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


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 1-Sep-06
George Bush gives a generational political speech

Web Log - September, 2006

George Bush gives a generational political speech

His reference to "Fascists" and "Nazis" appeals to Boomers and Silents.

What do you do if you're a politician and the voters aren't buying your message? You change your message.

The message that "the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror" isn't effective any more, according to Larry J. Sabato, Prof. of Politics at Univ. of Virginia, speaking during an interview on Fox News.

"Here's where the President's stubbornness or persistence -- depending on your point of view -- is showing through," says Sabato. "He's determined to make that connection, but the public hasn't been buying it for six to eight months, and the President is behind the curve on this one."

President Bush's revised message was tried in Thursday's speech to the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah:

"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.

President George Bush, speaking to American Legion National Convention <font size=-2>(Source: CNN)</font>
President George Bush, speaking to American Legion National Convention (Source: CNN)

We're now approaching the fifth anniversary of the day this war reached our shores. As the horror of that morning grows more distant, there is a tendency to believe that the threat is receding and this war is coming to a close. That feeling is natural and comforting -- and wrong. As we recently saw, the enemy still wants to attack us. We're in a war we didn't ask for, but it's a war we must wage, and a war we will win."

The comparison of terrorists to "Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century" is something new in his speeches, and has generated a great deal of political controversy among his opponents.

According to Sabato, Bush's new message targets a certain voter demographic:

"I think when the President links what's happening in Iraq with what has been the standard process in American foreign policy and domestic policy since World War II, he does strike a chord with voters 50 years of age or older -- and voters 50 years of age or older can be close to half of the people who turn out on election day.

So when he puts this into a historical context, I think he's making progress in his arguments, and let's face it, he's arguing uphill. It's tough for him on Iraq now."

In other words, President Bush is making a generational argument. The reference to Fascists, Nazis and Communists is targeted at Baby Boomers and Silents. (The Boomers were born after World War II, and the Silents were born during the Great Depression and World War II).

As a Boomer myself, in a generation feeling increasingly neglected lately, it's gratifying that someone is paying attention to us again.

Of course, not all Boomers will respond to Bush's new message, but a lot of them will. People born more than 50 years ago grew up at a time when it was believed that if we had only stopped Hitler in 1935, then WW II could have been avoided. (Generational Dynamics shows that WW II would have occurred irrespective of Hitler, but this is what people believed.)

So President Bush is keying in on that belief, and by analogy that if we stop the terrorists now, then we won't have to fight them later.

In fact, he made that point specifically in his speech:

"The status quo in the Middle East before September the 11th was dangerous and unacceptable, so we're pursuing a new strategy. First, we're using every element of national power to confront al Qaeda, those who take inspiration from them, and other terrorists who use similar tactics. We have ended the days of treating terrorism simply as a law enforcement matter. We will stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home."

The last sentence in particular, "We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home," is especially effective, according to Sabato.

"It's effective, because there's a basic truth to it," says Sabato. "Pollsters have told me that when they ask open-ended questions about the war on terror and the war in Iraq, people actually volunteer that very phrase. 'I don't like everything going on in the war in Iraq, but it's better to fight them over there than over here.' So when you have that kind of line bubbling up from the grass roots, I think the President is very wise to use it."

This whole discussion is relevant to something I've been saying for four years: There is no anti-war movement in America today, and there won't be.

During the the 1960s and 1970s in America, when we were in a generational awakening period, there was a massive anti-war movement. Hundreds of thousands of students would demonstrate and riot, on college campuses and in Washington, almost every weekend. The entire summer of 1967 was called the "Summer of Love," as millions of college students converged on San Francisco to protest the war.

Obviously, nothing even remotely like that is happening today. It may be summer, and there may be political disputes, but no one would call this a "summer of love." It's more a summer of political hatred and vituperation.

I was thinking of this last week when I saw a television interview with Ned Lamont, the Democrat who beat Senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. Democratic party voters rejected Lieberman because he was too supportive of George Bush's policy in Iraq.

So that would make Ned Lamont an anti-war candidate, right? Not according to Lamont. In the interview he said he's NOT an antiwar candidate. Does he want to set a timetable for withdrawal? Absolutely not. So what does he want?

You can go to the "issues" section of the Ned Lamont official web site, and all you find is this: "That the war in Iraq has diverted far too many of our dollars, and too much of our attention, from our needs back home." On another page he criticizes Bush's pursuit of the war, and adds, "While we will continue to provide logistical and training support as long as we are asked, our frontline military troops should begin to be redeployed and our troops should start heading home."

That is, to say the least, about as weak an "antiwar" statement as you can get.

According to Professor Sabato, Democrats are presenting no exit strategy for the Iraq war. "They don't have a clear plan because they're divided into separate factions. Some want immediate withdrawal, and others want gradual withdrawal, and 'gradual' could mean end of this year, or five years."

However, this is probably the best strategy for Democrats in November, according to Sabato. "The point is, this is a midterm election, and the out of power party, the Democrats, get a pass from the voters on this for the most part. They're simply allowed to oppose the incumbents, the Republicans. They will have to come up with a specific plan for the Presidential election in 2008." (1-Sep-06) Permanent Link
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