Political Generational Shifts

As the national Presidential campaigns get into full swing, the looming question that is coming from it is whether the potential nominees (Biden vs. Trump, part 2) speak to the entire American people due to their age. Considering that President Joe Biden is currently 80 years old, and Trump is 77, the question comes with some merit as the median age of a person in the United States currently stands at 38.1 years old.

However, take away the age number and place each into their generational category, and you will find something very interesting going on, with the result being whether this country will continue to be run by a member of the Silent Generation or return to a pattern of being run by Baby Boomers for probably one last time.

But before we go down the road of describing who is what, let’s pause here and define our generational terms. There are currently six generations who are living in the United States They are and the associated years of birth,

  • Silent Generation – 1928 – 1945
  • Baby Boomer – 1946 – 1964
  • X-generation – 1965 – 1980
  • Millennial – 1981-1996
  • Generation Z – 1997 – 2013
  • Generation Alpha – 2010-ish – 2025

Three generations before the Silent Generation, that are relevant to this blog article are,

  • The Missionary Generation – 1860 – 1882
  • The Lost Generation – 1883 – 1900
  • The Greatest Generation – 1900 – 1925
President Roosevelt
President Truman
President Kennedy
President Clinton
President Biden
Since 1945, the USA has seen 4 changes of generations occupying the White House.
PC: See below for full list

Currently, the leading contenders for the White House in 2024 represent the top two generations on the list – President Biden, a Silent and former President Trump, a Boomer. And if all political predictions remain the same for the next year and one-half, the country’s leadership for at least four more years (2024-2028) will be led by either a Boomer or Silent.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, as this blogger did “Eh, so this last presidential election we had a generational change, going backward?”, and the answer to that question is “surprisingly, yes”. And if President Biden wins a second term, it will represent a unique wrinkle in the history of the presidency, in which the person after Pres. Biden will most likely be in the X-generation category (this blogger’s prediction – Ron DeSantis of Florida or Gavin Newsom of California), jumping over Boomers.  

Before this current back-and-forth on generation swapping in the White House, the accession of one generation over another has been quite linear. Going back to the changeover between Missionary and Lost, the change happened in 1945 when President Franklin Roosevelt (1882) passed away and Harry S Truman (1884) took over as President.

The Lost Generation would only hold onto the White House for 15 years when John F. Kennedy (1917) won the Presidency in 1960. Even in his inaugural speech, he mentioned that a new generation had taken over,

Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

And for the next 32 years, the Greatest Generation would have an unbroken string of leaders occupy the White House, until 1992 when Bill Clinton (1946) defeated George Herbert Walker Bush (1924). And Baby Boomers would hold onto it for another 28 years until President Biden (1942) defeated Donald Trump (1946), flipping it backward from Boomer to Silent.

With the 2024 election on the horizon, and as mentioned the two leading candidates are Biden and Trump, interesting statistics come into play. The first one is whether the Silent Generation will hold the title of only holding the White House for a single-digit amount of years (4 currently, 8 possibly), or will Boomers come back and hold the presidency for the same number of years as Greatest (32) should Trump win.

Of course, if anything happens to either leading candidate (Biden does not run/is unable to run; Trump is disqualified from running/unable to run), these observations most likely will be thrown out and a whole new paradigm may emerge.

Let’s see – maybe that generational shift could happen sooner, or later!

Photo credits
Roosevelt: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt" by FDR Presidential Library & Museum is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Truman: "Harry S. Truman, president of the United States" by Kheel Center, Cornell University Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Kennedy: "REMEMBERING JFK" by roberthuffstutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Clinton: "42 William J. 'Bill' Clinton" by US Department of State is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.
Biden: "Joe Biden February 2020 crop" by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, Arizona is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.