Generation Dem

Reading the prolific Stirling Newberry led me to the equally productive Sidney Blumenthal, the former Clinton adviser who writes regularly for Salon and The Guardian.   

The first several paragraphs of "Generation Dem" are tough going, a patient preparation, with statistic after telling statistic about the mid-term elections in the United States tilling the soil of analysis.

Then Blumenthal’s prose bursts into bloom.

Bush has been the formative political experience for the youngest generation of voters, those 18 to 30. Studies of voting preferences show that the experience imprinted on a generation in its 20s largely determines its future political complexion. This generation is the most Democratic generation ever — more Democratic than the youngest voting generations of the New Deal and the 1960s. In generational terms, their political alignment is also logical. As the children of the 1960s generation and the grandchildren of the New Deal generation, they have inherited those generations’ political genes. The in-between, more conservative generations — the so-called Silent Generation of the 1950s and their children — are smaller in numbers and weaker in cultural and political influence.

(That is a paragraph many will return to once the 2008 race heats up.)

The piece turns into a virtual anthology (in the original Greek, that is, meaning a collection of flowers) of political scholarship. Consider the following example:

George W. Bush became the first Republican ever to become president without winning California. Since Herbert Hoover’s election in 1928, every elected Republican had either been a Californian (like Hoover, Nixon and Reagan) or had run with one as vice president (as Dwight Eisenhower did with Nixon). The only Republican in that line to win the presidency on a ticket without a Californian was the elder Bush (with the Indianan Dan Quayle, an ersatz version of one of the Bush sons).

Without California, Bush’s coalition was invariably narrow and his conservatism a product of his constricted Southern orbit. While Bush presented himself as the true fulfillment of Reagan, resolving the political tensions of his half-breed father, the idea of Reaganism without California was utterly novel. Bush’s conservatism was a far more intensified strain than Reagan’s, drawing inspiration from the radical Southern Republican-led Congress of the late 1990s that Bush pretended to disavow in the 2000 campaign in order to present himself as "a uniter, not a divider." The absence of California in the Republican coalition was hardly the main factor in fostering Bush’s radicalism, but the changed composition of the party contributed to his insularity.

"Generation Dem" ends with a look at the political season that starts in January.

The overriding strategic imperatives for the Democratic Congress, besides restoring the constitutional obligation of oversight of the executive branch, are several-fold. The leaders of the new Congress plan to pass legislation that addresses working- and middle-class economic insecurity. If Bush vetoes it, he will be defined as their antagonist. On domestic policy, therefore, casting Bush as rejectionist works to the Democrats’ advantage. On foreign policy, it’s more complicated, even treacherous.

In their enthusiasm at finally attaining a measure of power, Democrats have not yet clarified that congressional power is inherently limited in foreign policy. By offering alternative tactics for Iraq that are overly precise, the Democrats may assume a share of the blame for a debacle that properly and solely belongs to Bush. Nonetheless, they can use their powers to illustrate the heedlessness of the president.

A terrific read.

3 Comments

Filed under Readings in Politics

3 responses to “Generation Dem

  1. John Lorenzo

    Hi John! I’m not too sure if you remember me. I was once your student in XUHS(87-88) and a fellow ADMU grad. I have to say you have an excellent blog. It is way more civil than any of your liberal counterparts here in the U.S. As for the aforementioned book, Generation Dems, Blumenthal has hit an essential nail or immediate reality, if you may, that the current 18-30 age group is a predominantly Democratic bunch. Yet, the key word here is — immediate. Blumenthal and the whole Democratic Party machine may spin that this generation of Americans will be well-entrenched Dems because it is a well-informed and better educated group than those of the same age group in the 50s, 60s, and 70s; that they have a more nuanced view of the world (as if intelligence and nuance are exclusively Democratic traits). The bottomline is, there is really only one salient issue that has galvanized this group to vote democratic over republican– the War in Iraq. Economic insecurity, social security, corruption, will be constant staples in the American political struggle between the right and the left and regardless who’s sitting in the White House, issues outside of Big Wars will never create major political re-alignments. The American youth, and the American public in general do not have the stomach of a long protracted war of a grand scale involving huge and constant troop deployments (short, winnable military excursions are exemptions).
    Given the liberal bias in the academe and the media in general, this age group for NOW will vote Democratic; but when the sandstorm in Iraq settles, these so-called Dems will go on with their lives of rugged individualism, profiteering, family-raising, etc….values that lie at the heart of American conservatism/libertarianism. There are no guarantees in politics.

  2. John Lorenzo

    erratum: i meant exceptions not exemptions on wars and troop deployments.

  3. Wonderful info! will visit once more!!

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