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.