Doritos-loving, Converse- and pearls-wearing collaborative leader who doesn’t always seek the spotlight — is ours. Pure Gen X.
And the nation needs Gen X in power. Now.
With a baby-boomer president who turned the past three years into a greatest hits of the worst part of the ’80s — replays of porn star scandals, corporate greed and skinhead hate — we’re done with their time in office.
Generational theorists have shown that this is how functioning society has always worked, that the generation in midlife — ages 42 to 62 — should be the generation in power.
Things go sideways when those in elderhood stay in power, clinging to the social order that defined their childhood and their worldview. Sound familiar?
Workplace analysts have found they’re disrupting the natural evolution and flex of the workplace, too.
“Gen Xers — now ranging in age from their late thirties to early fifties — should currently be in the peak stage of their careers, and advancing rapidly,” wrote Stephanie Neal, director of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research at global leadership consulting firm Development Dimensions International.
“However, many Baby Boomers are deciding to stay in the workforce much longer than previous generations, which may be affecting Gen X’s advancement,” Neal wrote. “More than half of Baby Boomers are reportedly delaying retirement, many until 70 or later, because of financial insecurity and rising health care costs. As a result, older workers are not only holding onto their jobs longer but also are still trying to advance into higher-paying roles.”
When Biden took the lead in the Democratic nomination race, it was even more disruptive to the social order. He’s 77 and a pre-boomer — the Silent Generation — and would be the oldest man ever to take office as president. That record is now held by President Trump, who took the oath of office (but didn’t take it seriously) at age 70.
Only 10 of our presidents were 61 or older when they were inaugurated.
With Harris running on the ticket, we finally have someone who is of actual presidential age. It’s also the first time the Democratic Party has given Gen X a chance. Republicans tried out Sarah Palin (also a 1964) and Paul D. Ryan (a solid 1970 Gen Xer), with no luck. And with their aim to make geriatric history with Biden, Democrats needed to embrace the influence Gen Xers already are having in the public sector.
We so-called slackers are the ones engaged in state and local governments, long the domain of busybody retirees. As Governing, a government advocacy publication, wrote in a report about Gen X: “It shouldn’t be surprising that this generation, which long ago shook off its disengaged-slacker stereotype to become known for its entrepreneurialism, DIY ethic, skepticism about bureaucracy and comfort with collaborating over far-flung networks, would now be pressing local government to think in new ways about the work of democracy.”
Duh. We’re the ones who successfully navigated the shared custody and ego clashes of Generation Divorce — boomers continue to hold the record for divorce rates, even in their elderly years.
And doesn’t our nation feel as if it's on the brink of divorce — deeply divided, entrenched in a cultural civil war that rivals every Kramer vs. Kramer scene? We need a Gen Xer in there to help mend America. It’s what we do.
Sure, lefties think Harris is too moderate, a law enforcement officer who put a lot of Californians of color in jail. And conservatives who are decent enough to refrain from the sexist, racist and xenophobic jokes already flooding social media will blanch at her support for legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing sex work.
But that’s what Gen X does, making the hallmark of our group not wanting to belong to any group.
In her memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Harris writes about her refusal to accept binary leadership, such as the falsehood that a prosecutor has to be either soft on crime or tough on crime, or that being for workers’ rights means being against capitalism.
“I know how hard it is for the officers’ families, who have to wonder if the person they love will be coming home at the end of each shift,” Harris wrote. “I also know this: It is a false choice to suggest you must either be for the police or for police accountability. I am for both. Most people I know are for both. Let’s speak some truth about that, too.”
Correction: A previous version of this column incorrectly stated that Harris supports legalizing sex work, rather than decriminalizing it. The column has been updated.
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