Long, long ago in my hippie days, I agreed with Abbie Hoffman that you can’t trust anyone over 30. Last week I ran into the 28-year-old congressional candidate for New York’s 19th district Sean Eldridge, who was campaigning at a farmer’s market, and I wondered if I could trust anyone under 30, especially in a position of authority. I shook his impossibly young hand, but I really wanted to pinch his cheek and call him bubala. I still have not gotten used to thinking of him as a candidate for anything but a high school diploma.
Eldridge is not only under 30; he is buying his way into Congress. On the cutting edge of more than one trend, he’s married to Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook, who is plowing millions into his campaign
Eldridge’s opposition is more to my liking. Chris Gibson, 49, is weathered-looking, solidly middle class with an income in the lowest fifth of house members. Unlike Eldridge, who just arrived in town with pots of money to spend on his campaign, Gibson is a local. The only problem I have with Gibson is that he’s a Republican, albeit a somewhat liberal one. I have never voted for a Republican and I think I would be struck down dead by the ghosts of my Socialist parents if I did. Not that Eldridge is unworthy. I saw him debate Gibson and was struck with his poise under fire. He did a lot better than Obama did during his first debate with Romney. He was unruffled, cool and on the right side of the issues—especially fracking, a hot button issue around here and the kiss of death if you’re in favor of it like Gibson.
However, Eldridge came across as a bit of a Stepford husband. He said all the right things but, like a college debater, strictly to win and not because he really cared. A local radio commentator with a lot of clout in this area, Alan Chartok of WAMC in Albany, who is my age, hit the nail on the head after interviewing him: “Eldridge sounded like what a young person thinks a politician should sound like. He’s right on all the issues, but what I think people are looking for is a person.”
I’m still in mourning for Maurice Hinchey, the Democrat a few years older than me who represented this district for 20 years. Maurice was your quintessential politician—in a good way. Charming, handsome, gray-haired, avuncular and passionate about the right issues, he was a real champion for his constituents. I’d run into him regularly at the local supermarket and chat. I doubt Eldridge has ever been inside a supermarket.
Maybe it’s time for the younger generation to take over, but is there such a thing as too young? Is it possible to be anything but cookie cutter at Eldridge’s age? Especially if you bought instead of fought your way up the ranks. At 28 I was a hippie anarchist, passionate about left wing politics. I’d hate to think what I would have done if elected to anything. Probably tried to make Abbie Hoffman President.
Eldridge seems too sober and mature for a 28-year-old. How can I trust anyone that young when they’re pretending to be old?
But in this case, I don’t have a choice.
Do you trust authority figures under 30? Is it the same as young people not trusting us?