Friday, November 09, 2007

Contra Boomers

Taylor Marsh, taking umbrage at Obama's suggestion that nothing new can be expected of Boomers like Hillary Clinton, says Barack's remarks are as close as anyone has ever come to calling her "too old" for the job.

Implying your main opponent has a "generational" impediment is as close as I've ever heard anyone saying Clinton is too old for the tasks at hand. It's especially alarming because it's taken a long time to get a woman in position to compete equally for the top power spot in American politics. To imply she's not up for the job because she's of a generation whose time has passed shows complete disregard for equality, something Mr. Obama should understand all too well. I wonder what the average Democratic primary voter, especially those in Iowa, will think of this?

But Peggy Noonan thinks Obama's criticism goes more than wrinkle-deep. Obama's critique of the Boomers resonates with her, at least partially. Noonan writes:

I wonder if Sen. Obama, as he makes his climb, understands the kind of quiet cheering he is beginning to garner from some Republicans, and from those not affiliated with either party. They see him as a Democrat who could cure the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton sickness. ...

I am not sure of the salience of Mr. Obama's new-generational approach. Mrs. Clinton's generation, he suggests, is caught in the 1960s, fighting old battles, clinging to old divisions, frozen in time, and the way to get past it is to get past her. Maybe this will resonate. But I don't think Mrs. Clinton is the exemplar of a generation, she is the exemplar of a quadrant within a generation, and it is the quadrant the rest of us of that generation do not like. They came from comfort and stability, visited poverty as part of a college program, fashionably disliked their country, and cultivated a bitterness that was wholly unearned. They went on to become investment bankers and politicians and enjoy wealth, power or both.

Mr. Obama should go after them, not a generation but a type, the smug and entitled. No one really likes them. They showed it this week.

That might be hard to do. As Taylor Marsh says, besides chronological age there isn't a dime's worth of difference in policy positions between Obama and the Boomer generation.

Seriously, what is this "change" Obama offers? What policies are different than traditional Democratic policies? His votes on Iraq are like Clinton's. As for Iran, at least Clinton showed up for the Kyl-Lieberman vote. On illegal immigration they're also similar. Both Clinton and Obama want to expand NAFTA. What "generational" change is Obama offering beyond Clinton's? Oh right, it's his "face."

Still it's possible to give the impression of offering change. I think a lot of politics consists of repackaging ideas which were already old when the sixties rolled around in the last century as "progressive" today. Old wine into new bottles. Old bodies into spandex. Maybe the extreme premium placed on fresh faces has to do with a politics that has run out fresh ideas. And "progressive" political discourse has an unchanging quality to it: things are always about "Vietnam", sex, gender, race and going "back to the land", just like at Woodstock. When Francis Fukuyama spoke of the "end of history" I wonder whether it doesn't subconsciously reflect the Boomer idea that all change stopped with them.

It is without the slightest self-concsciousness that Marsh looks to the past in order to define the future. Defending Hillary she says:

Barack Obama is saying he represents a new generation. What he's also saying is that Clinton "and others" have been fighting since the '60s and those battles are not a badge of honor that can lead to a foundational movement for the 21st century if Clinton is nominated. Instead Mr. Obama seems to be implying it is a sign of age, not promise.

The idea of basing a "foundational movement for the 21st century" on the battles of "the '60s" summarizes the dilemma of the Boomer vision. That vision was a vista of a future glimpsed through an exhilarating moment in time; timeless and unaging. It would be ironic if history passed it by before its moment on the stage.


Blogger Nunway said...

I am a boomer born in 1954. I remember when I was young that boomers often said that you couldn't trust anyone over 30. I guess that disqualifies both Barack and Hillary from being worthy of our trust. Come to think of it, since you have to be at least 35 to be President of the US, I guess, according to boomer-think, no POTUS can be trusted. In any event, it is amusing to me that the generation that was so self-conscious about its youthfulness and how it was going to bring new energy to the world is being portrayed as over the "Hill."

11/09/2007 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Foobarista said...

The big generational fight is just beginning, over Social Security, Medicare, and a host of other old-age entitlements. There are plenty of Xers and younger that would be perfectly willing to drastically scale down SS if it meant lower payroll taxes, but many near-retirement boomers want to raise taxes to insure cushy retirements.

Of course, this isn't Obama's territory; he definitely would rather raise taxes than lower tham, but a more libertarian-minded Xer could find support.

My suspicion is that, unlike the WWII generation that produced a whole bunch of Presidents from Eisenhower to Bush I, we won't have many Boomer Presidents. It's unlikely that Obama will be the first Xer President, but the 2004 President may well be the last Boomer.

11/09/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Foobarista said...

Oops - 04 -> O8...

11/09/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Heddleson said...

The reason you won't get as many boomer Presidents as "Great Generation" presidents is because Boomers can finish a two term presidency. (Ike was in no way part of the GG any more than Bush II is a Millenial).

GG Presidents

Bush I

Boomer Presidents

Bush II

So in the first 16 years, the GG went through 4 Presidents, the best of whom wasn't ever elected to a national position. While the BB may not have produced the most attractive human beings, they have delivered a lot more peace and prosperity than did the GG.

My suspicion is that this coountry is far from facing the most perilous situation it will see in the GWOT. Before this is over, every American will come to realize that the survival of the country may depend upon what they do. In that situation, the BB, still a very powerful electoral force, will magnanimously agree to a massive scale back of social security and the elimination of universal medicad as its contribution to the war effort. As a result of that and many other's sacrifices, the war will be won and the BBs and Xers will end their golden years in a poverty unseen since the '50s.

11/09/2007 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

One of my favorite stylists, the fantasy writer Lord Dunsay, tells the story of how each generation must forget the laurels of its sires in order to earn its own. In his classic of tragedy and renewal, "The Sword of Welleran", Dunsany relates how a rich city used  fame alone to keep barbarians at bay -- until the robbers learned that it's defense was hollow.

To and fro and up and down they would walk through the marble streets, gazing at memorials of the things achieved by their country's swords in the hands of those that long ago had loved Merimna well. Almost they slept, and dreamed of Welleran, Soorenard, Mommolek, Rollory, Akanax, and young Iraine. Of the lands beyond the mountains that lay all round about them they knew nothing, save that they were the theatre of the terrible deeds of Welleran, that he had done with his sword. Long since these lands had fallen back into the possession of the nations that had been scourged by Merimna's armies. Nothing now remained to Merimna's men save their inviolate city and the glory of the remembrance of their ancient fame. At night they would place sentinels far out in the desert, but these always slept at their posts dreaming of Rollory, and three times every night a guard would march around the city clad in purple, bearing lights and singing songs of Welleran. Always the guard went unarmed, but as the sound of their song went echoing across the plain towards the looming mountains, the desert robbers would hear the name of Welleran and steal away to their haunts. … You would wonder that an unarmed guard and sentinels that slept could defend a city that was stored with all the glories of art, that was rich in gold and bronze, a haughty city that had erst oppressed its neighbours, whose people had forgotten the art of war. Now this is the reason that, though all her other lands had long been taken from her, Merimna's city was safe. A strange thing was believed or feared by the fierce tribes beyond the mountains, and it was credited among them that at certain stations round Merimna's ramparts there still rode Welleran, Soorenard, Mommolek, Rollory, Akanax, and young Iraine. Yet it was close on a hundred years since Iraine, the youngest of Merimna's heroes, fought his last battle with the tribes.

You can guess the rest of the story. How the robbers came by night to Merrima. But I will leave the ending to those who want to read it.

11/09/2007 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Obama is right in that the boomers are leaving a huge fiscal mess to the next generation, with Dubya as the absolute worst contributor to the mess.
The took the bounty of the hard work of the WWII generation, spent it all on "Me!" indulgences, enacted tax cuts for the wealthy, failed to save. They put programs and whole wars on the credit card they will hand off to Gen X and Y to pay off.....and also expect the younger Americans to have the shit taxed out of them for all the SS and medicare money the Boomers pissed away to run today's Gov't with more IOU's for future generations to bail out the empty accounts.

And expect oncoming Americans to bear the burden of doubling their taxes and living a far lowered standard of living - so retired Boomers have 30 years of carefree leisure.

It will serve them right if Obama and company shove a pillow in their faces or at least tax Boomers and only Boomers for Bush's reckless spending when the bills come due.

11/09/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

The fundamental problem with the boomers is that they pencilled in the stasis of the Cold War as eternal. Rather than a temporary blip.

America attacked through unconventional warfare with mass casualties? Check. And we will get more of it (in nuclear form).

Loss of productivity gains, year to year, and real loss in wealth of the average American? To the point where the average working man in the 1970's could buy a house, and thus afford to get married, whereas today his son can't afford either? Check. And all the Xboxes in the world won't substitute for family formation.

Economic instability, with domestic labor driven ever downward at all levels by both illegal immigration, on the blue collar side, and outsourcing/H1-B visas on the white collar technical side? Check.

Multiculturalism and PC "cost-free" as institutions and people who form the base of society are demonized and the most trivial foreign things celebrated? Check.

This is Boomer Ideology. It's a fantasy belief stuck in 1965 that no longer bears any resemblance to reality -- an America profoundly threatened by anti-populist elites (who hate/loathe the people as all nobility do) and collaborating with threats abroad.

[Weirdly, JUST like Machiavelli predicts in the Prince -- where he notes that Nobles against the people will always seek the aid of outside forces.]

11/09/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

One of Hillary's mentors, Karl Marx said:
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

If you believe, as I do, that the first Clinton administration was a tragedy, then the second Clinton Administration must be...

11/09/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

This congress as well as the following one (unless the American voter wakes up) is not going to do anything of merit about any of the giant problems that this nation has.

Blame for this mess has to be split between the American voter (or maybe the non voter) and the last several years of our do nothing (but spend, spend)congresses.

Had enough yet?

Papa Ray

11/09/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Andre Glucksmann pens a prose poem concerning war in the City Journal. From the H-Bomb to the Human Bomb:

World War II was hardly over when the need to think through its horrors—Auschwitz, the atom bomb, millions dead—became pressing. Les Temps Modernes, the journal for European intellectuals after the war, set the tone for a whole generation, at least until disagreements between its founding editors, Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, tore it apart. Even in its first issue, in 1945, Merleau-Ponty showed scant respect for the sleepwalking intellectual elders who had guided his studies: “We knew that the concentration camps existed, that the Jews were persecuted, but these certainties belonged to the universe of thought. We did not yet live in the presence of the cruelty of death; we had never confronted the alternative of submitting to them or confronting them.” Sartre, a few pages removed, was no more sanguine: “We believed without proof that peace was the natural state and the substance of the universe, that war was only a temporary agitation on its surface. Today, we recognize our error: the end of war was merely the end of this war.”

Sartre said "The end of war was merely the end of this war." This was what Clinton and the other Baby Boomers who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall did not realize. They were caught up in the END of the M.A.D.ness of Mutually Assured Destruction, the end of the balance of Terror, and thought no following war could be so frightening. They didn't figure on human bombs. They didn't figure on suicidal gangs of unholy assassins trying like hell to get their hands on nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, fueled-up jumbo jets, ammonium nitrate, potent poisons, and tailored plagues so they could kill us and maybe everybody.

I hope the duck is right and that the BBs are willing to sacrifice. They haven't done anything like that yet, so I am not so sanguine as el Pato. The Xers, on the other hand, are like the silent generation. I don't expect much leadership from them. Only the willingness to sacrifice massively to support their children, the Millenials, who will be the next Great Generation.

11/09/2007 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I hope the duck is right and that the BBs are willing to sacrifice.

I think 'sacrifice' is the slightly wrong word. Maybe the better term is "removing oneself from the center of things" -- which implies the willingness to put omething ahead of the "me". Paradoxically it implies growing into a fullness. We all knew the civilizational "myth" once, if myth it was. "Unless a seed fall to earth and die ...".

I don't think the Boomers are incapable of sacrifice, or whatever one wants to call it. But their parent's achievements shielded them from any challenge that might have elicited the need. If you never needed to rise to an occasion you probably never will.

For myself I hear the echoes of those other words, once so familiar to all. "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as You will". If the challenge comes it will come. Let' see what happens.

11/09/2007 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a boomer who has seen the best(Viet Nam service) and worst (several years of drug abuse) of my generation; I thought Noonen's piece was deep. She hit it on the screws when she described Hillary not as symbolic of the boomer generation,but of the worst quadrant of it; the narcissistic self important posers who have hectored normal Americans for years from their lofty towers of hypocrisy.
The lame old peacenik filmmakers like Redford and Depalma celebrate Veteran's Day by defaming the brave boys in Iraq. Fortunately the public are giving a razzberry to their films. Hopefully that same fate awaits Queen Hillary.

11/09/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Frank said...

Born in 1956, dead middle of the baby boom and at full height of my powers, I fully support the sentiment of that great indie rock band, "Cracker" that answers The Who (I'm a veteran of the infamous Cincinnati Who concert);

"I hate my generation, I picked it up and I threw it away. Yeah I hate my generation"

11/10/2007 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger AST said...

I guess every commenter has to prove his bona fides. I was born in 1948, and I think too many of my generation had it too easy, were too easily lead around by "the vision thing," because they failed to understand what it cost our parents to deliver the world we were born into. Postmodernism is a rot posing as a brave new world. It denies the verities passed on from the past. And Hillary and Obama are so steeped in it that they can only see themselves contributing in the form of more infantilizing programs, tying us ever tighter to the welfare state.

11/10/2007 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

Wot a riot, C-fudd talking about "they ... the Boomers" when he's one himself. But it's not like we didn't already know what a shameless hypocrite and liar he is.

11/10/2007 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

Bill, Everyone,
Fortunately, there *is* a proper term to describe the quadrandrant of parasites that came in with the Baby Boom generation. That word is "Hippie". And the fact that worthless hippies like Hillary and Bill need to go take a bath is easily understood. ^_~

I remember that story. Those poor ghosts had to work pretty hard to accomplish what they did. That said, I wonder whether his theme truly was that every generation has to forget the laurels of its sires in order to earn its own or rather that every generation has to remember the laurals of its more distant ancestors when their own sires have fallen down on the job? I wish we could discuss the story further without giving away any spoilers. ^_^;

"The took the bounty of the hard work of the WWII generation, spent it all on "Me!" indulgences,..."

So you're saying that FDR, LBJ. Jimmy Carter, Bella Azbug, Walter Mondale, and Wlliam Proxmire were all Baby Boomers? o_O Because in case you didn't notice those were the dudes who "took the bounty of the hard work of the WWII generation" and spent it all "Me! Indulgences". Fiscal irresponsibility, I would claim, was more a sin of the WWII Left who took Keyne's "In the long run we're all dead anyway!" attitude to heart and acted accordingly than of the hippies who merely inherited that attitude to the extent that they had it.

The sins of the Hippies were I suspect were cowardice than fiscal improvidence. Raw cowardice. The cowardice of Bill Clinton who smoked but didn't inhale because he was a wimp. Who would commit to wars in Somalia and Bosnia with casual abandon but would not serve himself. Or of John "Magic Hat" Kerry whose memories were seared, *seared* into his brain of imaginary trips into Cambodia that somehow took place before he even enlisted, (Nice to know the US Navy had access to Time Travel in those days! ^o^), and who then came back to lie about his fellow soldiers in front of a Congressional Committee. Says everything you'll ever need to know about those silly hippies that he was dismayed to find out that his band of brothers had not forgotten and used the national spotlight upon him in 2004 to bring his sins of lying into the light. ^_^

But it's interesting to see that you're rooting for Mr. Obama to kill Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, John Murtha and Barbara Boxer by smothering them all to death with a pillow. That's a sentiment I would not have thought to see come from you. But having seen you write that, I have no doubt you would help Mr. Obama hold Nancy Pelosi down while he did it. Thus we see what the "solidarity" of leftists is worth. ^_~

11/10/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

The politician I'm most reminded of when I look at Obama is Jimmy Carter. Aside from the skin color the two could be ideological father-and-son.

Check out Obama's foreign policy positions
1) Surrender in Iraq.
2) Bomb our ally, Pakistan.
3) Invite Iran's Mullahs to dinner at the Whitehouse.

His fuzzy economic policies are Carterite (Carturian?) as well
1) Blame the rich for everything.
2) Jack up taxes.
3) Expand government and get more people beholden to the Democrats.

If Obama is the only hope to defeat Hillary we're boned!

11/11/2007 02:11:00 PM  

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