Joe Stands Alone

Something interesting came up the other day: in conversation elsewhere, I learned that Joe Biden is the ONLY member of his generational cohort (“The Silent Generation,” born between 1928 and 1945) to ever be President, and given the age of that group it’s likely none will follow him.

After Ike, POTUS was always a member of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” born between 1901 and 1927. They fought the war, hence the name. So, after Ike — a member of the prior “Lost” generation, born in 1890 — we had a parade of Greatests for thirty years:

  • JFK, born 1917, took office in 1961, and turned 44 his first year in office
  • LBJ, 1908, 1963, 55
  • Nixon, 1913, 1969,56
  • Ford, 1913, 1974, 61
  • Carter, 1924, 1977, 53
  • Reagan, 1911, 1981, 70 (which was a huge point of discussion at the time)
  • GHWB, 1924, 1989, 65

Then we skipped the Silent folks entirely, and the Boomers took over for nearly another 30 years:

  • Clinton, 1946, 1993, 47
  • GWB, 1946, 2001, 55
  • Obama, 1961, 2009, 47
  • Trump, 1945, 2017, 71

It’s only then that a member of the Silent cohort got elected, in what was really a black-swan electoral event in lots of ways — absent the very specific factors of the 2016 race, it’s easy to imagine a world where no Silent gets elected at all. Instead, Joseph R. Biden, born 1942, was inaugurated in 2021, and turned 79 his first year in office.

It seems clear he’ll remain the only Silent to ever sit in the Oval.

That got me thinking: Why?

Turns out? Numbers. The Silent cohort was comparatively small — especially compared to the groups that came before and after. There are lots of reasons for this, but the biggest ones are probably the Depression and the War depressing birth rates.

Pew suggests the Silent group was “only” about 47M births; compare that to the Boomers at 76M.

All this points me to an uncomfortable realization: my own cohort, GenX, is also a small group sandwiched between two much larger generations (the Boomers and the Millennials). That could lead to the Oval skipping us, too. :(

Oh well.

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