I’m sure many people have already made this point elsewhere, but I was thinking tonight about how the Dem race has been a bit of a shadow boxing match between this country’s history with racism and it’s history with the treatment of women. There’s really no way to avoid that subtext, although I think it would be dangerous to draw sweeping conclusions from any outcome, simply because this race is so much about the specific personalities and histories of Obama and HRC.
I thought ahead a bit tonight about what an Obama/McCain matchup would look like. There is a history between the two; I don’t know many of the details but the essential gist is that McCain was put off by Obama’s fast ascension in the Senate, and the two do not have a cozy relationship. McCain resents Obama for not paying his dues, more or less.
It will not take long for the narrative of an Obama/McCain race to become Gen X overtaking the Baby Boomers as the dominant force in American culture and politics. While McCain himself is technically not a Baby Boomer, he certainly represents the values of that generation and is a formative product of it. An election win for Obama would be spun as a passing of the torch to the next generation of power in America. The ironic part about that is that Obama himself is a Baby Boomer, having been born in 1961. But like McCain, Obama represents the values of the generation that immediately followed his own.
The biggest place we see the change is in the worldviews the two men bring. Obama’s is a more multicultural focus, not to mention his personal history. McCain’s narrative is more traditional, given his status as a war hero, and more particularly the fact that his identity is forged by his wartime experiences. The context of John McCain is very much the context of the Baby Boomers. The world was shaped by the U.S. in hard-fought battles, and the U.S. then reaped the benefits of superpower status as the world followed the U.S.
The context of Barack Obama is that the world is bigger than the U.S., and the world doesn’t have to or necessarily want to follow the U.S., and rather than try to impose the same order, we should forge ahead to find our place in the new one.
That narrative’s going to hit us all smack in the face. Even as the largest generation in U.S. history gradually moves off the scene, there will only be a few watershed moments where we realize so vividly that it’s happening.
November 2008 will be one of the first.