Democracy Soup

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Obama vs. McCain = Generation X vs. Traditionalists: Which direction do we take?

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Originally published on on Wed, 05/28/2008 – 9:05am

Largest age contrasts on Election Day

Year Older opponent Age Younger opponent Age Age Difference
2008 John McCain 72 Barack Obama 47 25
1856 James Buchanan* 65 John C. Frémont 43 22
1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt* 62 Thomas Dewey 42 20
1844 Henry Clay 67 James K. Polk* 48 19
1852 Winfield Scott 66 Franklin Pierce* 47 19
1812 James Madison* 60 DeWitt Clinton 43 17
1896 William McKinley* 53 William J. Bryan 36 17

* presidential winner. Ages given are on Election Day

I was at a seminar last night that had nothing to do with politics. The speaker started the presentation with an analysis of four generation groups that while nice, had nothing to do much with the subject at hand. But the generational analysis was helpful in putting into perspective the Barack Obama – John McCain matchup in November.

This country has been electing presidents for over 200 years and it is fair to say that generations are now more studied than ever before.

The Barack Obama-John McCain matchup gives us the largest age difference among major party candidates in the history of the United States – 25 years.

The only two previous matchups with a 20+ age difference were 1856 (James Buchanan, 65; John C. Frémont 43 – 22) and 1944 (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 62; Thomas Dewey, 42 – 20).

This country is in the last throes of a 16-year run by Baby Boomers. Short of an upset by Bob Barr or a magical emergence by Hillary Clinton or Al Gore, we are not having a Baby Boomer president in 2008.

The battle will be between, as the seminar presenter labeled them, the matures or traditionalists (John McCain) vs. Generation X (Barack Obama).

Now you might say, “Well, Obama was born in 1961, so technically he’s a Baby Boomer.” The experts sometimes define Generation X as 1961-1981, even if the standard for Baby Boomers is 1946-1964. But whether Obama fits a technical definition is missing the big picture – Obama speaks and acts like Generation X.

I confess to being heavily biased and thrilled that we have a Generation X candidate, given that I am, well, Generation X. This isn’t a knock against Sen. Hillary Clinton (1947) or Sen. John Edwards (1953). At some point, we were going to have a Gen X candidate, and now is a good time for that.

And this isn’t a knock against Baby Boomers, but we need a fresh perspective on the woes of our country. And we need a non-Baby-Boomer perspective. The Baby Boomers did try to change the world 40 years ago, and we still applaud their actions. For those who sold out, their performance lately has been sad. Short-term visions, pandering to middle-class tax cuts, even Bill Clinton’s obsession with school uniforms were part of the Baby Boomer leadership mentality. And this isn’t even counting the travesties of George W. Bush’s short-sightedness.

The seminar presenter was talking about how her generation (Baby Boomers) wasn’t as comfortable with technology as younger generations. Obama’s use of the Internet to raise money is an excellent example where a younger generation’s perspective is useful.

We are getting blown away compared to Japan and South Korea in terms of broadband coverage in the country. For a country that prides itself on using a lot of technology, the United States is far behind the curve. This is an issue that Gen X and Gen Y are concerned about that hasn’t really occurred to the Baby Boomers.

And again no offense to Sen. Clinton but it seems like Obama has a better sense of alternative energies and has a better vision for cars to run on electricity or hydrogen.

This gets us to Sen. John McCain. If the Baby Boomers are clueless about technology, you can imagine what McCain thinks about IM and text messaging LOL. George H.W. Bush is in McCain’s generation, and there were certain prudent moves that someone from that generation would be known for, e.g., not going further into Iraq in 1991. Whether McCain would run the country as a Traditionalist depends on whether he cuts back on the current rhetoric over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

John McCain is not too old to be president – provided he can handle the duties involved. The president on January 20, 2009 will have a lot of work to do, and we can’t have the vacation schedule of George W. Bush. The fact that McCain set so many rules and guidelines for the “release” of his medical records is a very bad sign.

But it’s also that the challenges of the 21st Century need to be met by someone who truly understands the modern world. Barack Obama at 47 makes a lot more sense for the future of this country than John McCain at 72.


Written by democracysoup

May 28, 2008 at 9:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. […] hasn’t talked about his Internet skills. But if Romney is elected in 2012, he will be the 4th oldest person to be inaugurated. Ronald Reagan, William Henry Harrison, and James Buchanan comprise the top […]

  2. […] Obama vs. McCain = Generation X vs. Traditionalists: Which direction do we take? […]

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