Leave aside the actual merits of the current neocon-Clinton-Limbaugh campaign against Obama - that he's linked to the Weather Underground, that his pastor is a "racist", that he cannot appeal to Reagan Democrats, that he's another McGovern, that he's a closet Communist, etc. etc. What strikes me is the energy with which these pundits actually derive from these associations and debates. It's quite clear that they really anger up the blood of a certain class of people. And yet they don't me, particularly. They seem pretty irrelevant to me, in the context of an election about a major war, a teetering economy, a weakened constitution, a mounting level of debt, a plummeting dollar, and a warming planet. I understand that this is politics, that these are vulnerabilities of associations, that these issues have some traction and a sliver of justification, but I still can't get that worked up about them. Why, I wonder?
When you think about these controversies, you being to realize just how generationally-focused they are. For a lot of people under 40, the Weather Underground sound like an Austin Powers out-take or a rock band. Even if you come to the conclusion (as I do) that William Ayers is a scumbag, the issue is not a dispositive one. Ditto the obvious racial panic around Obama - about Wright, about Farrakhan, about affirmative action. This was Pat Buchanan's view:
"Obama cannot concede that the anger of white America - that its right to equal justice has been sacrificed to salve the consciences of guilt-besotted liberals - is a legitimate anger."
But doesn't that "white anger" feel very 1980s to you? Are white voters still motivated in large part by grievances about affirmative action (which, for the record, I strongly oppose)? You'd think that our cultural politics had remained untouched and unmoved since the Reagan era. You'd think that political demography was frozen at exactly the moment boomers came of age.
The truth is: the boomer media class is fighting the last war and misreading the current one. As Ambinder reminds us:
It doesn't really matter if Barack Obama isn't doing as well among white working class Dems as Hillary Clinton is. He doesn't need their votes to win.
This election will be decided by white independents, African-Americans, new Hispanic voters, and a vast influx of younger Americans. Those are the people Obama has brought into the process; and they are the people who will change the face of American politics.
In fact, they already have. But the boomer elites have yet to notice.