By historical standards -- or any other -- the Democrats have an excellent set of presidential candidates from which to choose this season, and I look forward to campaigning enthusiastically and without reservation for our nominee. But this does not mean that we should be suppressing the discussion of differences, and it is in this framework that I think it is important to express my discomfort with a major theme of Senator Obama's campaign.
I am referring to his denigration of "the Washington battles of the 1990's" and, usually implicitly but sometimes explicitly, of those who fought them. My unease is compounded by the very explicit note of generational politics in his approach. I should note that I cannot be accused of self interest in taking exception to those who lament the baneful influence of baby boomers on our current politics, having myself been born well before the boom. Indeed, being much too young to claim membership in the greatest generation and even being a couple of years short of being a depression baby, I am reconciled to being part of a fairly large birth cohort that goes undesignated in our pop sociology. But since I do not have much intellectual respect for generational politics, I can live with this chronological anomie. I say that because generational politics presumes that I should have a different set of political values today than I had in the sixties when I began my political activity. But I cannot think of a cause that I cared deeply about then that I felt it appropriate to abandon as I aged, nor an important issue in which I had no interest then, but which now gets my attention.
This brings me to my particular concern with Senator Obama's vehement disassociation of himself and those he seeks to represent from "the fights of the nineties." I am very proud of many of the fights I engaged in in the nineties, as well as the eighties and before. Senator Obama also bemoans the "same bitter partisanship" of that period and appears to me to be again somewhat critical of those of us who he believes to have been engaged in it.
I agree that it would have been better not to have had to fight over some of the issues that occupied us in the nineties. But there would have been only one way to avoid them -- and that would have been to give up. More importantly, the only way I can think of to avoid "refighting the same fights we had in the 1990's", to quote Senator Obama, is to let our opponents win these fights without a struggle.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Barney Frank is not happy