Monday, June 9, 2008

The Coming Election…Battle of the Generations?

Now that the Democratic Party’s delegate battle is over with Obama declared the candidate for 2008, the airways have quickly flipped from the flapping lips about the Obama / Clinton battles…to focusing on the national campaign between McCain and Obama. Personally I think the Republicans would have preferred competing with Hillary who self destructed so much just in her fight to carry her own party as choice of Presidential candidate. I guess we will have to wait another 4 years to see a female as Presidential candidate contender. It will be interesting to see what Conde Rice does over the next four years.

The news and political pundits are now all focused on comparisons between the two final candidates. Much is being made of the “change” that Obama’s campaign has been all about versus the “wisdom, leadership and experience that comes with age” of the McCain campaign. There is no doubt that Obama’s historic rise and hard fought battle with Clinton brought perhaps MILLIONS of new voters into the process and dialogue. To me that is a good thing. Yet, it is also scary to listen to the rhetoric and views of many of these new voters. People want change at almost any cost…and they want the changes to benefit THEM first and foremost. I’m afraid our country is in a state of being where it cannot afford to do or be all that these constituents want from federal government. We are externally extended into costly conflicts abroad, reliant on foreign oil and financial borrowing, and internally in more extreme financial crisis than most Americans are willing to admit to themselves.

As I observe these discussions, I can’t help but think this election will be about which generation and generational views carry over into the ballot box. It seems to me we are at a point in our culture and space in time where change is happening quickly. Many people are not aware of how quickly things are changing. Most people don’t have or take the time to study and reflect on the past 30-40 years and the evolution of our globe. I see two images in the makeup of American voters that will be doing battle this year in the election. The “Establishment” or “old guard” will be fighting for control and recognition of their views while the young idealists and “change” mongers will be there in bigger numbers than ever before…and very possibly could take control of government for the near future. Let’s examine for a minute the character and nature of these two “movements” for lack of a better term at this moment.

The “establishment” is made up of mostly people 55 years of age and older. They tend to be more conservative and financially better heeled than the younger generation. They go back to Vietnam, Korea, and yes, some still remember “Pearl Harbor” and World War II. They have overseen the huge and rapid growth of our national economy, the rise and fall of our industrial complex, and are generally almost blindly patriotic and supportive of most every national tradition. They have carried a tradition of being THE defenders of freedom and democracy throughout the world…from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”…while their government has overseen and tried to maintain control of the reorganization of world order and boundaries in this post World War era. Most of them, at least until recently, have felt basically prepared and yearning for retirement. In general, their houses are paid for; they have significant savings and portfolios to go along with their retirement entitlements gained when Corporate American took care “its own”. They are quickly catching up in using technology and the internet for communications and “keeping up with the world”, but they are slow to adapt or care about the latest applications and gadgets. The 5-6 year old computer will do just fine in many cases. Many are even flocking to filing their taxes “on line”…albeit it grudgingly. They care about their reputations, image, traditions and values. They don’t trust people under 40 very much though they are very proud of the 18-21 year olds who are fighting and protecting their freedom abroad. They are probably TOO trusting of the leaders from their own generation, and in general are getting ready to escape into retirement and leave the reigns in the hands of the “younger generation”. They will make themselves available as advisors and confidants, but they will not be too willing to be “hands on” in solving the latest problems. “It’s someone else’s turn”.

On the other hand, we have the “younger generation” now coming into power and influence. Obamas meteoric and rapid rise to power and influence in the political arena is only an example of how things are changing. This generation has been a bit more “self centered” and consumer oriented than their parents and grandparents were. They have been categorized more by economic and class status than by ethnic or race orientations (more known by what style or age of car they drive than what neighborhood or family they are from). They have never really known a major depression economically or effects of a World War. Those who remember Vietnam primarily remember it as radical and anti establishment days where the nation was NOT united in its conflicts abroad. It became more "government VERSUS the people" instead of government OF the people. War veterans were not honored or supported…at home or in the field…as they had been in previous conflicts. This generation has had a growing mistrust in governments, institutions and religion. It has been more about the “me” generation, personal rights, having the latest styles and fashions, and yes, trying to get richer faster than their previous generations. Image is more important than substance. Since an early age they have been inundated by media and culture with exposure to violence, crime, sexuality, and a general overload of information globally that has almost made many of them oblivious to shock or outrage. They tend not to express or debate “issues” or beliefs, and instead are quite focused on feelings, privacy and personal passions. Drugs have been a constant influence in their generation with a higher percentage than any other previous generation being either in prison or in some kind of treatment for addiction. They have learned to operate and live within the “system”, but not really feeling PART of the system. Many of them have never, or hardly ever, voted. This is changing quickly…this year.

I of course am being overly generalist with these definitions of generations. At the same time, I don’t think I’m too far off on describing some of the core differences…and barriers…that these electoral times will bring to light. I still am not sure which generation, or candidate, I will vote for. I personally feel like someone straddling a wide range of views and influences…and not too trusting of either side of this divide quite honestly. I think whoever wins will be the candidate who wins the most “straddling” or independent voters this time around. It will be a tough race. We’ll see if the “old guy” can keep up physically, mentally and emotionally with the “young guy”. We’ll see if the young guy can exude enough wisdom and solid ideas to go along with his obvious charisma and charm. Personally, I still wish I had a solid third party candidate to consider for President. I suppose I am “un-American” to some people to think that way. I like to think I am a true lover of freedom and constitutional government. Things are way out of whack…and I don’t see either generation having a corner on good ideas right now. I hope that will change by November, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.


Timothy said...

While you're probably right that younger people tend to be more self-centred in character, I believe it is the complete opposite in political views.

America during the cold war was willing to fund anti-communist fighters in third world countries that often horribly abused the local population. They installed autocratic regimes that were more friendly than the democratic government would have been. They subordinated people of different race and gender. They conducted wars that led to the deaths of many civilians in the name of fighting communism, while worthwhile humanitarian intervents (e.g. rwanda) was ignored. They spent billions on having the nuclear power to wipe the world out many times over while millions upon millions starved. If anything, the older generation of political leaders were more self-centred.

Also, you mentioned that younger people are more into image than substance. That may be true with the case of Obama, as he is often adored for inspirational speeches rather than actual policy. However, the way that these people talk, coupled with the way that the media has covered his campaign, does not mean that he is a candidate of much style and little substance. If you go beyond the media reports and his hardcore fans, you'll see a policy platform which is 90% standard democratic with 10% unique good ideas.

While on the other hand you have Mccain, who also rarely speaks on substantial policy initiatives. He just can't speak as well as Obama can, which misleads people into thinking he is more about policy than style. Go beyond the differences in attitude and look at the man's positions: lax gun control, staying in Iraq, tax breaks (while Government spending is ballooning, the most fiscally irresponsible action a Government could take), politicising the supreme court, abandoning the public school system and give financial incentives to private schools, etc.

Also, keep in mind that there is an awful lot of middle aged people who are supporting barack Obama. The reason why he is often connected with the younger generation is because he picks up the vast majority of their support (and yet remain a small percentage of his support base).

Anyhow, in my opinion you've interestingly explored how this election year is different, and significant.

You'll find me squarely in the younger generations camp. Viva la revolution! ;P

edward said...

You make some good points Tim. I have to suggest though that YOU are not the "typical" 20 something:) since you are obviously more well read than most your age and have thought about many things that I hadnt in my 20s. That being said, I will trust you on where "younger" people are these days.

It is always interesting to get non-Americans viewpoint on Americas governmental actions and interventions during recent history. Its always a tough balance to keep in perspective the need for a strong "defense" against those who would like to take us out...versus the need to help feed the starving and the "little guy" with our many profits. Capitalism without a heart doesnt work any better in the world than socialism without controls or limits. I do think Jesus' teachings on these dynamics are a good model. Overall, dont horde what you have, dont throw your pearls before swine, and let him who works eat. And yes...we need to take care the widows and orphans, teaching them to fish versus just eat fish:). Over simplifications in many ways, but I think principles are better than laws at controlling world behaviors.

As for Obama...I am still on the fence, and hope he comes through with some solid proposals versus just wishful thinking. The US government is broke whether people realize it or a politicians promises need to include how they are going to cover the price tag. Just a little reality from my experiences in life.

Bibiana said...

Las elecciones presidenciales en los Estados Unidos, son algo que nos concierne a todo el mundo, ya que se trata del nuevo lider mundial que va a tener mucho poder e influencia en el resto del planeta.
La definicion final del senador Obama como lider de su partido, despues de la pequena derrota contra la senadora Hillary Clinton, fue justa. Estaban perdiendo tiempo, pero sigo admirando la fuerza y tenacidad de la senadora Clinton, ya que ninguna otra mujer a llegado tan lejos. Vamos a ver que pasa en 5 anos, si como tu dices Estados Unidos esta listo para una mujer presidente, todo depende de lo que pase con el proximo elegido. O sera que es Condoleza Rice? Como tu quieres? La proxima...

Entre los dos candidatos ahora, corriendo para la presidencia; muy complicado futuro para cualquiera que gane, va tomar el poder de un pais confundido, con muchos problemas, guerras, economia, petroleo, fanatismo religioso, etc.
Muy tenaz, seguramente es un puesto para una persona joven y con energia como el candidato Obama. Pero pienso que la experiencia y conocimiento de MacCain, serian buenos para el pais.
Vamos a ver que fuerza, prudencia, inteligencia y sabiduria, tiene la nueva generacion norteamericana y la vieja guardia, para elegir al nuevo presidente de los Estados Unidos, ya que va a tener mucho trabajo y mucho dano que reparar.

Esperamos que gane el mejor para los Estados Unidos y el resto del mundo y pueda reparar tanto dano efectuado por el gobiero Bush.

Ojala que el nuevo lider, sea una persona prudente y sabia.

Buena suerte para ti Ed y tu gran pais.

Blog muy profundo para ponerse a pensar.

Timothy said...


You're quite right about the state of the US economy. A weak dollar, large budget/trade deficits, and the mortgage crises. I'm also surprised how little of the election campaigns are talking about real solutions to problems that, if left alone, will begin to consume any other aspect of their presidency.

However, keep in mind that where Obama has his universal health care, Mccain has tax breaks and the continuation of an insanely expensive war. Both Republicans and Democrats spend big.

Regarding America's actions during the Cold War, I understand the need to maintain world security. However, with hindsight and moral fibre I believe it's easy to see where they went way too far in a number of occasions. Unfortunately, it was often 1000s of innocent people that lost out to their mistakes. Whether in third world countries (the people who had to live under US-installed repressive regimes that horribly treated their people, or the victims of anti-communist guriella groups) or first world countries (e.g. the CIA gave Al Qaeda the funds, weapons, training, and support base to flourish even after the end of the afghanistan occupation).

Anonymous said...
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Timothy said...

Is that the same Michael Savage that is the radio host? If so, from my understanding that wouldn't be a mix between Mccain and Obama, but a mix between Mccain and even more radical conservative elements.