Sunday, January 07, 2007

Will 2008 Mark the End of "Boomer" Obessions in American Politics

Since 1968, when Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew first used what was perceived as the rise of the counter-culture to gain political power, presidential politics has been shaped by the forces unleashed in the 1960s. Most of the time this has been to the detriment of the Democratic Party. In that period Republicans won elections in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004. During that period Democrats won elections in 1976, 1992, and 1998. If you are keeping score, that's Rs 7 and Ds 3.

The decade of the sixties unleashed a form of passionate politics because the challenges of that era were very divisive. America faced challenges to the established order from movements that advocated civil rights for blacks, women, and gays, from the anti-Vietnam War movement, from the environmental movement, and from people who challenged the existing sexual mores of the time. All of those movements found a political home in the Democratic Party and all of them were bitterly opposed by other Americans. It is not surprising that their opponents found a political home in the Republican Party.

It is no wonder, then, that the politics spawned by that era was and remains very personal and divisive. Time, however, changes everything. The "baby boom" started with people born in 1946 and ended with people born in 1960. The oldest boomers are now 60 and the youngest are 46. They are starting to give way to the next generation.

According to Howard Fineman of Newsweek this could lead to a politics that is no longer dominated by boomer obsessions. (You can read his article by clicking on the title of this entry.) Although his article doesn't go on with this analysis, Democrats far more than Republicans will benefit from America moving past the "culture wars." From our perspective it can't happen soon enough.


Jill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill said...

(I deleted the previous comment by me because I had the wrong blogger in mind as the author! sorry)

I'm not sure about the start date - I thought the boom was considered to start in 48. But I know the end date and it's, much to my chagrin, 1964. Believe me, I'm from 1962 and I know I have VERY little in common with the boomers on the other end. Of course, if you can contradict me with some citation, I will be greatly indebted! I've never been enamored of the boomer designation.

Team Member said...

You may be right. For some reason the year 1960 stuck in mind, but maybe it is the approaching of older age!

Jill said...

Wikipedia's entry actually has a pretty good breakdown and description that helps explain why I feel so in limbo about what generation owns me. Plus, with kids under 13, and me in my mid40s, I just don't feel anything like a Gen Xer - I typed my college thesis - no one had personal computers.

Team Member said...

You are right about the boomer designation linking together people who did not necessarily share the same experiences. I was 15 in 1964 and you were two. That means that I probably have a much clearer memory of the Beatles appearing on the scene and political figures like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther Kind, not to mention JFK and LBJ. Yet, the way the media treats us, you would think we had the same experiences.

Team Member said...

By the way, the Wikipedia article on Baby Boomers is very interesting in that it has a lot more gradations of the term than I knew existed.

Jill said...

Yeah, I thought the same thing too. Maybe it would be interesting to see who edited that page! A boomer - from which era? It does help me figure out what I'm not, even if no one can agree on where 1962 belongs.

Alan said...

Who is the anonymous dolt responsible for this simplistic, stupid, conservative comment? Identify yourself if you dare. Are you an ignorant fool or a Republican stooge? You wrongly parrot the tired olde Republican argument of Pat Buchanan and other right-wing "culture warriors" who still despise our generation responsible for ending the war in Vietnam. We forced the criminal President Richard Nixon from office in disgrace. We shed our blood in places like Kent State and Birmingham, Alabama. And our generation brought you rock music, environmentalism, modern feminism, civil rights, gay rights and other advancements. How sad you misunderstand. And we are a key part of the backbone of the new USA Democratic Party. Is Medina County and it's so-called Democrat activists still yearning for the values of the 1950's? Those were the days for the isolated middle-class folks in Medina, yes? If you're gonna send your "Democratic" newsletter to Summit County, expect enlightened responses to your backwardness. Sorry.

Team Member said...

Your rant illustrates the point about boomer politics being divisive very nicely. Thank you for posting it.

Nothing in the actual entry says that the anti-war movement was wrong, or that the civil rights movement was wrong, or that the women's rights movement was wrong, or that the gay rights movement was wrong. All the post does is point out is that all of these issues were divisive and that Republicans played on these issues for years to get political power. The fact that even pointing that out provokes such a strong reaction in you is interesting. It shows that even now, almost 40 years after the 1968 Democratic convention, these issues are still divisive.

Alan said...

Again, you endorse Republican attempts to divide and conquer. Are you aware Newsweek writer Howard Fineman led the assault upon Bill Clinton and the failed Republican impeachment? Do you know Fineman defended Bush's charge of war into Iraq in 2003? Why do you now echo Fineman's conservative opinion that the inspired values of the 1960s generation is a problem for Democrats? Why do you endorse Fineman's attempt to split our effective Democratic unity?

Ongoing "boomer generation" activism is a huge problem for Republicans and that's why conservative culture-warriors like Pat Buchanan and William Bennett repeatedly attack the "values" of "liberals" from the 60s. I'm just surprised that Democrats in Medina promote this Republican line of attack.

Your comment's timing, just after Medina Democrats helped deal a crippling 2006 blow to Ohio Republican extremism, is particularly curious. Why not focus all your energy upon the failed politics of Republican abuse of power instead of oddly joining the conservative crusade against liberal Democrats?

In Medina County, you recently won impressive gains for Democrats amidst your sea of Medina Republicans. Let's hope you can continue to promote progressive opinion and not join the right-wing chorus attacking a key segment of Democratic Party voters and activists.

"Boomer politics" is clearly a false Republican issue -- especially compared to real issues including war in Iraq, loss of civil liberties, corporate abuse of power, attacks upon women's freedoms, continuing racism and so many other aspects of Republican politics.

Why not embrace the values and lessons of the 1960s anti-war generation especially now when Vietnam and Nixon are relevant comparisons to Iraq and Bush?

Team Member said...

Although I am reluctant to continue this debate, how in the world does this entry represent us joining the Republican conservative crusade against liberal Democrats? What, we aren't supposed to point out that cultural issues have divided Democrats and led to Republican victories in 7 out of 10 of the last presidential elections?

I don't really get your point. You are apparently upset that I think the demise of cultural issues as deciding factors in elections would be a good thing. Well, I do. I think that Republicans have skillfully divided Democrats over social issues which has allowed them to pursue an economic agenda that has hurt working class people and families. You can rant all you rant, accuse me of secretly helping Republicans, and I will still think that the focus on cultural issues has hurt Democrats electorally.

Making that observation, however, doesn't mean that the issues shouldn't have been raised. America is a better place because of the civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights movements. It is more tolerant and allows Americans to fully realize their potential. I wouldn't turn the clock back to the early sixties, even if I could.

That, however, is not the point of the entry. The only point was that concentration on cultural issues doesn't usually work to Democrats' advantage. I think that Democrats need to do what Sherrod Brown did in the last election, and that is to focus on economic issues that are of concern to the middle class and working families. Did he run from his liberal postions on cultural issues? No, he did not, but neither did he emphasis them. He kept his eye on the ball.

I would submit that if you want to keep fighting the battles of the sixties, you are playing right into the hands of Republicans, who would like nothing better. We prefer to win elections by focusing on economic issues affecting the middle class.

Alan said...

Again, you misunderstand -- and this will be my final attempt to clarify.

You repeatedly say: "...cultural issues have divided Democrats and led to Republican victories in 7 out of 10 of the last presidential elections".

That's simplistic and ignores the many variables involved in these complex electoral situations. Strangely, you then mimic Pat Buchanan, William Bennett and Howard Fineman and seem to endorse their version of the "culture war", it seems.

It's wrong to simplistically blame "cultural issues" for Democrats' past political defeats. First, Republicans stole the two most recent national elections or the tally would be 5 and 5. Secondly, Republicans are now losing the majority of public opinion about all of the "cultural issues" that seem to scare you now.

And what just happened in the 2006 election? Americans voted for the sweeping refutation of failed Republican policies and corrupt, hypocritical "values". This improved situation precedes the inevitable Democratic landslide of 2008.

We win because we are the right side of history and not because we disguise our values or tradition.

The modern "culture war" is the latest version of conservative political/religious zealotry. This everlasting social struggle never ends and wishful thinking cannot bring it to a permanent conclusion.

Your opinion seems rather odd in this context especially now when we're on the verge of smacking down the extremist Republican Party for decades into the future.

If the American people presently embrace peace, human rights, women's rights, environmental concerns, gay rights, integration and other "cultural issues", it's not because Democrats and progressives have abandoned these worthwhile causes. If anything, voters now respect Democrats for our courage to continue defending our "values".

Any social or cultural progress can be eliminated if we do not continue to defend and promote "cultural issues". I repeatedly heard Sherrod Brown and other candidates courageously espouse a "progressive" agenda beyond narrow economic concerns in 2006.

Look at all the legitimate issues, news and events you properly raise for intelligent consideration in your otherwise fine newsletter and blog. Your now continued repetition of the Buchanan/Bennett/Fineman viewpoint just stands out like a sore thumb.

Please understand I've appreciated all of your newsletters since I started receiving them by email (out of the blue) long ago. Nice job, overall. Really.

It's especially great that Medina County has folks like you fighting the good fight until finally Ohio is back in the blue column. I'm one of your Democratic allies in Summit County.

Please have more faith in your fellow American citizens and voters. I'm hoping you can keep your eyes on the prize: we win elections by uniting Democrats and fighting Republicans.

Howard Fineman certainly does not approve.

Team Member said...

Interesting debate. I will have to think about your comments. Part of my reaction may be because I have run campaigns in "red" areas and have been asked questions about such issues. Maybe I am allowing those experiences to dominate my thinking.

I am sure you read What's the Matter with Kansas? where Franks argues that Republicans win by posing as cultural populists, people who stand up for the common man's beliefs which are under assault from cultural elites. I have always thought, and still think, that the way to counter such attacks is to stress economic populism.