Editor's note: A version of this column appeared originally in THE DAILY BEAST
If Mitt Romney succeeds in his quest for the presidency, the media will focus on his status as the first Mormon in the White House. But it’s even more significant that he’d represent the last of another controversial cohort: the final Baby Boomer to occupy the Oval Office, or even to top the ticket of a major political party.
After more than twenty years of dominating the national political scene, the narcissistic children of the ‘60s finally prepare to amble toward retirement, leaving the nation’s highest office to leaders from less polarized and self-righteous generations. Ironically, the Boomers’ last hurrah in the presidential arena will almost certainly come from a starchy straight arrow utterly untouched by weed or Woodstock, rock ‘n roll or rebellion, or other celebrated themes of his turbulent counterparts.
Of course, Hillary Clinton could confound Mitt’s status as the Last of the Boomers by breaking her pledge to eschew electoral politics and making a presidential race of her own in 2016 or thereafter. Even if she delayed her candidacy till 2020, she’d be only 73 at the time of the election – just a year older than John McCain in 2008, and four years younger than Ron Paul this year. Nevertheless, friends of the Secretary of State believe she’s serious in her determination to pursue other paths of public service and personal fulfillment.
There’s also the possibility that Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, could return to the political lists to pursue the presidency and to redeem his family’s honor, but his age and personal history make his identification with the ‘60s generation somewhat questionable. While sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss identify Baby Boomers as those born between 1943 and 1960, a younger member of that group like Jeb (born in 1953) would have missed out on most of the defining experiences of the era. For instance, President Nixon announced an end to the Vietnam draft before Jeb even graduated from prep school in 1971 – and when Barack Obama, by the way, was only ten.
The high school Class of ’65 – the graduating class of Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and me – comprised the very heart of the Baby Boom generation. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have both graduated in 1964, but it was in January 1965 that Time magazine ran a famous cover story on “TODAY’S TEENAGERS” with the hopeful subtitle “On the Fringe of a Golden Era.”