Talkin’ ’Bout My Generation X

I happened upon a recent Twitter exchange between Nate Hochman and American Greatness’ own Julie Kelly. It evoked a remembrance of youth and a reminder all politics is “local” and personal.

In that Twitter thread, Hochman announced he would be writing a piece “about why young conservatives are so much more radical than their predecessors. I have my own suspicions about the root cause, obviously, but curious to hear the thoughts of other young righties on here: why *are* we so crazy?”

To which Kelly replied: “Hope you ask how much influence their Gen X parents have :).”

Subsequent to the exchange, Hochman noted one explanation: “Have been chatting with some friends for the piece this week, and one viable explanation I’ve heard—consistent with my own preexisting ideas—is that it’s experiential: on campus, online and in the streets, young conservatives are just encountering a much more hard-edged left.”

As a member of Generation X, I chuckled at Hochman’s perception that his generation was considered “so crazy” compared to others. Growing up, the dominant liberal culture worried Generation X, my generation, was a sign that Our Democracy™ was doomed.

For generations, youth had been the exclusive domain of the Left. The Left cultivated and indoctrinated youth with their most radical beliefs. For a large segment of the Baby Boomers, this culminated the rise of the “New Left” in the later 1960s. The New Left’s narcissistic and nihilistic pursuit of a terrestrial Eden coercively wrought by the power of an omnipotent state led David Horowitz and Peter Collier to author a book designating the Baby Boomers as the Destructive Generation.

On the heels of the New Left’s chaos came my Generation X. While the oldest of us cast our first presidential vote for President Ronald Reagan in his 1984 reelection campaign, the Left was on to our political leanings well before that second Reagan landslide. For the first time in memory, the Left began attacking youth as callow and lacking in intellectual depth—despite the fact we watched PBS’ “Firing Line” with William F. Buckley and read his National Review (which was harder to find at a book store than pornography), and other conservative columnists and publications. 

Perhaps the culmination of the Left’s attacks on the youthful Gen X conservative movement was the one that most spectacularly backfired. Commencing in 1982, the television series “Family Ties” featured a family headed by former hippies with a son who was a Hollywood caricature of young conservatives, namely Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox). Unfortunately, for the Left, rather than being mocked by the audience, the young Mr. Keaton became the show’s fan favorite.

In sum, it is almost impossible to explain to today’s young conservatives how shocking Gen X was to a Left that had never witnessed conservatism influence or instruct a significant portion of a generation. But it is also hard for Gen X conservatives—who remain America’s most conservative bloc of voters—to view Hochman’s endeavor to divine the reasons for his generation’s outré conservatism and do anything but knowingly smile, as did Kelly.

Regarding Gen X, the Left’s investigation of our political influences—however wrong and malicious—was more an exercise in rationalization for them. Gen X wasn’t conservative because we were greedy and ignorant, or emotionally damaged and confused latch key kids needing a grandfather figure named “The Gipper.” 

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The leading edge of Gen X came of age in the 1970s. We saw the results of liberal policies, such as stagflation, gas lines, the Iranian hostage crisis, and communism on the march. Starting in 1981, we witnessed the results of conservative policies, a booming economy and peace through strength—“Morning in America” breaking brightly over the ebbing darkness of liberals’ benighted American “malaise.” In sum, Gen X saw that liberal policies didn’t work; and saw that conservative policies did. Thus, Gen X was the first conservative generation in memory.

All too often I hear that America’s youth have been indoctrinated by the “woke” Left; and, consequently, that there is little hope for preserving our free republic in the future. But as Gen X’s political consciousness was shaped by the disastrous consequences of the liberal Carter Administration’s failed policies, today’s rising generation’s political consciousness will be shaped by the disastrous consequences of the Biden Administration’s failed policies. True, not every member of today’s youth will reach the same policy conclusions and party destination just as not every member of Gen X became a conservative. But as with every generation—be it sooner or later—for the practical, pain is an exceptional teacher.

So, yes, Hochman is definitely onto something; and this Generation Xer wishes him Godspeed in talkin’ ’bout his generation.  

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

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