I have to confess to feeling a niggling impatience whenever I read articles analyzing the 2008 contenders and their prospects and the national dynamics and the generation shifts and all that type of thing. I don’t really have a justifiable reason for feeling this impatience. Bloggers must blog…about something. I mean, I really hate it when I get a comment that takes me to task for writing about something unimportant, or something that is distracting us from more important issues. How about my critics try to find four stories a day to write about, and have them all be of critical importance and all really well written and thought out? Try doing it everyday for almost two years? Then you can get my ear for criticisms of that type. So, I am last person to criticize bloggers for writing about the 2008 horserace and the phenomenon Obama. I mean, we have to fill space. Having said all that, Chris Bowers’s piece on Obama, the culture wars, and the 1960’s, is pretty interesting.

I have some other space-filling observations. First of all, Chris was born five years after me, which means he probably was among the first to have access to the internet in college. I was among the last not to have access to the internet in college. Chris was only three years old when Star Wars came out…so I don’t know how he can possibly know shit about shit. On the other hand, my generation is the last to be clueless about all the new technologies that the cool kids are using. There are only five years separating us, but he’s in the space age, and I’m a horse and buggy kind of a guy.

I still remember my older brother’s faded McGovern-Shriver ’72 t-shirt. I bet Chris never saw something like that outside of a museum. So, it’s quite possible that Barack Obama speaks to his generation in a way that he cannot possibly speak to mine. I accept that. I think there was even a minor sexual revolution that I just missed. It happened in the late 1980’s, right after I graduated from high school. Kids invented something called ‘friends with benefits’. The class of ’87 had friends, but benefits? Not so much.

For me, MTV was just something noxious that destroyed the quality of music. But for children of the 90’s it was something much different. It was multicultural, multiracial, omnisexual, and tolerant in the extreme. My generation was liberal in a different way. We were children of liberated women, steeped in the ethos of classic rock, fundamentally in opposition to the Reagan reaction, dipped in the righteousness of MLK. We were taught to revere the accomplishments of the 1960’s, but also to regard those debates as settled. We never lived with Jim Crow, we never lived without Roe v. Wade. We didn’t have to pray in school. And we never once thought we could go back to those days. We just thought those days were past and we had progressed on beyond that.

That all changed in 1994 when the Republicans took over Congress. For people that were coming of age at that time, those things did not seem settled. Affirmative Action came under immediate attack. Roe was no longer settled law. Feminism came into ill-repute. Liberalism was deemed stale and irrelevant.

So, why does Obama appeal to Chris’s age group and not necessarily mine? I think Obama offers, as Chris says, a specific generation appeal:

I think Obama, simply in terms of his demeanor and his biography, strongly appeals to politicos from a new generation and a new socioeconomic class because he strikes them in some sort of gut, intuitive level as being from that class. Multi-ethnic, post-Vietnam, highly educated, raised in a major urban center–these are many of the cosmopolitan, self-creating, forward looking aspects of life for many younger professionals. As much as we may or may not like Bill Clinton, coming from a little town in Arkansas is not a story many Americans can relate to anymore, because we just didn’t grow up that way.

You see, I am not really post-Vietnam. I don’t come from the 1990’s MTV multi-ethnic, major urban center, cosmopolitan, post-identity politics type of place that Chris comes from. And that might strike Chris as strange since I am highly educated and cosmopolitan and live in a major urban center. But, that is not how I experience politics. I see just as much appeal in John Edwards’s little mill town upbringing as I see in Obama’s eclectic experiences. And I don’t at all think that the majority of the voting public (which is older than me) is going to go all ga-ga over Obama’s multi-cultural post-identity politics identity.

But, I could be wrong. I have to say though, that I picked Kerry and Bush as the winners in 2004 back in 2003. And while Kerry made me very nervous for a while, he did pull it out.

I like Obama. I think he has great charisma. He could fit into that Reagan/Clinton mold as a great communicator. But his life story doesn’t really resonate with me. I’m not begging for a candidate to move me beyond traditional progressive politics, with all that 1960’s, 1970’s baggage. I want someone that embodies the skepticism (at least on foreign policy) of that era. I think current conditions demand it. And I’m not seeing that from Obama. I’m seeing someone that is fine-tuned to appeal to people younger than me. And that is not such a bad thing…if people younger than me are willing to vote.

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