Mr. Jones and Me: Younger Baby Boomers Swing Left

Were you more into punk than the Beatles? Were you less likely to protest the war than streak? You might be a Generation Joneser.

I think it was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock last summer that finally pushed me over the edge.

All summer long we’d been reliving the ’60s. Again. There were the boomers, reminiscing about Howdy Doody, Vietnam, the Summer of Love.

Watching all of this, I thought, well, damn. I don’t have anything in common with these people at all. Which is awkward, because I too am a baby boomer.

Or so I thought. Because then a friend of mine — born, like me, in 1958 — told me that we’re not boomers. We’re Generation Jones.

It was a term I’d never heard before, although a quick internet search revealed that yes, Generation Jones is an actual thing. It refers to the second half of the baby boom, to a group of people born roughly from 1954 to 1965.

We might be grouped with the baby boomers, but our formative experiences were profoundly different. If the zeitgeist of the boomers was optimism and revolution, the vibe of Gen Jones was cynicism and disappointment. Our formative years came in the wake of the 1973 oil shock, Watergate, the malaise of the Carter years and the Reagan recession of 1982. Above all, we resented the older boomers themselves — who we were convinced had things so much easier, and in whose shadow we’d been forced to spend our entire lives.

The fact that most people have never even heard of Generation Jones is the most Generation Jones thing about Generation Jones.

But if you identify more with punk, funk or disco than, say, Elvis, Buddy Holly or the Beatles, you’re a Joneser.

Is “Leave It to Beaver” kind of a hazy memory, while “The Brady Bunch” is crystal clear? You’re a Joneser.

Were you too young for the draft (which ended in 1973) but too old to have to register for it (starting in 1979)? Was there a time when you cared more about CB radio than Twitter? Did you wear Earth Shoes? Were you less likely to protest the war than to streak? Hello, Mr. Jones.

Older boomers may have wanted to change the world,” Richard Pérez-Peña wrote in these pages in 2014; “most of my peers just wanted to change the channel.”

The term was coined in 1999 by Jonathan Pontell, a cultural critic, who likes the double meaning of “Jones”: not only the anonymity of it, but also the sense of yearning. And in an interview last week, Mr. Pontell told me he thinks that Generation Jones may play a crucial role in the 2020 election.

Unlike older boomers, members of this generation are reliably conservative, perhaps because the traumas of the 1970s led us to distrust government. But Mr. Pontell thinks that Jonesers are now tipping to the left, for two reasons. First, Mr. Trump’s fumbling response to the Covid-19 crisis has hurt him with Jonesers, who are part of the demographic most at risk from the disease. And then there is Mr. Trump’s cruel mocking of Joe Biden’s senior moments. “There are lots of seniors out there that also have senior moments,” Mr. Pontell says. “They don’t really like the president mocking those one bit.”

Donald Trump (who is, it should be noted, an older boomer) has been a fraud on so many levels, but if there’s anything authentic about him, it’s his air of grievance. It may have been this, Mr. Pontell says, that made Jonesers vote for him in 2016. Hillary Clinton, to them, was the epitome of older baby boomer entitlement, and if Mr. Trump stood for anything, it was for the very things Gen Jones most identifies with: jealousy, resentment, self-pity.

There’s a word in Ireland, “begrudgery.” Padraig O’Morain, writing in The Irish Times, says: “Behind a lot of this begrudgery lies the unexamined and unspoken assumption that there is only so much happiness to go around. And guess what? The others have too much and I have too little.”

I turned to the feminist author Susan Faludi — a fellow Generation Joneser, born in 1959 — for more insight. “I recognize the yearning/resenting description of that cohort,” she told me. “Personally, I’ve always been in the yearning category — a modern-day Miniver Cheevy, ‘born too late’ to be in the thick of the ’60s social justice movements, which I shamelessly romanticized. As a girl, I had, God help me, a suede fringe vest and a hippie doll that came with a sign that said ‘You Turn Me On!’”

But many Jonesers feel bitterness about the 1960s, Ms. Faludi said, not nostalgia: “Researching my book ‘Stiffed,’ I met many angry baby boomer men — laid-off workers, evangelicals, militiamen — who felt they were slipping down the status ladder and blamed civil rights, antiwar, feminist and L.G.B.T. activism for their misery.”

Jonesers expected that as adults, we’d inherit the same wide-open sense of opportunity as our older brothers and sisters. But when those opportunities dried up, we became begrudgers instead — distrusting of government, nervous about change and fearful that creating opportunities for others would mean a diminishment of our own.

And so instead of changing the world, we’ve helped to create this endless mess — a result of the choices we’ve made, and in the voting booth not least.

Damn. The more I think about it, the more I think I don’t relate to Generation Jones either.

But maybe not relating is what Generation Jonesers do best.

“In a way,” Ms. Faludi asked me, “aren’t we all Generation Jonesers now, all still living in the unresolved rain shadow of the ’60s, still fighting the same issues, still shouting the same chants (‘What do we want?…’)?”

Maybe. But I’m hoping that this tumultuous, traumatic spring is finally the time Generation Jones — and the rest of the country, too — embraces the idea of transformational change. It’s been 50 years now. Couldn’t 2020, at long last, be the year we end the 1970s?

We’ll soon find out. Something’s happening here, and you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?

 

Trump always lashes out when he’s cornered. He told me so years ago.

The president’s tweets and public remarks will only get wilder as the Russia investigation narrows.

In less than two hours, he managed to criticize his own FBI; peddle a new conspiracy theory; attack James B. Comey, Hillary Clinton and ABC; and draw more attention to the Russia probe that has already implicated several of his aides.
.. As someone who spent hundreds of hours observing Trump so I could write “The Art of the Deal,” I find his increasingly extreme behavior entirely consistent and predictable.
.. For five decades now, Trump’s pattern has been that the more aggrieved and vulnerable he feels, the more intensely he doubles down on the behaviors that have always worked for him in the past.
Sunday’s tweetstorm won’t be the last time the president indulges in self-pity, deceit and deflection. In all likelihood, it will get worse.
.. Trump’s first move in the face of criticism has always been to assume the role of victim. “Unfair” has long been one of his favorite words. He always perceives himself as the victim, so he feels justified in lashing back at his perceived accusers.

.. Here’s how he explained the tactic in “The Art of the Deal”:

“When people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard.”

And this:

“Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”

In the weeks ahead, Trump will also probably double down on lying, even as he falsely accuses others of being dishonest. Consider his remarkable recent suggestion to aides that his remarks on the “Access Hollywood” tape about assaulting women might not be real — even though he has already publicly acknowledged that they were his, and apologized for them. Trump regularly rewrites his narrative, using what Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts,” to fit whatever he wants to believe and convey in any given moment. This is classic “gaslighting” — a blend of lying, denial, insistence and intimidation designed to fuel uncertainty and doubt in others about what’s actually true.

In the time I spent with Trump, I concluded that lying became second nature to him long ago, both because he lacked any conscience about being deceptive and because he discovered that he could get away with it. “Truthful hyperbole” is the sanitized term I gave lying in “The Art of the Deal,” with Trump’s blessing. I have never met someone, before or since, who was untruthful so effortlessly.

In Trump’s mind, he is only doing what’s required to win. Here’s the way he describes himself in “The Art of the Deal”: “Despite what people think, I’m not looking to be the bad guy when it isn’t absolutely necessary.”

.. The more threatened Trump feels by troublesome facts, the more preposterous the lies he will tell.

.. To get the outcome he wants, he’s willing to be scorned, parodied and even reviled in ways most of us are not. “I’m the first to admit,” he said in “The Art of the Deal,” “that I am very competitive and that I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win.” He is willing to flatter, cajole and seduce, or bully, threaten and humiliate, depending on which approach he thinks will work best.

..  I watched him switch between these modes countless times during the 18 months I spent around him.

.. If he was getting what he wanted from someone on a call, he’d invariably sign off with, “You’re the greatest, you’re the best.” If he wasn’t getting his way, he was equally comfortable hurling insults and making threats.

.. The more frequent and aggressive Trump’s tweets become, the more threatened and vulnerable he is probably feeling. But he also knows that this approach can work.

.. The other predictable pattern for Trump is his approach to loyalty. He expects it unconditionally — more so when his behaviors prompt backlash — but he provides it only as long as he gets unquestioning adulation in return.

.. One of the most revealing relationships in Trump’s life was with Roy Cohn, best known as the chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy

.. For more than a decade, Cohn fought hard on Trump’s behalf and was fiercely loyal to him. They often spoke multiple times in a day. But when Cohn became ill with AIDS in 1984, Trump dropped him immediately.

..  I can’t remember a single occasion during the time I spent around Trump when he seemed genuinely interested in the welfare of another human being, including any of his three then-young children. And at that time, he was under vastly less stress than he is now. If either Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. become Mueller’s next target, I can’t help wondering what Trump will perceive as his self-interest.

 

Paul Ryan Keeps it all in the Family

they seem so craven, cynical, and, ultimately small-time. They have sunk so low that they are willing to get behind a candidate for whom they clearly have no regard.

.. Spokesmen for the various parties at first denied that the conversation took place. But when the Post apprised them of the audiotape, they went into an oh-well-it-was-just-a-joke mode.

.. These men must know that they are still defending the increasingly indefensible

.. he spends his days wallowing in fury, self-pity, self-aggrandizement, distraction, defensiveness, and delusion

 

This Dangerous Moment

at this point in American history — a point at which large numbers of voters in both parties believe that the system is “rigged” – for the president to be undone by a small group of establishment Republicans and replaced with a career politician would be disastrous for the culture.

.. Chris Arnade, writing from the left, agrees. If you don’t know who Arnade is, he’s a liberal (and former Wall Streeter) who travels America photographing and talking to the poor and working-class folks. He’s been a particular scourge on his own side, dunning the Democratic elites for looking down on the white working class and its travails.

Unlike a lot of Acela corridor pundits .. Arnade has actually been out among the Trumpenproletariat, and sympathizes with their plight, if not their politics.

.. he has screwed up so badly in the past two weeks that he has some Republicans in Congress using the i-word (impeachment), he stood today before graduating Coast Guard members and whined about how mean everybody is to him:

Trump at Coast Guard Commencement: “No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly”

 .. If one of my kids said that, I would chastise them for self-pity and excuse-making.
.. Chu’s expression of contemptible race and class bigotry tells a lot of people in this country what the elites think of them. It’s like Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” remark. Trump hates those elites, and they hate Trump, therefore the deplorables feel solidarity with Trump. The actual truth of what Trump said or did as president does not matter as much as that emotional truth, any more than the actual truth of what Michael Brown or Alton Sterling did matters to black people who see them as symbols of a deeper truth about American society.
.. He may be a fool, but he’s our fool

Trump’s 100th-day speech may have been the most hate-filled in modern history

Trump used his high office to pursue divisive grudges (Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is a “bad leader”), to attack the media (composed of “incompetent, dishonest people”) and to savage congressional Democrats (“they don’t mind drugs pouring in”). Most of all, Trump used his bully pulpit quite literally, devoting about half his speech to the dehumanization of migrants and refugees as criminals, infiltrators and terrorists. Trump gained a kind of perverse energy from the rolling waves of hatred, culminating in the reading of racist song lyrics comparing his targets to vermin. It was a speech with all the logic, elevation and public purpose of a stink bomb.

.. They must somehow believe that presidential rhetoric — capable of elevating a country — has no power to debase it.

.. The great temptation, in Havel’s view, is for people to conclude that politics can’t be better — that it “is chiefly the manipulation of power and public opinion, and that morality has no place in it.”

.. This demoralized view of politics would mean losing “the idea that the world might actually be changed by the force of truth, the power of a truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility.”

.. “Genuine politics,” argues Havel, “is simply a matter of serving those around us; serving the community, and serving those who will come after us.”

.. “I feel that the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human coexistence.”

.. It is certainly not the spirit of Trumpism, which exemplifies the moral and spiritual poverty Havel decries: the cultivation of anger, resentment, antagonism and tribal hostilities; the bragging and the brooding; the egotism and self-pity.

.. The alternative to Trumpism is the democratic faith: that people, in the long run, will choose decency and progress over the pleasures of malice. The belief that they will choose the practice of kindness and courtesy. The conviction that God blesses the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the stranger. Faith in the power of the truthful word.

.. But this can take place only if we refuse to normalize the language of hatred.