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Synecdoche for Ossification

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The title of this post is also that of my new neo-prog rock album so you can just forget about stealing it.

I was talking with a few law students about their views of this year’s presidential election, specifically why Kids These Days (these are Gen Zers in their mid-20s) are so negative about Uncle Joe. These were all liberal to left people, who would no more consider voting for Trump than for Mussolini, but who all trended between very unenthusiastic to flat-out despondent about the fact that, despite Ezra Klein’s et. al.’s political fanfic fantasies, Biden is going to be their alternative.

Here’s my rough take as to what’s going on (Marvin Gaye 1970. We are as far away from that album today as that album was from the Battle of the Somme).

First, the title of the OP. I get the sense from these students that Biden’s age symbolizes for them in a very concrete way the idea that a kind of ossified gerontocracy dominates American political life, in a manner that impedes dealing with the biggest social, political, economic, and environmental problems that they’re going to be dealing with over the course of the rest of this century.

Second, the profound disgust over Gaza is real, and somehow the widely understood truth that another Trump administration would be even worse in this regard doesn’t seem to ameliorate that visceral response.

Third, Biden’s physical self-presentation has gotten noticeably worse over the last four years, in a way that seems to disturb a lot of young people, because he now, much more than in 2020, comes off as really old in an aesthetic as opposed to a merely chronological way. This is a dumb reason to be turned off by him, but people are what they are, as these kinds of aesthetic reactions are as a practical political matter a big deal (Nixon sweating under the TV debate lights in 1960 etc. etc.)

Fourth, it’s hard for old people (like me) to remember how long ago the past is when you’re 24 and there’s so much more.

When I was 24, some people who had been born 81 years earlier included Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Dewey, John Steinbeck, and Tallulah Bankhead. You can try this same exercise on yourself to get some sense of what I’m talking about.

I don’t have any suggestions here; these are just observations about what’s going on.

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