Barack Obama — born in 1961, therefore, by many calculations, a Baby Boomer — is positioning himself — with the help of pundits like John Broder of the New York Times, as the Generation X candidate, claiming that Americans are tired of the Boomer generation and want a “different kind of politics.”
What’s that about? Anti-Baby Boom rhetoric is so 1992 (and we elected a Baby Boomer that year anyway). Obama acknowledges that the actual problems that worried the 1960s generation — racism, war, poverty — haven’t gone away. He’s vague on what sort of agenda he would pursue as a post-Boomer politician. That’s not surprising since Generation X — my generation, though perhaps not Obama’s — doesn’t have any political opinions to speak of. Which renders Barack’s critique, essentially, one of style. So we’re supposed to be impressed that he’s into web-streaming video?
You can’t really blame Barack for talking nonsense. He’s running for President.And that’s why I’m sick of him already. And Hillary. And all the rest of these bozos and their “Exploratory Committees.” Right now, these folks are exactly as significant to me as Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. That is to say, I’m not going to stop myself from reading about them, but I recognize that doing so is a rather foolish distraction from the rest of life.
Like the holiday season, the presidential election season is not without its amusements but begins much too early. The endless horse-racing by pundits and press is already starting, and I feel my stomach turning, not just at the tedium of it, but at the dizzying pace at which it forecloses political possibilities, and even conversation of any substance. Can’t we have a little time for real politics before we’re civically obliged to attend to this drone-fest of nothingness? A few months to talk about issues and ideas before the white noise about “name recognition” and “fund-raising capacity” and “poll numbers” begins?
Mostly, this election madness is a media creation. But even progressives are already obsessing over 2008, even in casual conversation. Can’t we focus instead on building the anti-war movement, which is planning a potentially huge march in D.C. this weekend? And pressuring the Democratic Congress to do just a few sensible, widely popular things: stop Bush’s escalation in Iraq, pass real global warming legislation and refrain from starting a war with Iran? And on the state level, lots of newly elected governors are making exciting promises — Eliot Spitzer in New York, for instance, promises universal pre-K — shouldn’t we work to make sure they deliver? And the important daily work of local politics, like passing living wage laws so that more working people can live on their earnings without the help of soup kitchens? Out of these smaller battles, larger movements grow. Out of such movements, politics can emerge in which elections are about something; without such politics, electoral discourse is as weighty as Page Six, and that’s where we are right now.
I do, of course, want to wrest the White House from the Republicans. I’m as eager as anyone else to end the horror of the last six years. I understand why Democrats are desperate for more exciting candidates, and for victory. But I don’t think that feeding the machine too early is going to help.