Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 25-Feb-08
ABC's Cokie Roberts conveys the frustration of feminists over Barack Obama

Web Log - February, 2008

ABC's Cokie Roberts conveys the frustration of feminists over Barack Obama

Obama himself is an empty vessel waiting to be filled.

"Obama Girl" is selected as randomly chosen questioner on a <i>Saturday Night Live</i> skit mocking the press's adoration of Barack Obama.  Her "question" turns out to be her song, "I've got a crush on Obama." <font size=-2>(Source: NBC)</font>
"Obama Girl" is selected as randomly chosen questioner on a Saturday Night Live skit mocking the press's adoration of Barack Obama. Her "question" turns out to be her song, "I've got a crush on Obama." (Source: NBC)

I always say on this web site that Generational Dynamics is concerned with the attitudes and behaviors of large masses of people, entire generations of people. The attitudes and behaviors of politicians are irrelevant, except insofar as they reflect the attitudes of the great masses of people.

The rise of Barack Obama surely fits this category. There's been a huge surge in support for Obama among Democrats, and even among some Republicans. This support has translated into historically high campaign contributions from tens of millions of people. That a major change is going on is without question.

And it's pretty clearly a generational change. As I wrote a year ago in "Barack Obama to Boomers: Drop dead!" Obama has captured the enthusiasm of Generation-Xers by capturing and expressing their hatred for the Boomer generation. According to Obama:

"[Americans should turn to Generation-X] after the campus culture wars between freaks and straights, and after young people had given up on what überboomer Hillary Rodham Clinton called in a 1969 commencement address a search for 'a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.' ...

In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in 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."

On ABC's news interview show, This Week With George Stephanopoulos, on Sunday morning, Boomer feminist commentator Cokie Roberts expressed her frustration with Obama's success:

"What happened [to Hillary Clinton]? Wisconsin happened. She lost too much in Wisconsin, and she lost too many groups that had been with her. The only group she still has is white women, and I do think that there's some possibility that you will see a sort-of reaction among white women.

I had the opportunity to interview Billie Jean King this week, and she said, "You know, I feel that everything I've worked for all of my life is going out the window."

Cokie Roberts saying "cute young man" on <i>This Week With George Stephanopoulos</i>  <font size=-2>(Source: ABC)</font>
Cokie Roberts saying "cute young man" on This Week With George Stephanopoulos  (Source: ABC)

And there is that sense. I mean, here is this woman, she's worked hard, she's done it all the way you're supposed to do it, and then this cute young man comes in and says a bunch of sweet nothings, and pushes you out of the way. And a lot of women are looking at that and saying, "There goes my life."

Well, that's the way life is. Roberts' characterization of the battle between an older woman and a "cute young man" misses the mark, insofar as she believes that this is a man versus woman issue. It's not a gender issue. It's not a feminist issue. Gender and feminism are irrelevant. It's a generational issue.

For decades, Gen-Xers have been living in the shadows of the Boomer generation, and have developed enormous fury at and hatred for the Boomers. Now it's the Xers' turn, and they'll brush the Boomers aside. A collection of frustrated feminist politicians will have nothing to say about it.

There's a piece missing from the Obama campaign and Obama himself: A political philosophy, especially a foreign policy philosophy.

On this web site, I've frequently expressed contempt for Washington politicians on the left and right for not knowing basic facts about what's going on in the world.

This is certainly true of Obama. His remarks about unilateral withdrawal from Iraq are irresponsible, and his remarks about pre-emptive American attacks on Pakistan soil are extremely dangerous. These remarks show that he has no "antiwar" philosophy, and in fact no philosophy at all.

President George Bush has admitted many times that he had no real political philosophy until 9/11, after which he devoted his Administration to the war against terror.

Assuming that Obama becomes President, what political philosophy will he adopt? He doesn't know -- right now he's an empty vessel. And his enthusiastic, euphoric supporters don't know either -- except that they believe that he's going to "bring change," although they don't really know whether the change will be good or bad.

The "change" that feminists are seeing is particularly ironic. I've never really understood what even feminists believed that they wanted for women in the workplace, since in my decades in the computer industry I've never, except for once or twice, seen any woman who was willing to put in the long hours in the workplace that many men put in as a matter of course. As I wrote in "'It's going to be the 1950s all over again,'" young women themselves, even well-to-do well-educated young college women, are choosing more and more to stay at home with the kids, much to the horror of Boomer feminists.

So it's been clear now for some years that Gen-X women have little use for Boomer feminism, just as Gen-X financial engineers have little use for credit restraint that was practiced by Boomers' predecessors.

What will happen now if a Gen-Xer becomes President? In what ways will his contempt for Boomers be expressed? Will his naïveté lead us to war more quickly, or will his youthful earnestness calm international fears for a while? And when the "clash of civilizations" world war comes, as it must, will he panic and lead the nation initially to disaster -- as Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln did initially in WW II and the Civil War, respectively -- or will his responses be more measured?

If and when Obama takes office, what we're most likely to see is a repeat of the public manic-depressive behavior that followed the Democratic Congressional election victory in 2006. That election was to "bring change" as well. A couple of weeks later, Donald Rumsfeld resigned, and the journalist David Gergen described in giddy terms, "This is the best moment we've had in over three years." The giddiness didn't last though, as could be seen when the new Congress came to town, and it was apparent that "change" wasn't going to happen. NBC newsman Chris Matthews spoke for the left when he launched an ignorant and vitriolic screaming rant against President Bush.

After the 2006 elections, the desire to effect change, no matter what change, no matter how irresponsible, was blocked by President Bush. If Obama takes office with the Democratic party in control of Congress, then public demands for "change" may cause a young President, anxious to prove his toughness, to panic and do something dangerous. That's what happened with President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs disaster, for example.

The desire for change, led by Gen-Xers, that's now sweeping the nation will affect the character of our response to the massive world war that coming, but we have no way of knowing what form that response will take.

    My death waits like an old rouée
    So confident I'll go her way
    Harvesting the passing time

My death waits like a princess At the funeral of my youth Crying for the passing time

My death waits like a wicked witch At the torching of our wedding Laughing at the passing time

But whatever lies behind the door And what's waiting for me there, Angel or devil, I don't care, For in front of that door, there is you. -- From Jacques Brel, La Mort

Whoever is our next President, whether Barack Obama or someone else, we won't know what's behind the door until he (or she) opens it. (25-Feb-08) Permanent Link
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