Obama Versus Gen X

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Why Obama's current controversy could deny him the Gen X swing vote

While understanding these generational differences certainly makes politics challenging, the candidate who respects them and communicates coherent strategies for each group will thrive now and in years ahead.

Never mind the brilliant speeches; never mind the unwavering support of collegiate Gen Ys (age 26 and younger); never mind the ability to confront the powerful Clinton political machine. Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama may have a tougher fight ahead of him in the primaries and in the national election if he succeeds in winning his party's nomination - and the hardest challenge he will face may not be age, race or religion.

According to Generational Expert Ann A. Fishman, the challenge could be winning the hearts and minds of his own generation, Generation X, ages 27 to 47, the often-overlooked "generational swing vote."

She cites three reasons Xers could pull away from Obama:

#1 - Generation X is a cynical generation. Xers are likely to look at the current controversy, focused on the more than two-decade relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, with cold eyes. They are not an idealistic generation moved by lofty rhetoric. Xers are skeptics, They have weathered weak support systems (family, religion and government programs), and are lined up to be perhaps the first American generation that may not exceed their parents' standard of living. Because one of their generational characteristics is a desire to have mentors - sadly lacking during their childhood - they may empathize with Senator Obama's difficulty breaking the bond with his pastor on a personal level. But it is not a quality they desire in a President.

#2 - Generation X is a multi-cultural generation, but they look forward, not behind. Xers walk the walk that other generations have just talked about. They do strive to be color-blind and gender-neutral. But while they would be proud to be the first generation to help elect an African-American as President, they would never vote for a candidate for that reason alone. To Xers, the Senator could appear to be looking backward instead of forward by focusing on race, promoting programs that will could Xers higher taxes in the future, and promising to cement their future based on words alone.

#3 - Xers respond to authenticity and proven track records.

Senator Obama has presented himself as a "new-style" candidate, above the fray of politics. Yet, as the primaries drag on, that image will become increasingly difficult to maintain.

Highly-individualistic Xers jump party lines, expecting the most powerful leader in the world to be the best qualified. In a head-to-head national confrontation with Senator McCain, Xers might not see David versus Goliath; they could view it as a race between a neighborhood organizer and inexperienced Senator running, against an aging maverick Senator, with a proven record.

Fishman says, "The controversy over Reverend Wright could heighten Xers' skepticism that Obama as President has the practical ability to react effectively in a crisis - answering the "3 AM" phone call, if you will."
She concludes: "To appeal to Gen X, Senator Obama will have to present, especially in a national primary, a practical plan for Xers' future. Otherwise, he risks appearing as charismatic and well-educated, but largely, an "unknown" quantity. Practical, cynical and multi-cultural Xers are likely to look less for vision and ideals, and more for authenticity and a track record of governing. "    

About the Generational Approach
Based on Fishman's research into the habits and values of America's six living generations - the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation 9/11, each generation brings a distinctive set of traits, habits and characteristics. These are important as keys to understanding political dynamics and voting patterns in elections.

Fishman concluded, "While understanding these generational differences certainly makes politics challenging, the candidate who respects them and communicates coherent strategies for each group will thrive now and in years ahead."

About Ann Fishman and Generational Targeted-Marketing

More information on Ann Fishman's generational expertise can be found at http://www.annfishman.com. Fishman's company, Generational-Targeted Marketing Corp. (GTM), is a specialized marketing firm providing insight into consumer preferences, buying habits and trends affecting the American consumer. As GTM's president, Fishman has served as a consultant to numerous corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations on generational issues and has presented her theories to them. She also serves as a member of the Adjunct Faculty at New York University. For further information on GTM, call 1-504-813-7890.


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