Do us all a favor and go away

Augustine Marinelli

Baby boomer politicians: When they’re not congratulating themselves for turning 60 and vowing to “reinvent” retirement for the rest of us, they are hard at work running the country into the ground. This group of people who came of age during the height of the Vietnam War and its aftermath brought the baggage of their youth to the business of government, much to our detriment. They are failing us; they need to retire.

Before you say it, yes, I am talking in blatant generalizations; they are the lingua franca of the Baby Boomer generation. If they can declare that all Democrats hate freedom and love terrorists and all Republicans are closet racists who run their party like a plantation, then I can say they are a disastrous presence in our government. Maybe they’ll take the hint…

Hippies, in their ongoing conflict with “the man,” unleashed the “free love” values of the 1960s, which gave way to the cocaine-encrusted, disco-tinged excesses of the 1970s. When the Baby Boomers on this side of the fence fanned away the marijuana smoke and brought their sympathies for this lifestyle to the halls of power, it repulsed a significant portion of the voting public. The remaining Baby Boomers lusting for power decided to take advantage of this sentiment and got themselves elected to office vowing to return us to decency.

With all that, the so-called “Culture War” began. The rhetoric became more vitriolic as the competition for power heated up. The end result? We now find ourselves amazed that it was really homosexuals and feminists that destroyed the World Trade Center and New Orleans, not the terrorists and hurricanes that we had suspected. God forbid we should eat meat or spell “womyn” with an “e”; those things make us insensitive and bigoted.

I must admit, this nonsense has become a good political strategy. It turns off at least half of the electorate, thus leaving our Baby Boomer leaders to compete for the rabid faithful who eat this rhetoric up and keep voting them into office. This helps keep the competition at a fevered pitch and enables the demonization of opponents to become the norm in political discourse. This serves to distract the electorate from the deficiencies in government policy. In the end, it keeps the same demagogues in power. And what do they do with this power? They look after their self-interest (i.e. keep themselves in office), throw a sop to their rabid constituents and screw the rest of us.

Politicians acting in their own self-interest? Is the Pope indeed a Catholic? Yes, I know this is true. It’s a tradition that goes back to the writing of our Constitution: why do you think the Virginia Plan was called the Virginia Plan? But at the very least, those politicians tried (sometimes) to look at what was in the long term best interests of the country. Our Baby Boomers have done no such thing. Cutting taxes and dramatically increasing spending may please the faithful, but what does it do for the rest of us 25 years down the road? Pulling out of Iraq tomorrow saves American lives, but what does it do for the country’s reputation, foreign policy and the Iraqis in the coming years?

Speaking of irresponsible spending, increasing interest rates on college loans (an investment in America’s future and what keeps me at Villanova) and cutting veterans benefits during wartime in order to finance a Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska is unconscionable.

It is proof that our leaders care nothing for the long term. They are only interested in perpetuating their grip on the levers of power by pleasing those who can enable reelection and forgetting the rest of us.

What is the solution? Term limits are a great idea, but the last group that ran on that idea reneged on it because they said we needed their leadership. Gee, thanks for staying on! So much for the “Contract with America…” It is naive to expect the power-hungry Baby Boomers to limit their own influence.

Unfortunately, the two most effective solutions are the most difficult: we must vote or run for office. These are long shots; almost half the country does not bother to vote and no one wants to run for office. Who can blame them? Having to endure the scrutiny of the underwear-sniffing, trash-diving, self-righteous media is enough to turn away anyone with a sense of dignity and a family. Who wants to be their next sex-saturated Watergate revival?

But, I have reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The turnout of voters aged 18-25 in the 2004 election was significantly higher than in years past, despite the fact that it was a contest between two bumbling scions of the Baby Boom elite. There are now a dozen Iraq War veterans running for Congress in 2006. This is a good sign; they are qualified for high-stress leadership positions and will hopefully be able to do a better job than our current leaders.

Like houseguests that have overstayed their welcome, Baby Boomer politicians need to be thrown out. So, I might as well cast the first stone. Go! Leave! Retire! And take your baggage, your excesses and your rhetoric with you! While you’re at it, haul away your friends in the media, Ted Kennedy, Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd too. Don’t let Kennedy drive, and don’t come back!

Of course it will all be for naught if our generation of leaders commits the excesses that the Baby Boomers did. But we have real problems to deal with; hopefully we will take them seriously, weigh decisions beyond the short term and do well.