I have long believed that the 2008 presidential election would be the last focused on the baby boomer generation.
As a baby boomer myself, I’ve witnessed our generation’s run for the White House, from it’s start during Gary Hart’s campaign in 1984 to the pinnacle of power while President Clinton was in office. As sad as it is to admit, the current occupant of the White House is a baby boomer, too.
This year, with the exception of Senator Obama, the major Democratic candidates are all boomers. Interestingly, history may define boomer politics by the Clinton and Bush dynasties. If Senator Clinton is elected next year and serves two terms, 28 years of our political life will have centered on a Bush or a Clinton.
Surely, there is more talent available than just these two families?
Andrew Sullivan is one of the leading intellectuals of our time, and thankfully, a friend of mine. Although I have had many political disagreements with him over the years, I am in awe of his intellect and eloquence. Andrew has written an insightful and persuasive cover story for Atlantic Monthly called "Goodbye to All That." He proclaims that Senator Obama is the bridge between boomers and the next generation. This thoughtful piece should be read by everyone. Here is an excerpt to wet your appetite:
"The logic behind the candidacy of Barack Obama is not, in the end, about Barack Obama. It has little to do with his policy proposals, which are very close to his Democratic rivals’ and which, with a few exceptions, exist firmly within the conventions of our politics. It has little to do with Obama’s considerable skills as a conciliator, legislator, or even thinker. It has even less to do with his ideological pedigree or legal background or rhetorical skills. Yes, as the many profiles prove, he has considerable intelligence and not a little guile. But so do others, not least his formidably polished and practiced opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.
Obama, moreover, is no saint. He has flaws and tics: Often tired, sometimes crabby, intermittently solipsistic, he’s a surprisingly uneven campaigner.
A soaring rhetorical flourish one day is undercut by a lackluster debate performance the next. He is certainly not without self-regard. He has more experience in public life than his opponents want to acknowledge, but he has not spent much time in Washington and has never run a business. His lean physique, close-cropped hair, and stick-out ears can give the impression of a slightly pushy undergraduate. You can see why many of his friends and admirers have urged him to wait his turn. He could be president in five or nine years’ time—why the rush?
But he knows, and privately acknowledges, that the fundamental point of his candidacy is that it is happening now. In politics, timing matters. And the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events, from one traumatizing war in Southeast Asia to another in the most fractious country in the Middle East. The legacy is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.
Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.
At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo¬mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce. "