Changing of the Guard: Power and Leadership in America

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

by David S. liroder

Simon & Schuster, $14.95

David Broder, a veteran newspaper reporter and columnist, makes the not altogether surprising observation that a major shift is occurring in the makeup of America’s political power structure. How much of this is an authentic novelty and how much a necessary function of the passage of time remains to be seen. Broder’s corollaries, however, are both interesting and arguable. The new leaders, more than a hundred of whom were interviewed for this book, were born, says Broder, between 1930 and 1955. They have known two wars, in Korea and in Vietnam, and we didn’t “win” either of them. They have come to political maturity during the age of television, with a number of specific consequences: they feel more “in touch” with political candidates than the elder generation of leaders, are more sensitive to matters of style, are thus less dependent upon old-line party allegiances and identify themselves as “independent,” which is to say confident of their ability to discern genuine qualities of statesmanship and to solve pressing social and economic problems. The new leadership, Broder argues, participated in the purgative turmoil of the sixties, challenged all forms of institutional power and virtually all conventional modes of decision-making. As a consequence, they are likely to be realistic about how political “power” can be harnessed on behalf of the public good. On the other hand, Broder cautions, a skeptical view of authority may express itself in an unwillingness to assume authority, and without someone at the helm, the ship of state will surely flounder.
As an analysis of what lies ahead for American politics, Broder’s book is tentative and fairly general. As an introduction to the men and women who will take us to that uncertain future, his book is likely to become a standard reference work.