By Pete Johnson
You think this is going to be about blame and guilt, right? It’s not. I’m a Baby Boomer and I’m not out to cast blame for our warming climate. However, the climate is changing and we are seeing the effects. This crisis needs to be addressed and there’s no time talk about how we got here. Solutions are about looking forward.
However, Baby Boomers do have a unique opportunity to respond to this crisis. With the Clean Power Plan under legal scrutiny, it is more important than ever for our congress to act and Boomers are uniquely positioned to make an impact on efforts to influence lawmakers.
What follows are some of the attributes Baby Boomers possess that are critical to moving what only feels like an unmovable object, the US Congress.
According to the AAPR website, in the 2012 elections, for the first time, older voters (50+) made up the majority of voters. Older Americans register and vote at a much higher rate than any other age group. According to the 2010 US Census, Americans ages 18 to 24 vote at the rate of 38%. Those ages 45 to 64, however, vote at a rate of 63.4%, while people 65 years and older vote at the astonishing rate of 69.7%.
Legislators tend to respond to those they know will vote in the next election. When a Baby Boomer speaks up, legislators see someone who will most likely follow up, speak up in their state and, ultimately, vote.
Many Baby Boomers are not concerned about the climate, but many are and we don’t need everyone to respond to make our point. Moreover, not as many seniors are conservative as conventional wisdom would have you believe. According to the AARP, in 2015, 67% of those ages 50 to 64 self-identify as Liberal or “mixed.”
According to Jeremy Deaton, a guest contributor on the Think Progress Website in September, 2015, “Few things strike fear into the hearts of politicians like a disgruntled grandparent entering a voting booth. Seniors wield immense political power in the United States, a fact made plain by their voting record. In the 2014 midterm elections, a year of historically low voter turnout, nearly 59 percent of adults aged 65 and older pulled the lever on Election Day. Just 23 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to do the same.”
Those over the age of 50 are, according to the AARP, a group 100 million strong and control 70 percent of all disposable income in the US. This age group buys two-thirds of all the new cars, half of all the computers and a third of all movie tickets. As the AARP’s Jody Holtzman puts it, “adults 50 years and older are the third largest economy in the world, trailing only the gross national product of the United States and China!” Isn’t there some saying about those who control the gold, make the rules? A group that represents so much wealth has to have a large amount or political influence. It is really a matter of putting that influence to work building a legacy of a clean and livable world.
What I am going to say here is more a matter of opinion but I am confident it will resonate with Baby Boomer. The older you get, the more the idea of your legacy comes into focus. Most of us Baby Boomers have kids, if not grandchildren. We have done and continue to do countless big and small things to assure the safety and well-being of those we love. Does it make sense to stop now?
The average age in the US House of Representative hovers right around 57 while the average age in the Senate is 61. These are the people we need to influence. Baby Boomers can speak to them peer to peer. Legislators are just people, like you and me. We all feel more comfortable with someone who shares our experiences. Knowing what life was like before computers and social media is just one of many ways that binds those of us around the same age. This sort of thing matters when connecting with a legislator.
If you are retired, it would follow that you have more time than you did when you were working. Even if you are still working but you are an empty-nester, think back to when the kids were little and the craziness of keeping your household from being swallowed up by all the things it takes to keep your family moving in the right direction. Young people (college-age), have time, care about the future and will turn out to rallies but they are notoriously unreliable at the voting booth and this fact saps their political power.
Young parents are just starting to think of their legacy because they love their children but are they are also inundated with the day to day effort that goes into raising those children. They often want to be on the phone with their legislators’ office but instead they are on the phone with their child’s school or day care or at a doctor’s appointment or picking up the dry cleaning. You get the picture.
At this point I hope you are realizing that, to a large extent, this solution to this crisis is in our hands. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is far too dramatic to say that what we do, right now, will echo throughout history and determine whether our children and grandchildren will experience a bright future or something too unimaginable to contemplate. This is that one time where it is absolutely appropriate. Your move.
Pete Johnson is the Executive Director of Project Green and Grey