Posted: Jan. 5, 2016
GENERATIONAL COMINGS AND GOINGS
By Celia Cohen
Generation X has been kind of the Brand X of generations. Not too distinguishable.
The Gen X-ers got crunched. They have spent their lifetime, which began somewhere between 1965 and 1980, being outshined, overshadowed and upstaged by the Baby Boom ahead of them, and now, just as the Boomers should be aging out of their way, here come the Millennials behind them.
It is a generational tale that is playing out in Delaware politics.
Before Gen X has gotten itself a governor or a senator or a congressperson, there is already a Millennial trying to elbow his way to one of the prime statewide offices, where the Baby Boom currently has a monopoly.
It is Bryan Townsend, born in the first year of the Millennial Generation in 1981, a Democratic state senator with all of four years of legislative experience, now in the running for the congressional seat.
Typical. Millennials think they matter, just like the Baby Boomers always did. Still do.
Like the Boomers, the Millennials have had their shocks as they came of age. The assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Vietnam and Watergate for the Boomers, and Sept. 11 and the Great Recession for the Millennials. It can make a generation get serious fast.
One way or another, the 2016 election will bring generational change to state politics.
Most significantly, it will usher out Joe Biden, born in 1942, unarguably the most transcendent political figure to come out of Delaware from the Silent Generation and arguably from any other generation between here and the peerless "colonial generation" of Caesar Rodney, John Dickinson, George Read and Thomas McKean.
A senator-elect at 29. A state-record-setting seven elections to the Senate, although he resigned the last term. A two-term Democratic vice president.
Never mind how silly it sounds to say "Joe Biden" and "Silent" in the same sentence.
Biden was the last of his kind, a member of the Silent Generation in statewide office here, although he could still find some contemporaries in the General Assembly.
If Biden felt like being called "Senator" again, he could come home and run for the state Senate and join up with five fellow Silents, namely, Brian Bushweller, Bruce Ennis, Margaret Rose Henry, Dave McBride and Harris McDowell, all Democrats.
It would mean taking out Greg Lavelle, the Republican minority whip who is up for re-election in 2018, but it is a Republican-leaning district.
"I would welcome the race," quipped Lavelle, who is a Boomer born in 1963.
It would hardly be surprising if the governorship went into the election held by a Boomer and came out of the election held by a Boomer in a handoff from Jack Markell, the outgoing Democratic governor born in 1960, to John Carney, the Democratic congressman born in 1956.
The governorship has been lobbed back and forth between the Silents and the Boomers for 40 years now, from Pete du Pont (Republican Silent) to Mike Castle (Republican Silent) to Tom Carper (Democratic Boomer) to Ruth Ann Minner (Democratic Silent) to Markell.
It was not supposed to keep going that way. It was supposed to look like a breakout election for governor for Generation X. Beau Biden was born in 1969.
Generation X could still get there someday. Matt Denn, the Democratic attorney general, is a Gen X-er, born in 1966, and so is Ken Simpler, the Republican treasurer, born in 1967, although if there is anything more overshadowed than Gen X, it is Republicans in Delaware. It leaves Simpler dealing with a double whammy.
Colin Bonini, the state senator running for governor for the Republicans, is also a Gen X-er, born in 1965, but really.
If there is to be a generational breakout this election, it would have to be in the open race for the congressional seat, which Carney is giving up to run for governor.
The leading candidates come out of three generations with two Boomers, two Gen X-ers and a Millennial all in the running.
The Boomers are Lisa Blunt Rochester, a former Cabinet member born in 1962, for the Democrats, and Hans Reigle, a past Wyoming mayor born in 1964, for the longshot Republicans.
They would keep the federal delegation all-Boomer along with Tom Carper, the Democratic senior senator born in 1947, and Chris Coons, the Democratic junior senator born in 1963.
The Gen X-ers are Sean Barney, born in 1975, the Democratic candidate for treasurer in 2014, and Bryon Short, born in 1966, a Democratic state representative. The Millennial is Townsend, the Democratic state senator. They would lead their Delaware contemporaries where they have never gone before, and all of Delaware with them.
"It's a different perspective. It just is," Townsend said. "As a Millennial, ours is, let's put the typical politics aside and get down to results. It comes down to data and results and policy."
Not that the 2016 election is going to hang on who comes from what generation. As Townsend put it, "At the end of the day, it's not about age."
Not anymore. Not since the Boomers gave up not trusting anyone over 30.