Marco Rubio’s Divisive Generational Politics

Senator  Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old Republican from Florida, began his campaign for the American presidency this week with a calculated and divisive generational attack.

He implies that America’s 77 million baby boomers are “yesterday” and states the time has come for a new generation to lead America.

In his campaign launch speech, Rubio stated:

  • “Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century … “
  • “This election … is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be ….”:
  • “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

Can you imagine Hilary Clinton, 67, or Jeb Bush, 62, starting their  presidential campaigns by alienating younger generations and encouraging Americans to vote for them on the basis of age?  Such is the nature of age discrimination, and Rubio knows it.

Rubio is essentially arguing that this campaign shouldn’t be about qualifications, experience and vision.  He is stoking harmful and false stereotypes related to age, as well as underlying fear and animus toward older Americans. And all the while  he is exploiting  his Cuban immigrant roots and the idea that invidious discrimination doesn’t matter in the United States.

In case you hadn’t noticed,  Marco Rubio is the youngest contender in the field of presidential candidates and he is counting on this to propel him into the vice-presidency.

America’s political system is broken but the reason for this is not the age of the participants but how they voted when they got into office. Government policies favor the rich over the middle class and poor.  The share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent of Americans  increased to 22 percent in 2012, compared to seven percent in the late 1970s. The top 0.1 percent includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20 million in 2012. Rising inequality is crushing the hopes and dreams of the old and young alike, creating intense competition for crumbs left behind by the Waltons and the Koch brothers.

Standing in front of Miami’s Freedom Tower, Rubio  goes on to note that “for almost all of human history, power and wealth belonged only to a select few. Most people who have ever lived were trapped by the circumstances of their birth, destined to live the life their parents had. But America is different. Here, we are the children and grandchildren of people who refused to accept this.”  The real irony is that Rubio does not acknowledge that Americans increasingly are trapped (or helped) by the circumstances of their birth.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I argue that age discrimination in employment literally is built into America’s law and that older workers are subjected to systematic irrational discrimination that leaves them vulnerable to poverty or near poverty in old age.  What I’d like to know is whether any presidential candidate thinks this is a contravention of basic American ideals and values, and what they will do to change it.

And, by the way, why do Florida’s older voters support a candidate who thinks they are “over.”