Generation O

The New York Times tries to understand the 18 to 29 demographic that helped get Barack Obama. Various excerpts.

They saw in Mr. Obama, 47, who was born at the tail end of the baby boom era, the values that sociologists and cultural critics ascribe to them.

Government under Mr. Obama, they believe, would value personal disclosure and transparency in the mode of social-networking sites. Teamwork would be in fashion, along with a strict meritocracy…

It would be hard to overestimate how much communication and an informal tone means to this generation. They have poured out their foibles and triumphs on blogs, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter. Older Americans see this as dangerous exhibitionism, but young adults believe the conversation leads to open-mindedness and consensus…

Ideology doesn’t matter. Young evangelicals can be just as creative in their use of the Web as liberal bloggers. The point is that communication technology is the tool that makes all things possible, from hook-ups and pop songs to protests or the president of their choice, said Neil Howe, a sociologist who studies young adults…

The pain of dashed hopes, if it comes, could be eased by this generation’s news media diet, which has made them fantastically informed and skeptical. Or it could be worsened by the psychology of how they were raised and came of age…

Seeing a new crop of young people texting their way to the Oval Office may never soothe those fearful boomers. For others, the generational transition may bring relief as the country seems to move past old, entrenched conflicts.

The best result of this generation coming of age and coming to power might be a real sense of post-partisanship. If the transparency and the skepticism and the disinterest in entrenched conflicts, lends itself to a refusal to pick sides. The least interesting approach to politics is the one that demands you pick a team and define yourself through and with that outfit. Partisanship might have its purposes (our Mr. Potter has argued this in the past), but it also gets in the way (read a lot of the comment threads on this site). 

Every young generation gets assigned unreasonable hope and promise. And every massive group of people is too organic to be organized around explicit goals without legislated leadership. But perhaps it’s possible to believe Generation O could organically come around to both explicitly and implicitly refusing to define itself through the party system.

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