U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan
The well-known political reporter, Andrea Mitchell, reacted to Mitt Romney's VP pick, Paul Ryan, by saying his voting record on reproductive rights will not appeal to suburban women. It seems that what appeals to the modern suburban woman has changed more than Mitchell realizes.
The baby boomers in suburbia have been replaced by Generation X, the considerably smaller, quieter generation, accused of being apathetic to politics. A glimpse into our world view should help baby boomers like Mitchell understand the appeal of Paul Ryan.
As we cast our first votes, the growing intensity of the media spotlight brought us leaders who made mistakes in their personal lives. We didn’t care what they did in their off hours, but it meant that we didn’t really have a generation of leaders we could rally behind or put on a pedestal. Baby boomers got JFK, MLK and Ronald Reagan. We got Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Eliot Spitzer.
Our world was never small. We saw its depth on CNN and the Internet. We graduated from high schools so large we didn’t know half our class. We watched the small, touchable icons of American life fade away before we had time to appreciate them . . . the family farm, the “five and dime,” and “American” branded goods that are now made overseas.
We were numbed by decades of polarized debates on baby boomer issues that, for the most part, never concerned us, but taught us that stalemates are the end result of most political debates. We began watching the news as the country lost faith in the media for biased or over-hyped stories. We turned it off.
The only balanced budget we know is our own. The federal budget has run deficits for most of our adult lives.
When we ask why we can’t do something, change something, or build something, you can say “liability” and we totally get it. We live in fear of trial lawyers.
We became Seinfeld cynics. Instead of trying to change powerful, overgrown institutions and the politicians who run them, we looked inward to our friends, family and the smaller pieces of life we believed were more meaningful We’re over-involved in our children’s lives because we focused on that which we have impact.
The story of our political “coming of age” is rooted in the Friends episode where Rachel Green gets her first paycheck and says, “Who is FICA and why is he getting all my money?” We wondered the same thing.
Congress continued to pass deficit-enhancing budgets. DC politicians started talking about how some of our paycheck was going to be set aside in a “lock box” to help us when we reached retirement. It sounded like a get-rich-quick scheme authored by Newman and Kramer.
Our generation has never expected Social Security or Medicare to exist for us when we retire. We have always known our taxes are paying for the Social Security and Medicare benefits of our parents and grandparents. We went along with it, but knew changes had to come eventually because the system was going broke.
Everything changed in 2008. The political system came too close to putting at risk the economic well-being of that which is most important to us.
Generation X found itself sandwiched between the needs of our parents and the needs of our children. Our parents believed in the “lock box” fantasy and planned their retirement around it. Baby boomers lost a great deal of their savings when the economy collapsed in 2008, forcing Generation X to puzzle through the notion of supporting both their parents and their children. Worse, the budget problems have sustained our economic crisis, making it harder for us to generate wealth to do so. If we continue down this same path, we pass huge debt burdens to our children.
This generation of over-involved mothers won’t allow that. Our cynicism, by necessity, is giving way to a more passionate group of suburban women who no longer feel their voice is too small to matter.
Suburban women are still concerned about “women’s issues” as baby boomers perceive them, but Generation X knows that a better health care system and a stronger education for our children depend on whether our generations can come together and fix the federal budget.
This election is about asking the federal government to do what suburban women have been doing for the last four years: pay down our debt, balance the budget, do more with less, and begin to rely on each other instead of the government.
Women don’t want Social Security or Medicare cut to shreds because our parents depend on them, but we believe these entitlements can and must be reformed and brought into the modern era, so we don’t bankrupt our children’s future.
Paul Ryan is speaking our language. It should be perfectly obvious why the first national politician to spring from Generation X focused his attention completely on the budget crisis. He understands that we want to protect the generations that sandwich ours, and that makes him the perfect pick to appeal to suburban women; women who are worried simultaneously about the future of their parents and their own children.
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