Generation Gap

Read on below the jump (or follow the link) for the flip side of my post-before-last…and an endorsement.

Last night, MSNBC reported a Gallup poll that shows the only demographic Hillary still leads is women over 50. I was discussing this with the wife, who astutely pointed out that the problem isn’t that Clinton is female, it’s that she’s Hillary, and comes with so much baggage that American Airlines could get out of bankruptcy just on the fees to check the luggage. The press doesn’t bash her because she’s a woman – the sexism angle is just another thing they can club her with. If someone else were running – somebody who comes out of a state-level background with a minimum of national exposure so as not to build up the kind of enemies list or track record or possible exposure to attack, like maybe Sarah Palin (America’s Hottest Governor -tm-) or Janet Napolitano or Kathleen Sebelius – it would be a lot harder to run the kind of angles that have been used against Hillary, because they don’t have a decade and a half of track record and established enmity.

So I went back to the old days and borrowed Erwin Hargrove’s P-A-C model. Preparation, Achievement, Consolidation. Somebody’s got to start the ball rolling, somebody’s got to close the deal, and somebody makes it unexceptional.

Think about it: Al Smith broke the seal on a Catholic running for national office. JFK got elected. By the time Kerry ran in 2004, it was essentially an afterthought. You couldn’t name all the Catholics on either side of the two primary races this year. Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson finished a mighty strong second for the Ds in 1988, and Obama more or less has it wrapped up now. Give it another generation and it won’t even be that big a deal. In the past, you’ve had women who were marginal candidates for President at best – Shirley Chisolm, Pat Schroeder, Carol Mosely-Braun – but none who were contenders. Hillary was serious, and by virtue of running a hard second the whole way, she’s basically made it possible for the next woman to close the deal.

And ultimately, I think that’s why the Tab-and-Virginia-Slims cohort is so outraged. It’s not that a woman’s not going to get there, because it’s going to happen inevitably, and probably sooner than you’d expect. No, the reason Ferarro, Steinem, et al are so outraged is because it’s not going to be one of them. Because when the triumph comes, and a woman puts her hand on that Bible, it’s going to be somebody other than a second-wave Baby Boomer feminist.

In the end, this is the flip side of my last post, and the reason (drum roll…here comes the worst kept secret in the entire Interweb tubes) that I’m officially backing Barack Obama for President: because he’s 47 years old. When Woodstock happened, he was 8. When Saigon fell, he was 14. He didn’t get out of high school until 2 years after Star Wars came out, and his college and graduate career was spent in the go-go 1980s. He is chronologically incapable of continuing the 40-year proxy war of the baby boomers.

Think about it: literally every single Presidential election in my lifetime has been a re-fight of 1968. The Silent Majority vs. the Great Other. The good decent hardworking white people against the coloreds, the bra-burners, the dirty hippies, the eggheads, the Communists. This is why Kevin Phillips deserves a frying pan in the nuts, no matter how much he’s repented: what he gave us was a self-propelled bullshit machine that turns our national politics into Groundhog Day with a constant loop of Buffalo Springfield in the background.

National politics will not move forward until the last Wallace supporter is strangled with the entrails of the last McGovern supporter.

Barack Obama is our best chance to break the endless cycle of Boomer narcissism…because he’s not one of them. He’s somebody who can say, yes, the Sixties were a pivotal historical moment…but guess what? The moment’s over. Put the bong and the sandals and the Confederate flags back in the attic and deal with the world as it is in 2008.

Ready? Good. Saddle up and ride.

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