Vice President Kamala Harris is the topic of a revealing generational custody battle

A generational custody battle is raging over Vice President Kamala Harris. Right now it’s a fall between the brave baby boomers and the laid-back Gen Xers, both of whom are hoping to claim them as their own.

It is another sign that identity politics is king and that the identity of the generations has its place alongside race, gender and ethnicity in the definition of politicians.

Harris, born in October 1964, made the Pew Research Center the cutoff for a baby boomer for just a few months. That doesn’t go well with Gen Xers, who, unsurprisingly, have the feeling that they have to subscribe to conventions such as predetermined limits. Instead, they decided to claim Harris as one of their own.

Just last week, the Washington Post spoke about the rise in generational pride. “The Chuck Taylors seemed like a clue. Kamala D. Harris named the Converse sneakers her all-time favorite. When the Biden Harris ticket won, millions of former Benetton shoppers enjoyed the underlying achievement: A A member of Generation X had reached the White House for the first time. “Rolling Stone agreed, stating that seeing Harris as a boomer was” culturally speaking, horses — “.

The boomers, for their part, refuse to give up their legitimate claim to the newly installed vice president and insist that such limits must be adhered to or chaos will break out. As an article in the Washingtonian pushed back, “Sorry, she’s a boomer. Rules are rules, idlers.”

This is yet another sign that identity politics is king and that the identity of the generations, alongside race, gender, and ethnicity, has its place in defining the relationship between politicians and the people they represent. We want to see ourselves in our guides, and awakening that interest is a desire to know if our guides are in any way like us. Finding a candidate who identifies as the same gender, ethnicity, religion, or even generation can give us a sense of security that our leaders are representing our values ​​and priorities. When our leaders are perceived as “like us”, we tend to be more satisfied with them and their performance.

This phenomenon can be explained in a number of ways, including the similarity bias (the more we believe people like us are, the more we think positively about them) and vicarious experience dynamics (when we see others like us succeed, this builds our trust that we can also be successful). Shahana Hanif, a 29-year-old New York City Council candidate, put it this way: “Kamala Harris’s victory showed my family and community that people like us can win.”

Probably in part for all of these reasons, Harris’s breach of the barrier as a woman who is a Black and South Asian American in a landmark role in the White House has had a huge resonance. Now attention has turned to their generational identity.

Knowing that our leaders grew up at a similar time in history gives us confidence that they share our view of the world. As Vanity Fair once said, “A generation is creating shared experiences, the things that happened, the things you’ve all done and heard and read and been through, and most importantly, the things that didn’t happen.” . “

As a generation researcher (and Gen Xer) I respect the established generation boundaries – up to a point. It is a bit of both art and logic to draw generation lines, usually based on significant formative events that one generation will remember but the next generation will not. These formative experiences affect our values ​​and our navigation in the world.

Kamala Harris left her in 1970 with her sister Maya and mother Shyamala outside their apartment in Berkeley, California.Kamala Harris campaign via AP

Harris (like others born on the cusp of two generations) is a product of both the progressive spirit of the boomers and the cultural zeitgeist of the earliest wave of Generation X. Harris grew up with the fact that her parents took her to protest with their strollers , certainly a fundamental experience that deserves baby boomer status, as well as the stories of the protests she organized against a neighbor who refused to let children play on his lawn. In a recent article, the San Francisco Chronicle found, “Much of Kamala Harris today travels back to childhood in Berkeley in the 1960s and early 1970s.”

On the flip side, many of their formative experiences are also shared with Gen Xers: Harris was the child of divorce at the age of 7, a decided Gen X growing up trend. According to The Post, “As the key child of non-European immigrants that Salt-N-Pepa, Prince and Phil Collins have on their summer playlist, Harris – a Doritos-loving, Converse and pearl-wearing collaborative leader who doesn’t.” I’m not always looking for the spotlight – it’s ours. Pure Gen X. “

From generation to generation or otherwise, Harris quickly defied all attempts to put them in neat boxes. While she has embraced and advocated many issues that are important to race, sexual orientation, and gender, it was clear to Harris that they consider them important to everyone. Shouting to critics who she believes are trying to “arm” the notion of identity politics against them, she said, “It’s derogatory. This phrase is used to divide and distract. Its purpose is to solve problems to minimize and marginalize that affect everyone. ” from us. “

That fall, Harris said she “didn’t spend a lot of time characterizing herself,” explaining that “when I first ran for office, one of the things I struggled with was that You will be forced through this process to define yourself to fit exactly into the subject that other people have created. “

So it looks like we have to share custody. As with many aspects of her background, Harris is able to unite rather than divide. Born on the cusp of two generations, she can understand the experiences and perspectives of both the late baby boomers and the early Gen Xers. With 62 percent of voters under 35 saying they see Harris positively, she’s also managed to earn the respect of Millennials and Gen Z’s.

Born on the cusp of two generations, she can understand the experiences and perspectives of both the late baby boomers and the early Gen Xers.

For these younger generations, Harris is a long overdue pioneer breaking down barriers to leadership. According to the Rolling Stone article, “she embodied a classic Gen X straddle … on the road to power through a system controlled by older, whiter, more conservative politicians, and then suggested leveraging that power to serve.” Leveraging power ideals that she shared with the vast, diverse, and progressive generations of Millennials and Zoomers who grew up behind her. “

By taking into account all of the different levels of identity that have contributed to who she is, and by showing how issues she advocates go beyond a group’s agenda, Harris can potentially help bring a broken country together. In doing so, she lives out the advice of her mother, who once advised her: “Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.”


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