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Sunday, November 09, 2003

Hey, Hey, My, My, '68 Will Never Die

Back in August, I wrote a post commenting on the whiny departure of Ed Vulliamy, the Observer's US correspondent, from these shores. His basic point, near as I could tell, was that the US was good when Clinton was in office, because Clinton was good. Now that Clinton was gone, a shadow had fallen across the land. This segued into a discussion of the caustic nature of politics today. Allow me to quote myself:

In summary, Clinton was cool because he was one of Us---the sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll Boomers.


Bush, on the other hand, was one of Them---the non-'60s Boomers. Though of the same age, they lived in a completely different '60s. We wore blue jeans; they wore suits and ties. They drank; we inhaled (well, except for Clinton). We protested the war; they joined the military. They are too much like our parents.


Vulliamy doesn't come right out and say this---he describes Us, but doesn't go into what They may be. But it seems to me that this is exactly the point; it's the Great Divide in politics.


But I never understood why this visceral dislike...I think it was less what Clinton had done that what he was---he was one of the Dungarees, rather than the Suits.


The same thing is operating here in reverse. Bush is a Suit. It doesn't matter what he does, in the eyes of the Dungarees he's one of those imperialist, militaristic, god-bothering Suits. He can do the very same things Clinton would do, but in Bush they're EEEEVIIIIIL.

So here we are, two months later, and Michael Barone has an article in U.S. News and World Report, titled "Harshness and Vitriol", about the "seldom seen" level of acrimony in political debates these days:

Why this increased harshness? My explanation: It is a baby boom thing. What we are seeing is a civil war between the two halves of the baby boom, the liberal half that basked in national publicity in the late 1960s and the conservative half that smoldered in resentment for many years until its more recent rise to prominence.

So. Great minds think alike. It's just that some of them get paid juicy sums for doing it, and some, uh, don't. (To be fair, some write thoughtful articles and some dash off snarky blog posts.)

I will take issue, however, with this bit:

Boomer liberals are liberation-minded on cultural issues and conciliation-minded on foreign policy.


Boomer conservatives are tradition-minded on cultural issues and confrontation-minded on foreign policy.

There's no immutable law saying that a foreign policy hawk must also be a rock-ribbed social conservative; these two things have little to do with one another.
(Actually, that's what I thought the much-maligned "neo-cons" were: people who were socially liberal yet hawkish on international relations. It may be, though, that these people are generally younger than Boomers.)

Via InstaPundit, who links to other comments.

(Like this one of Roger Simon's. In his comments, Patrick Lasswell makes a very good point:

Barone did bring up one interesting point about the passing similarity between W and Clinton. The problem is that Clinton was indictable, and after years of supporting a President under attack, many liberals felt it was their turn.

That they are taking their turn regardless of the merits of the accusations is unfortunately insane. I can think of no civil description for such breathtakingly self-descructive attitudes and acts. It's like they've decided to take the Jim Jones Kool Aid rather than be without a gesture of dissent.

I think that Clinton was hounded more than other, guiltier, presidents were. And it's true that when Bush was elected I was torn between hoping he got the very same treatment, and wishing we would stop all this partisan bullshit. Then came 9/11, and the good, clean fun ceased, and became deadly earnest. After that, participating in the politics of destruction is inexcusable.)