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The Rise of a Judicious Generation

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On many occasions former President Bill Clinton has given crowds a simple verbal test to affirm their ideological tendencies. If they believed that life in America got better because of the protests of the sixties then they are likely to be Democrats. If they believed that life got worse because of those struggles they were more likely to have become Republicans.

Unbeknownst to many at the time, our forty-second President was drawing a line in the sand and asking the voters to choose their colors. His call to duty was for citizens to pick their party, pick their preferred constitutional amendments, and stand behind the new guards of these selected liberties.

The question that needed to be asked at the time is this: Why is he asking us to choose sides? Why must citizens of the United States split their loyalties? What would motivate a national leader to dichotomize his constituents into separate warring factions? The answer turned out to be both personal and political. It takes 51% of the electorate to vote a President into power. Politically, Clinton was taking an accurate count of his front line soldiers and knew exactly how many were needed to secure his victories. On the other front, Clinton's father abandoned him at an early age in his life. Personally, his unresolved need to be loved by his father manifested as unpredictable behavior, including several affairs and a begrudging rebellion against the Greatest Generation.

The 1992 and 1996 elections were about us versus them. The blue versus the red, the Democrats versus the Republicans in no holds barred political combat. But underneath the surface it was parent versus child. It was eight years of rehashing Vietnam era grievances about a war that had long been over. It was a national therapy session expressed in winner-take-all legislative fist fights. After Bill Clinton fought those battles he justified the social war by claiming victory on every possible front. The baby boomers had finally taken power and they would hold it for sixteen years. Even his successor George W. Bush had unresolved problems with his father and thusly also used the 51% margin to secure his seat of power. Luckily we can learn from our misgivings and heal our resentments. In 2008 the same winds of change that once fueled partisan flag waving behind centrist Democratic leaders has shifted in a new direction with a new rallying cry and a new leader.

Barack Obama epitomizes the social evolution of this New Generation. He is of split heritage and from a split family. He is above racism and above partisanship. Growing up he survived difficult social interactions by using pragmatism to bridge the gaps left by his separated family. His climb through the college system and from city to city was marked by a desire to search for oneself through an extended adolescence in order to discover his life’s purpose. Unlike our former leaders, Obama's personal baggage is no longer an issue. He took the time to sort out his life before ascending to a high public office. His psychology is that of a negotiator, not an instigator. In times of stress he will do what he knows best — he will moderate disagreements to keep the American family together and focused on what is most important.

Unlike the baby boomers, this new generation has no social wars to fight, no personal grievances to work out. Divorced parents, a deadly drug war, and a growing gap between the rich and the poor made for a far more sensible set of individuals. These Americans are committed to avoiding the mistakes of their parents. Instead of warring with their elders they chose to bond with them, even if they resisted. Instead of claiming their right to power they accepted many smaller stages to shine from. Often times they had to be accountable for areas of life where their parents abandoned pertinent responsibilities. All the while they did not seek praise or justification for their actions.

This new generation was criticized by the media all throughout the 1990s, and yet when war struck our shores on 9/11, who was it that stood up and fought the enemy? The baby boomers are now in power. They give the orders from the safety of distant pulpits but it is the youth who march into battle. It is the youth who give their lives for our country. It is this new generation who leave their families behind to do as they are commanded. The recognition of military sacrifice is more prevalent than in wars past but the thanks are now disguised as an obligation to patriotism instead expressed as love. The baby boomers are letting their own children die every single day and they are not even sure why.

In light of such a terrible abuse of parental privilege, none of this sea change should be a surprise and yet the pundits ask questions every day about why this tide has come. Is it the war in Iraq? Is it the incompetence of the Bush administration? Is it a Democratic uprising? These issues all have their place and value but none of them really matter.

In this election year a new generation has come of age. One that has absolved itself of racism, one that has assumed a judiciousness lacking the constraints of ideology, and one that is ready to assume responsibility for parents who have lost sight of what is best for this country, for this family.

It is time for this new generation to shine on the largest stage there has ever been. They understand the stakes and the scope of the commitment. They possess the humility to know how little experience they have and thus how much they have to learn, but with god as their witness, they are ready. The time is now to pass the torch. The time is now to forgive the past, to heal this family, and to move forward together once and for all.

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About Alex Hutchinson

  • Why Alex, this sounds almost as good as an Obama speech and it’s certainly just as much pure BS.

    It’s 2 parts hero worship and one part wishful thinking and all blather with nothing to back it up.

    Technically the baby boom lasted from 46-64, so Obama himself IS a baby boomer, so he can’t very well epitomize the post-boom generation.

    You also make a LOT of assumptions about the new generation, many of them likely untrue or at best overly generalized. Young voters drove the Reagan Revolution and now that those voters are a bit older, they’re playing a big role in government nationwide. They’re a force to be reckoned with.

    And the really, really young voters who flock to Obama are likely TWO functional generations removed from the Baby Boom. They may well be the kids of the kids of the baby boomers. A sophomore in College this year was likely born in 1990 and his parents were probably born in the late 60s, just after the end of the Baby Boom. How does that figure in?

    Generation X (between the baby boom and the Obama generation Y kids) went from punk rock to corporate lackey and Reagan footsoldier, and even if their kids are driving change, it’s going to be those Gen-Xers who end up holding the reigns of power because a bunch of teens and 20 year olds have no idea what the hell to do with power if it gets handed to them.


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Alex, if your article had some truth to it in terms of its prescription, it would be wonderful. But Barack Obama is not your savior, and if there are elections and you indeed elect him, you will discover this to your horror.

    He is no better than any of the other idiots running for office – just younger and different in appearance.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    And Dave, since you came around to comment, and since I can’t get into my webmail, why is my piece on Rabbi Kahane, z”l, hy”d, still in pending after three days? Is the backlog that long?

  • I was hoping our international editor would pick up on it. I’ve been unable to do much editing this weekend. If he doesn’t get to it shortly I’ll bite the bullet.


  • I’ve read some arguments that Obama belongs to Generation Jones, which appears to be a subset of Gen X in many ways. Whatever this (60-64′) cohort is, it’s difficult to align folks like Johnny Rotten and Douglas Coupland with the flower children of the sixties.

    I think it was Howe and Strauss that said that Generation X fuelled the Reagan revolution. The only problem with this theory is that the bulk of Gen Xers weren’t of voting age when Ronnie was elected.

    This is part of the wishful thinking program than conservatives wrote about us Xers in the middle to late 90s, when the grunge thing was winding down… That we were actually pro lifrs who would kill social security once and for all, etc…

    I think the issue is generational. A lot of folks my age just stayed away from the voting booth when Boomers were running. Whether Obama is a Boomer or not, most of us see him as an Xer and we believe his rhetoric of hope. That might seem like a long stretch for us, given how we’ve been stereotyped as cynical, but we were never as bleak as the media wanted to write us. We were just waiting for someone to represent us.


  • Jonathan Scanlan

    Personally, I think the real reason Obama has such a following is more a matter of strategy than anything else.

    While McCain and Clinton both rely on a siege approach, he is using guerrilla strategy to turn them against themselves.

    First and foremost, he chose the terrain by talking about change, and it is his own rhetoric that has become the dominating theme. By choosing not to play the games of the other candidates, he has lead them into his own hands.

    Second of all, he has sought to get the media and people on side by virtue of his identity and underdog status. Over time he has tuned his rhetoric in attempts to win ever more demographics, and not worrying about those who have already decided.

    Third, by depriving his opponents of resources. By “discrediting” the value of experience, he has deprived Clinton and McCain of their status. If you remove and opponent’s resources they will crumble from within.

    All of this comes out of traditional Guerrilla strategy; and to tell you the truth, if I were picking a leader then this is exactly the kind of skill I would want at the helm.

  • Clavos

    An interesting analysis, Jonathan.

    Lot of food for thought there.

    “All of this comes out of traditional Guerrilla strategy; and to tell you the truth, if I were picking a leader then this is exactly the kind of skill I would want at the helm.”

    Given the temper (and problems) of the times, a guerrilla driver would certainly have the right mindset and insight to deal with today’s world.

    At the very least, Obama has run the most successful (and interesting, in terms of tactics) campaign thus far this political season.

  • troll

    I’d prefer a gorilla driver

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I have to agree with Clavos, Jonathan. There is much food for thought in your observations.

  • Irene Wagner

    take our advice… at any price… Rhetoric says change. Voting record says guerrilla.

  • troll:

    I wouldn’t want a gorilla. I mean, it would be able to steer from the back seat, but its feet wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals and all those wildlife camera crews following it around would be a real distraction from driving.

  • PollWatcher

    You’ve written an interesting analysis here, but it is relevant to note that there is a growing consensus in the media and among experts that Obama is part of Generation Jones (the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Xers, born 1954-1965).

    I recently heard a panel of generation experts on a radio program who concluded that Obama is of Generation Jones. They did a good job of methodically going through his bio and political positions and style, and it was pretty obvious when juxtaposing these variables against the archetypes of each of these generations, that Barack is GenJones.

    Major media recently has discovered this as well. The New York Times, Wall Strret Journal, and Newsweek Magazine have all recently run pieces which have argued that Obama is specifically a member of Generation Jones, not the Baby Boom Generation nor Generation X.

  • In some respects all this talk about generations – who is a member of what – seems to me largely irrelevant. Whether one defines his or her membership in a “generation” has more to do with mind set than with time.

    I found it difficult to follow Alex’s reasoning at times. It is a bit odd to make a charge against boomers who “are letting their own children die every single day and they are not even sure why.” Alex should remember that approximately 57000 members of the boomer generation died in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, and for what? Dominoes? There are, in fact, a significant number of boomers who have been and remain opposed to the Iraq war.

    But this is always the way with war, isn’t it? The graybeards are pretty much always the ones who declare war, but it is always their children who are burdened with its execution. Should the boomers have learned by its own experience the horror and futility of war? Perhaps.

    But, again, the same can be said of virtually every generation. Few generations of any period have lived out their lives without some involvement with war. Yet, regardless of how terrible, how gut wrenching, how disastrous any war may be, the cycle invariably begins once again, before the ink is dry on any articles of surrender or proclamations of peace. Those who fought the wars, with time tend to forget the horror, the futility, the idiocy of them.

    I, too, think Jonathon has hit upon an interesting notion regarding Obama’s campaign tactics. He is teflon. Nothing much sticks to him.
    He has learned lessons of most martial arts practitioners. He dodges and paries his opponent’s thrusts allowing their momentum to send them tumbling of their own accord; then graciously offering them a hand up and usually with a smile. American voters have never seen the like.

    Dave still asserts that Obama is all bullshit and no substance. It’s true that Obama only rarely deals with issues in depth. That actually may be to his credit. No candidate (unless an incumbant) really knows how to navigate the often treacherous political waters of public office. It is probably wiser to avoid painting oneself into a corner before the fact.

    While that may be looked upon as lacking in courage or foresight, it is, I think, preferable to being showered with pie-in-the-sky promises of a land of milk and honey that no office holder can even hope to achieve. As most of us know, campaign promises are generally far less reliable than your average weather forecast.

    While Obama is largely unproven as an administrator, he has demonstrated that he is fairly unflappable and seems able to remain above the fray. Clear thinking may prove to be more vital than any particular ideology or political agenda.


  • Bennett

    Baritone, exceptional expansion of Jonathon’s post.

    Also, the wiki page on Liberal was eye opening for me. I’d say I fall into the Liberal camp by that definition, short of implementing the welfare state of Johnson’s Great Society.

    If welfare had been limited to free quality child care if the parents were attending free job training or while working, or college that was free up front but to be repaid from wages earned at a later time, our country would be so much stronger and better educated.

    When the government started handing out food stamps and ‘welfare benefits’ (what a misnomer that is) we started down the path of chronic laziness and poverty, imo.

  • Bennett, do you even know how welfare works?

  • Bennett

    Not personally, so perhaps my comments are ignorant speculation. If so, sorry about that.