Thursday, June 05, 2008


Boomer Agonistes

When I've commented before on the connection between the Clinton machine and Boomer culture, the inevitable response is, "But Obama is a boomer as well."

No, he's not.

Yes, he was born in 1961, and some demographers assess the boom years as 1946-64. But others see the Boom ending --
in a cultural sense, as much as a demographic one -- as ending in 1960. And, you can just tell that Barack Obama is of a different generation that the Clintons or the Bushes or the Gores. It's not about race, but about culture and the themes that this newer gerneration emphasizes.

John Zogby
ably summarizes the problems of the generation that just wouldn't leave:
The Clintons are proto-typical Baby Boomers - committed to ideals of peace and justice but overwhelmed with themselves. They (we, because I was born in 1948) are consumed with being the center of attention, the bride and groom at every wedding, so much so, that the ends don't simply justify the means, they are one and the same. Getting elected is the game, the final goal, the definition of self-worth. In his recent book, former White House spokesman Scott McClellan decried the mentality of “the permanent campaign” that he said permeated the White House of George W. Bush (the other Boomer president), which in some respects mirrors the Clinton behavior.

Sad to say, Bill Clinton became best known for the hallmarks of Boomerism – self-centeredness and permanent adolescence – as exhibited by the Lewinsky affair and all the other, lesser controversies and scandals.

The obsessions and legacy of the Clintons led to what the American voters thought was their antidote – the election of Bush, the boy who woke up and discovered he was President. Of course, they were wrong.

Bush’s exemplification of permanent adolescence could be seen almost immediately. The big new story out of the White House in early 2001 was his penchant to award everyone with childish nicknames, but there were other indications. Then, discussing the threat of Iraq in 2002, Bush said “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.”

We soon discovered that loyalty and clubbishness trumped experience and judgment, and an inability to admit mistakes destroyed credibility around the globe and three decades of Republican prestige in handling foreign policy. All the credit that the GOP earned through Richard Nixon’s efforts with China and Ronald Reagan’s tactics to successfully unravel the Soviet Union from within has been lost by the inflexible, inward-looking approach in dealing with Iraq and, now, Iran.

After 16 years, Americans have finally declared, state by state, caucus by caucus, primary by primary, that they have had enough of the Boomer generation in the White House.
An Andrew Sullivan reader also bemoans the examples of his generation that made it to the highest office in the land:
First, a man who refused to take responsibility for himself, and acted like the rules did not apply to him. Pretty much the epitome of the left's attitude in the late 1960s. Followed by a man who also refused to take responsibility, and acted like a stereotypical frat boy who never grew up.

In reality, there were a lot of us who were responsible adults. But apparently that was not the route to the Presidency. When history looks at us, there will be a tendency to take our generation's Presidents as a proxy for us all. God, how I wish it were not so! But there you have it.
Goodbye to all that.

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