Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ellen Goodman on Generational Politics

Goodman argues that we need a fighter, not a healer for President. Here's the article:

The '60s opened up huge and important conflicts. It was not all about boxers or briefs, inhaling or not. Issues surfaced around black and white relationships, male and female relationships, gay and straight relationships, all kinds of authority and our place in the world. These still go on. Not because they are relics of old college dorm fights but because they are still important and unresolved. Now we come to the 2008 primary season. Barack Obama is an appealing icon of change. He has the capacity to turn a problem around, roaming across its many surfaces. He gets it. His philosophical frame of mind appeals to the educated elite of the Democratic Party. His largest group of supporters are college-educated. But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant.

In his stump speech, Obama says, "I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights. ... I don't want to pit red America against blue America." Neither do I.

Sometimes, I approach politics like a parent watching her children: "I don't care who's right and who's wrong; just stop fighting." But of course I do care who's right, who's wrong, who'll win. What if red America is pitted against blue America?

My problem is that she's addressing the problems that boomer politicians have hit a dead end on. We haven't meaningfully moved forward on these issues during the era of boomer politicians. All the major civil rights legislation was signed while the WWII generation was still in charge. And as far as issues of war and peace, we've been moving notably backwards.

Sometimes the way to stop a fight is to step back and let cooler heads prevail. I don't know if that will work here, but I've grown weary of the back-and-forth finger pointing. More energy is being spent trying to figure out who to blame for the Iraq War than was ever spent on figuring out whether we ought to do it or not.

I'm seeing this adversarial boomer mentality everywhere I go on the Internet, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being angry all the time and never accomplishing anything. I'd like a President who will use the Presidency for the betterment of our nation, not as a stick with which to beat the opposition. We've had a fighter in the Presidency for the past seven years; how's that worked out for us?

As long as the debate is framed in terms of, "I'm right and you're wrong" rather than, "come, let us reason together", we will never get anything meaningful accomplished. Maybe that's a boomer thing, maybe it's not; all I know is that it's time for a different type of politics, and we're not going to get that from the same old faces we've been seeing the last fifteen years.

"But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant."

The crux of the problem is contained within that statement. I am unconcerned about what the Democrats need. I am concerned about what my country needs. What America needs. I'd like it if my President felt the same way.

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