Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Which I Go On A Bit

I just found this column from David John Broder from the end of January, 2007.

Because behind the curve is what we do here at the Falcon's Gyre.

So anyway, we all know David John Broder has an agenda, but he's talking up Obama like he's Black Jesus, gonna end all our troubles, and you know who's the source of all of our troubles? Hippies. Protesters. Equal Rights marchers. You know, the cast of Hair.

In short, the parents of Generation X, of which I think myself part of the trailing edge. My parents.

They just won't let go of the issues of their youth, Broder says, all concerned for the mental well being of people his age. Don't we know by now that the Vietnam War is over? That Bob Dylan is a has-been? These things don't matter to America anymore!

Of particular gall is this part of the first page:

Modern presidential campaigns are essentially character tests, and for 20 years or longer the cultural and political divides of the 60s served as presumed signposts to a candidate’s character. Did he protest the war, trip to Hendrix, march in solidarity with women? Or enroll in R.O.T.C., rush a fraternity, join a church? As a young man, Mr. Obama did not have to make many of those choices, and he now has an opportunity to define himself on his own terms and not be instantly caricatured based on personal decisions he made four decades ago.

No, I guess Obama didn't have to make many of those choices. Of course, all of the choices he didn't have to make are those that Broder positions on the Hippie side of the equation: protest the (Vietnam) war, take drugs at Woodstock, march for equal rights. Those things, Broder would have us believe, are over and done with. Gone.

Except they aren't. We're still protesting wars, only these are in the hills of Iraq instead of the jungles of Nam. Drugs are still a problem, and you can still buy Hendrix albums (so you could potentially trip out to Hendrix, a weak point, I will grant you). Do you honestly think women were the only people marching in the 60s? There were a couple other marches, I seem to recall, about skin color or something.

And those on the Square side of the equation are still with us. I knew members of ROTC in college. I knew frat boys. Hell, I went to a couple frat parties but I soon learned that they liked their music turned up to 20 and their houses were too small for that, so I stopped going. Not to mention it was all just an excuse to get drunk. Oh, and churches are still there.

Obama is a member of a church. That's a choice he made. He did not join ROTC. That's a choice he made. As far as I know, he did not rush a fraternity. That's a choice he made. Were there no war protests in the 80s? Were there no drug-addled rock concerts? Were there no marches for equality? What, not even for gays and lesbians, transgendered individuals and fellow travelers? In the midst of AIDS? None?

So all of these choices that Broder says Obama did not have to make seem to position Obama in the Square column, and not in the Hippie column. Just the sort of person who's going to solve the problems of the 60s by ignoring them, right?

Broder does, of course, ignore that the 70s and the 80s -- Obama's adolescence and young adulthood -- had their own problems. Vietnam was not confined to the 60s. Nixon and Watergate. Oil troubles. Jimmy Carter's rabbit run-in, which Pat Oliphant seems to have decided defined the Carter administration. Oh, and the hostage crisis.

David John Broder seems to be suggesting that Obama has no pet issues to bring to Washington, which is swamped with the fights of the 60s. Of course, this column is almost 2 whole years old, and Obama is on his way to the White House. But I don't believe that the fights of the 60s are done with yet, even though we've elected a mixed-race president. And I don't believe Obama has no pet issues. This was obviously a great step in the right direction, but it doesn't mean that my parents have to shut up now.

Of course, it would make David John Broder's job a lot easier if we all did.

EDIT: I am informed by a reliable source in comments that this column is by John Broder, not David Broder. That's what I get for going off half-cocked, I suppose. Sorry for the error.


Sherry said...

Great rant!

But it's John Broder, not David.

See here.

He is co-author of a book on "multiparty politics" so it could be argued that he has an even bigger axe to grind than David Broder, who would never approve of Obama in any way.

ConnectingTheDots said...

Thought-provoking post and blog. Relevant to your comments is the fact that many experts have argued these days that Obama is a member of Generation Jones…the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Generation X, now 42-54 years old.

I’ve noticed quite a bit of buzz about GenJones in the context of this election; I saw several discussions on national TV about Obama being a Joneser, as well as about GenJones voters being a key swing vote.

You may find this link interesting, my friends and I have been linking people to this page because we think it matters: it has a bunch of print excerpts and videos of big time publications (e.g. The New York Times, Newsweek, etc.) and pundits (e.g. David Brooks, Clarence Page, etc.) all talking about Obama’s identity as part of Generation Jones:

Falconer said...

"But it's John Broder, not David."

Aw, crap.

All right, time to eat crow.