Baby boomers who have followed politics can recall that many observers of presidential campaigns believe that the race really comes down the home stretch after Labor Day. It is like what the late golf analyst Ken Venturi used to say on Sundays at the Masters – he’d remind the audience that the tournament begins and ends on the back nine of the Sunday round. Well now it is Labor Day, and we are on the “back nine” of the presidential race. Much like a golf tournament, the conclusion of this presidential race may come down to who loses the tournament or the race, rather than who wins it. The 2016 campaign’s two baby boomer candidates, Trump and Clinton, are now heading down the fairways hoping that their mistake won't be the culprit that determines who loses, and thus who wins.
There will be so much written about Campaign 2016, filling the political science 101 courses with many twists and turns to make the future students’ heads spin. But for now, it is all about the march to Nov. 8. Amidst all the noise, the pundit commentary, and the celebrity candidates, what this really boils down to is the battle of "change" versus “status quo." Ronald Reagan once famously asked during the 1980 Campaign, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" It was a question that branded the Carter presidency as a failure. It was what made the 1980 election a “change” election. But the 2016 Campaign is not that simple. The unorthodox campaign of Donald Trump can be seen as “good” or “bad” based on your personal viewpoint. Is Donald Trump an “agent of change,” or a “disruptor”? Is he raising issues that we should be thinking about by using a fervent approach, or is he just volatile? And what are we to make of Hillary Clinton? If you are a Hillary Clinton supporter, you look at her and say that she has been a loyal public servant. On the other hand, if you distrust her, as many do, then she represents everything that politics should not be about, for her lack of transparency can indeed be disconcerting.
We as baby boomers like to romanticize about campaigns of the past, like the upbeat positive charisma of the 1960 Kennedy campaign. But the truth about most presidential campaigns is that they are hard work, brick and mortar, day-for-day pivots. Political rhetoric once played out in slogans, but is now viewed on 24-7 cable outlets. This will be the way that the 2016 campaign will probably be reviewed and analyzed in the future, for every phrase and every syllable has been played out for our edification. In some ways that is why the 2016 campaign feels like a “reality” television series that you can't get enough of, and yet some days you can't wait for it to end, even while you find yourself at the same time wondering what you will do when it is actually over.
There is another aspect playing out for baby boomers, which is that they feel this campaign might just be their last rodeo. They cringe when they hear younger commentators commenting that the two baby boomers are amongst the oldest to run for the highest office. Baby boomers have known Trump and Clinton for a long time; they see them as representative of themselves, with all the same warts that boomers possess.
Soon there will be a finish line. Soon there will be a decision in the 2016 race. But one thing is for certain - you shouldn’t stop observing during this political race season. In the time remaining between now and Nov. 8, to return to the Masters’ tournament metaphor, there is still a lot of Golf yet to be played; a lot could still happen to change the direction of this ever-extended campaign.
Where will you be on Sept. 26, when the first debate commences and the two boomers walk across the stage? You will be watching, and it will be better than any “reality” television program.
Rick Bava founded and was CEO of the Bava Group, which became the premier communications consulting firm serving the Fortune 500 community. Bava became known for his popular blog columns “Rick Bava on the Baby Boomer Generation.” He is the author of "In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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