President-elect Joe Biden is three weeks away from taking the oath of office, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is getting ready to take his oath for the second time.
Both celebrations probably will be smaller than usual, thanks to COVID-19 precautions. In a way that’s too bad, despite how expensive and gaudy these ceremonies can be. January’s inaugurations could be the last such large events for the Baby Boomers and the generation born during and before World War II.
Biden is 78. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is 78. All three were born before or during World War II, making them older than Baby Boomers, who were the first generation born after the war.
Justice is a Boomer. At 69, he’s younger than his good friend Donald Trump, 74.
The older generation has hung on to power for a long time, but soon it will need to yield to younger ones.
Generations X and Y have had to wait for their chance to take over — perhaps too long. The good news nationally is that there is a wave of younger political talent in the wings. To pick four, Marco Rubio is 49, Nikki Haley is 48, Tulsi Gabbard is 39 and Pete Buttigieg is 38.
West Virginia’s congressional delegation is predominantly Boomer. David McKinley is 73 and Carol Miller is 70, while Alex Mooney is the lone Gen Xer at 49. Mooney also happens to be the most vulnerable politically when the district boundaries are redrawn next year.
Justice cannot run again in 2024 because of term limits, and almost no one expects Biden to complete his term, much less run for re-election. Should he not finish his term, Kamala Harris, now 46, would become the first Gen Xer president.
Here in West Virginia, state government remains dominated by Boomers.
One role of a political party is to look ahead and prepare candidates for the next election cycle. West Virginia has a number of Gen Xers who are preparing themselves to move up although they might have to wait a while. Some people seemingly come out of nowhere to make a run — Gaston Caperton in 1988, Justice in 2016 — while others, such as Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, work their way up through the system toward their inevitable triumphs. It’s too early to tell who has the inside track for which position in 2024.
The Boomer generation brought changes to American cultural and political life. Many of its members have retired and left the workforce, but some remain. Even they must acknowledge their time in power is limited.
Boomers and their elders should enjoy their grasp on the reins of power and revel in their ceremonies next month. Gen Xers and Gen Yers have four years to show they’re ready for 2024.