Commentary by Anne Applebaum From today’s Washington Post:
And now, ladies and gentlemen, before the convention season comes to a close, let us pause a moment and suspend our partisan impulses: It is time to sing the praises of 44-year-old women. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, from Alaska or Chicago, rural or urban, a moose-hunter or a gun-controller, surely you can see that Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama, two of the stars of this year’s political conventions, do have a few important things in common.
She doesn’t use the term Generation X but that is who she’s talking about: “both of them belong to the first post-feminist generation …” Read the whole thing.
- Class of ’64 [Washington Post}
The Times had a great front page piece about a changing of the guard in academia — how the old liberal professors are on the cusp of retirement, and on their heels is a new generation that is less ideological.
The decline of self-identified liberals has given way to moderates, but despite a shift to the middle, the vast majority of professors identify as Democrats, albeit less vociferously so, citing Barrack Obama’s statement about the elections of 2000 and 2004: “I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage.”
Another interesting shift is that as women now make up nearly half of academia, issues have moved away from epic power struggles to everyday issues such as family-friendly benefits. I have a whole chapter in Slackonomics about how Generation X has repurposed feminism, but now I’m wondering if I’ve underestimated the impact that post-feminism has had on the political culture in a much broader sense. When men were the predominant force in political life, grand revolutionary struggles were emphasized over issues that affect people’s individual lives more directly. I quote an academic in the book who noted this about feminism, but maybe the same could be said for politics? Substitute “post-feminism” below (another term for Third Wave Feminism) with “post-liberalism” or “post-baby-boomerism” and you get essentially the same thing:
“Post-feminism assumes … that now it is up to individual women to make personal choices that simply reinforce those fundamental societal changes. Put this way, ‘feminist’ practices become matters of personal style or individual choice and any emphasis on organized intervention is regarded as naive ….”
While David Brooks doesn’t put this in generational terms, that is clearly the underlying force of what he’s describing in today’s Times column:
The real core of [Obama's] financial support is something else, the rising class of information age analysts. Once, the wealthy were solidly Republican. But the information age rewards education with money. There are many smart high achievers who grew up in liberal suburbs around San Francisco, L.A. and New York, went to left-leaning universities like Harvard and Berkeley and took their values with them when they became investment bankers, doctors and litigators. …
The trends are pretty clear: rising economic sectors tend to favor Democrats while declining economic sectors are more likely to favor Republicans. The Democratic Party (not just Obama) has huge fund-raising advantages among people who work in electronics, communications, law and the catchall category of finance, insurance and real estate. Republicans have the advantage in agribusiness, oil and gas and transportation. Which set of sectors do you think are going to grow most quickly in this century’s service economy.
Brooks has really hit his stride. I find him to be the only unpredictable, must-read columnist at the Times. Maureen Dowd has become a caricature, Paul Krugman is still worthwhile but never unpredictable, Bob Herbert is neither worthwhile or unpredictable, Thomas Friedman needs no further piling on, William Kristol is a joke, etc.
Ya know, I try really hard not to take shots at baby-boomers, mostly because they’re such an easy target these days, but sometimes you just have to shake your head. Charlie Cook, the most incisive political analyst working today (in large part due to his complete lack of partisanship and dispassionate approach to sussing out the facts) has a very enlightening — and sad — analysis about the presidential race. He has been trying to puzzle out why the race between Obama and McCain is so close. And it turns out that Obama is WAY behind McCain when it comes to white baby-boomers!
In a piece today for the National Journal, he notes that, “The political environment is wretched for Republicans. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted June 6-9, respondents preferred a Democrat to win the presidency by 16 percentage points, 51 percent versus 35 percent for a Republican.” So why is the match up between Obama and McCain much closer, he asks?
“Obama trailed McCain by 9 points among both 18-to-34-year-old white voters and those 65 and older. He lagged by 10 points among 35-to-49-year-old whites [roughly Generation X]. But among those 50 to 64, Obama is losing by a whopping 18 points, 51 percent to 33 percent.”
Keep in mind that these numbers include Republicans, but still, aren’t boomers supposed to be the ones who advocated for diversity, tolerance, peace and love and all that crap? As usual for the boomers, those are ideals of convenience — nice only when they don’t cost anything, like their position as leaders of the country or increased taxes. Obama has talked repeatedly about the need for America to turn the page and usher in a new generation of leadership. Perhaps even more to the point, Charlie Cook wonders, “is [Obama's] difficulty that these are voters in their prime earnings years, when they are most sensitive to the issue of taxes?” Undoubtedly. Throw in a little unreconstructed racism and you’ve got an 18 point deficit with a 71 year-old white guy who thinks we should stay in Iraq for 100 years if that’s what it takes to “win,” whatever that means. So much for peace and love.