Letting the kids decide this one

Standing there in the endless ice-caked line leading to my caucus site last week, I experienced something I can only describe as extraordinary: everywhere I looked I saw the same thing — excited young faces. And I gather from the media reports that similar excited young faces have been swamping polling stations and caucus sites all across the country — and, yes, most, although by no means all, of them have been there for Barack Obama.
This is the real political miracle of 2008. After years — generations, really — of pundits and civics teachers alike bemoaning youthful political apathy, suddenly it’s a whole new world.
I guess that’s what I find most troubling about having one of my favorite columnists, Paul Krugman, try to write the whole thing off as just a cult of personality. What I see is something more like the audacity of youth — young people believing that Americans really can change this nation and this world for the better.

Is that naïve? Probably a little: but having lived through so many decades of “realistic” pessimism about the power of concerted action in furtherance of the public purpose, I say: Vive la Naïveté! 

It is as though somewhere in their racial memory (before you get mad look up what it means) these kids have remembered what their parents often seem to have forgotten — how often in the history of this nation governmental initiatives have made dramatic improvements in people’s lives: the Progressive Movement, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement and on and on.

Am I giving the kids too much credit? Probably, but I’m cool with that too.

I think I understand where Paul Krugman’s coming from, by the way: Obamamania among liberals makes no sense to him, because, in a wonkish sort of way, Clinton’s positions are slightly to the left of Obama’s, especially in the area of health care. 

Clinton, for example, is probably right, as Krugman has repeatedly argued, about the necessity of having mandates be part of any truly universal health insurance plan. The problem, however, is that in the type of 51% versus 49% dog-eat-dog political universe Clinton would be elected in, she could never get the plan adopted anyway.

The kids believe, I think, Obama offers the chance of creating a new universe in which it might actually be possible to get some big things done.

I struggled for a long time before deciding to go with Obama: I still like Hillary and think she’d make a good president. At the end of the day, though, I think Hendrik Hertzberg has a better point than Krugman when he says, “Hillary Clinton would make a competent, knowledgeable, and responsible President. Barack Obama just might make a transformative one.”

But to be honest, all such logic aside, the thing that finally pulled me in Obama’s direction was the kids.

God knows my generation has done more than its share of fu*king everything up.

We took the inheritance of a remarkably equal America, handed down to us from The Greatest Generation (fittingly I will link to a Krugman article), and turned it into a new Gilded Age of economic inequality. We ran up a horrific national debt largely to fund tax cuts for the already overly-wealthy and passed the bill onto the kids, started a stupid war and again passed the bill on and, even worse potentially, largely ignored an increasingly likely environmental apocalypse.

And guess what? Over the next 30 or 40 years most of us will conveniently die off, leaving the mess we’ve created for the kids to deal with as best they can.

Who the hell are we to insist that our logic should prevail? If the kids of today believe Barack Obama is the man for the job — as, in fact, they seem overwhelmingly to believe — then who am I to disagree?  

7 Responses to “Letting the kids decide this one”

  1. marmstrong57 Says:

    Face it, the “kids” of today have much more invested in this election than do us old timers. They have to live with the mess we’ve created and somehow try to clean it up before their kids inherit it as well!

  2. richl Says:

    I hope ‘the kids’ and Obama not only win but that they carry through with their dreams better than us boomer types have.

  3. clocksmith Says:

    I am completely behind Senator Obama. We are in desperate need of change and transformation after the 7-year long nightmare that we have endured at the hands of the Bush Administration.

    I am thrilled that the kids are kids are excited about the Obama. So am I, and I’m no kid (I’m 50).

    However, I have to take issue with the part of the above article that claims our generation f*cked up the U.S. in the last eight years. “We” did not run up the national debt, start a horrible war or ignore the environment. Bush and his cronies and their corporate supporters did all this. Lay the blame where it belongs; at the feet of this fascist Administration. I, and a lot of others have watched in horror as this country has been systematically looted and destroyed.

    Those of us who hated Bush from the get-go and have done everything possible to stop him refuse to take the blame for what he has done as he ridden roughshod over the will of the American people.

    OK, there, now I feel better!

    From Steve: Point taken. I’ve done my share of fighting too.

  4. nonna Says:

    The kids decided one for Minnesota…..Jesse Ventura for governor. It didn’t work out too well. I am really worried about their adulation for Obama in these times. He is not proven and we really don’t know a lot about him. These are bad times and the country needs a strong firm grounded president.
    Inspirational preaching and promises aren’t going to cut it.

  5. alwayshope Says:

    I remember being young and idealistic and filled with passion and confidence.
    Go for it kids!
    I’m by no means finished with the good fight myself but it can’t hurt to have the energy and imagination of these “excited young faces” behind us.

  6. DRDarkeNY Says:

    Nonna - and the Clintons’s “experience”, which consists mainly of folding like a cheap suit at the first sign of Republican opposition so they can seem “bipartisan”, is the “strong firm grounded President” you desire? Sounds like you’d be happier voting for John McCain - he absolutely KNOWS he’s right, and he’s got decades of bucking the Republican mainstream to give him the “firm hand” you seem to want.

    I’ll take an “unproven” Obama any day, thanks.

  7. richl Says:

    I don’t think we need Hillary in the oval office this time around. She would probably do a decent job but she is a bit to much of a shyster and wheeler dealer. Granted Obama may not be as politically connected or as astute at infighting as Hillary but he brings a much needed change to the political scene and new hope to the country. Right now I think we need the “new blood: and hope far more than we need Hillary’s expertice at wheeling & dealing or politial infighting.

    Besides which I really like Michelle’s down to earth, don’t take no guff, tell it like it is, attitude :-)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.