Clash of Generations

This is the 2nd and concluding part of my blog, the first one titled as “Fear TRUMPS fact”

I would hazard a guess that the millennials and beyond backed a much more progressive discourse in politics and legislation. They personally felt involved about this agenda and wanted their leaders to reflect this. They were comfortable to back the agenda on liberal laws on issues of LGBT rights, climate change with a greater focus on reducing emissions. They were a lot more tolerant to talent migration and rapid in technology adoption which led to de-skilling. The Baby Boomer generation meanwhile may not be fully opposed to this, but when they feel the culture of their neighbourhood or nation is under threat, perceived or real, which is the campaign rhetoric from Trump, they would vote backing nationalism as the progressive agenda was not something they grew up with and hence not of natural adoption. This on the outside may seem like xenophobia or conservative views amplified but these are generational differences amplified as well.

The major hit in the next 4–8 years will be the progressive agenda as the government hunkers in this backlash. Climate change always requires an element of perceived sacrifice and it is always was deemed as doing larger good for the next generation and not my personal pocket and life today. The mood today is — WIIFM or Whats in it for me — no one has argued that way for climate change. It was also perceived as being a lot more harsh on the west as the developing economies got away. The current estimate of climate change is that emission levels may go back to the Bush era and all the gains in the Obama era gains would be wiped out.

As states were slowly opening up socially & with legislation backing the progressive agenda, this will possibly take a hit. Can we characterize this as an election as White Lashing Baby boomers Vs the progressive millennial agenda? The classic urban rural divide is probably bigger than ever in the last half century since the first round of industrialization. Baby Boomers being in suburbs and rural areas. If you look at the jobs created in the last 8 years, only 10% of the jobs went to white voters with no college degree. This is the voter base who strongly backed Trump as they still felt the 2009 recession. One of the theories in communication is in managing dual messaging to such groups. Messages which only speak of progress and growth seem even more stark & dark to the group left behind. This group feels even more alienated from democrats who were speaking about the progress made and these voters probably wondered — what did I not get in that progress?!

My worry with the Trump presidency is that he may not address this deep social fabric and invest in these. He may amplify this and we would have another revolution in hand 4 years from now. Presidents right from Bill Clinton, Bush and Obama who served 2 terms have promised to be the President of United States but have failed and we have this whilelash Baby Boomer revolution in hand. Incumbents like Merkel in Germany who probably are well intended and efficient, represent a progressive agenda may be ripe targets for change as they face the same set of variables — changing colour of the nation, progressive agenda, lack of inclusive growth, security and most importantly incumbent and hence perceived elitist. There is a mood to elect the outsider and any outsider of establishment is considered rebel or revolutionary. Will the new crop of leaders lead the free world in a deeper hole than before?

We forgot the biggest tenet in globalization — looking at what would happen to the social fabric with the invasion of technology. While its pace can be slowed but not stopped, it has changed our social fabric on jobs, rural and urban divide, migration of workforce, migration of jobs which are now transacted via technology. While the Baby Boomer generation adopted technology as statistics show that they have caught up with the digital natives, they were never comfortable with the shift in jobs and the constant need to re-skill and up-skill. Governments today have a larger problem where there could be large swathes of workforce whose skills could be redundant every 5 years.

As we look at mega trends, Trump also used the new media very well. When the radio first came, FDR was the first to adopt it and use it to his win, JFK mastered the TV and how to reach out. Obama introduced social media into campaign and politics. We now live in a phenomena called — reality social media — and Trump is the mascot. I say this in a nice way as he knew how to get more free press than expensive adverts. In reality TV, for some strange reason beyond me, we all like the villain, the vamp and tend to follow these characters more than the 2 goody shoes. Was that the contrast in the elections.

I also learnt many years back that messages need to be simple and personal. It was needed to be repeated ad-nauseam. it has to be an emotional appeal. Trump had that. Even a Democrat supporter remembered what he stood for. It cant be said that of Hillary. A message cannot be centred around what the other candidate is not. It has to be who you are and what you stand for — simple. In the corporate world, we call it elevator pitch. This becomes even more central for leaders. For a moment let us assume Trump lost, it still doesn’t take away the simmering mood and the whitelash movement. His win only amplifies it. Bernie Sanders understood this and tapped into this mood on wages, trade deals and instilled a revolution. He was the rank outsider fighting the establishment. This election was to elect an outsider.

While we now atleast know the social problem well as much as the agenda, treading cautious even more than ever on this agenda is critical. However, I am left wondering if we have the right candidate to lead it. Nationalism is here to stay. Fear trumps fact. Pun unintended. This could also be the generational clash of conservative baby boomers and progressive millennials. Governance for all seems elusive. The messenger is just carrying the deeper message of anger for his or a larger good. These are tectonic shifts in the free world which we cannot ignore and changes the course of history in a profound way.