Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baby Boomers Rock, But They Also Vote

I have suggested many times that the government is not paying attention to the Baby Boomer generation, when planning our future.

We are the ones who will now be tapping into services we once propped up.

However, there is another aspect of the Boomer generation that politicians are also overlooking. Our votes.

Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau are visiting universities, and in the case of Justin, even high schools; to encourage youth to get involved in the political process. This is great, since it's their future, but they should also be looking at us.

David Cravit author of a book; The New Old, had a great op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail yesterday, where he discusses just that.
In both Canada and the United States, the Zoomers (the 45-plus) account for about 60 per cent of all ballots cast in national elections. This percentage dwarfs all other age groups. Yet, the politicians – and most of the media – focus on other age groups who don't bring a fraction of the same political clout.

Pollsters are also not paying attention to this. Nik Nanos this week, when discussing CAPP; suggested that it was inconsequential, because it was just a bunch of kids who will soon get bored.
The survey by Ottawa-based Nanos Research offers insight into what weight politicians should give to Facebook sites like Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) which in a matter of days in early January attracted a quarterof a million members. Not much, in pollster Nik Nanos's assessment. Canadians in the 18-to-29 cohort - who use Facebook the most ...

What Nanos fails to understand is that while 'Canadians in the 18-to-29 cohort' use Facebook the most, those who use this social media to become engaged in politics, is a different demographic.

Murray Dobbin explains:
"...despite the perception that CAPP members are university and college students or recent graduates with active social lives, half of the respondents are 45 years of age or older. Thirty-four per cent of the respondents are 31-44 years of age and 16 per cent are aged 18-30. ...the respondents are politically engaged people: 88 per cent described themselves as either somewhat or very engaged in federal politics. In addition to this, 96 per cent of the participants indicated that they voted in the last federal election."

So now as one of those in the hmmm ... '45 years of age or older' group, I'm going to throw in my two cents worth, because to me, while well intentioned; David Cravit doesn't quite get it either.

He proposes that politicians should look at policies that would benefit us old fogies. But we've been there, done that.

See the 'new old', or the new senior citizen, is vastly different from those in my grandparents' day. We like rock music, technology, going to the gym and staying active.

We are the Woodstock generation, the Civil Rights Movement generation, and the generation that first realized that anything is possible. We burned our bras, burned our bridges and often burned the candle at both ends; but we survived it all and are taking some of that with us into our golden years.

That's what politicians need to pay attention to. Look at the successful politicians from our generation, and what they had in common? I can sum it up in two words 'progressive thinking'.

We had a fierce pride in our country then, but not because of our military past, or our attachment to the Queen of England, or our love of maple syrup. We were proud of our progressive thinking.

We were proud that we harboured draft dodgers, stayed out of the Vietnam war (more or less) and as 'Peaceniks, created the 'Peacekeepers'.

We were proud that Pierre Trudeau was considered cool by the rest of the world. I remember as a teenager visiting my aunt in Michigan, and she invited some women, and a few teens from her small community in for kind of a meet and greet. The only thing these women and girls wanted to talk about was Trudeau. He was like a rock star and mainly because us boomers made him one.

We also created a generation of progressive thinkers, as we passed that spirit onto our children. I remember my kids as teens playing my old albums, more than I did. The Doors, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, all found a new listening audience. I can't even imagine playing my parents music when I was young. Somehow Guy Lombardo just didn't cut it.

Today's emerging seniors don't think of ourselves as old. We think of ourselves as having lived.

If politicians want to tap into our votes, they will take climate change seriously. They will take gender equality seriously. They will take a legitimate child care plan seriously. They will raise taxes and end the enormous and ridiculous corporate tax cuts, so that our grandchildren are not paying for them.

They will take health care seriously, and peace seriously and education seriously.

Because as grandparents, we want our grandchildren to grow up in the same kind of Canada that we grew up in. And to do that will require politicians who are willing to think ahead, and not try to move us back.

That's why we have never really embraced the Harper government, with their 1950's attitudes; because we are the ones who took this country out the 1950's and most of us have no desire to revisit those 'good old days' (except in fits of nostalgia where we might start twisting until we throw out a hip).

And politicians and pollsters can take that to the bank.