(Big Post; I Spell-Checked It And Everything)
Question. Is it a cop-out to believe in "the children," to think that a generation yet to be born has the answers to the world's problems? Yes and no.
In one sense, that this can be a transfer of power, a way of rationalizing away personal responsibility, it's clearly bogus. You can't wait on the kids to solve your problems; believing in them is no excuse for being inactive yourself.
On the other hand, the great ends of humanity are essentially multi-generational. Justice, shared prosperity, a totality of lives well-lived, these are things that span centuries in their scope, that are in some ways infinite. So on the level that you're willing to think big and take it seriously, it's quite a heavy thing to really believe in the potential children. It is an implicit call to action. Prepare the way!
I believe in our generation. My generation. What's that? Well, I believe that I and a minority of my peers in the 24 - 34 year old age range are on the leading edge of the post-gen-X birth wave that peaked in 1990, meaning it's crest is coming due to adulthood in 2008. We are chronologically closer to gen-x, but culturally closer to what is coming next. We are the forerunners.
It's important to realize that while the push for civil rights and gender equality were resounding steps forward for our country, everything else in the 60s largely failed. Rock n' Roll was thoroughly co-opted, permanently loosing a great portion of its mojo by being associated with selling things to adolescents. None of the really radical political or cultural stuff actually took off, though some of it took root. The sexual revolution begat porn, but this is really nothing new in terms of civilization, or even American culture.
By contrast, the Right-Wing things that weathered the 60s have grown up to become Wal*Mart, Big Oil and the Modern Republican Party and $3B associated network. In real terms, this is largely why they've been winning: their boomers are by in large more powerful and connected compared to ours.
But our time will be different. We have a powerful economic and cultural token with our embracing of Open Source. We are not seeking to construct an underground fantasy world, but rather a public utopia. This is a stronger endeavor. It is more bold and yet more achievable. Lots more to say about that down the line.
Otherwise it's been tough. I'm worn out from work NYC lifestyle, kind of lonely, and there are ominous rumblings around the status of the road trip. On the plus side I've been making some Art with Frank, and my straight-up physical condition is improving week by week.
Another bright point is that I'm reading Hunter's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and loving it of course. I never read it before, if you can believe that. Another formative piece I was missing all along. Read on for my thoughts half-way through. Another 1,200 words.
Looking back, the parallels in terms of electoral dynamics between Dean and McGovern are clear, as are those between Kerry and Muskie. The anointed frontrunner was Big Ed Muskie, the Man from Maine. George McGovern was a dark horse from South Dakota -- a political nowhere -- who was running on a staunch anti-war platform and driven by a grassroots campaign of young professionals. On the far left was Gene McCarthy, a reasonable analogue for Kucinich. In the rest of the mishmash you can see faint parallels between Hube and Gephardt/Lieberman, Andrews and Edwards.
There are no real analogues for Clark. And such a political animal as George Wallace -- a right wing populist Democrat, former governor of Alabama and recent staunch opponent of de-segregation -- has no modern day equivalent, though you can see elements of his appeal in Bush/Cheney '04. The point though is that the lines between McGovern and Dean and Kerry and Muskie are strong, and the really interesting thing here is that in '72 the dark horse broke through, and was immediately stomped by Nixon. Comparatively, in '04 the Anointed Candidate (with most of the same problems as Muskie) prevailed thanks to a stupendously superior use of media.
This says something about the evolving relationship between the media and politics 1972 vs 20004.
It also totally destroys the common observation that a Dean nomination would have been just like a McGovern nomination when he went national; a prison-block stomping. In fact, a close examination begs speculation as to what Dean might really have done against Bush.
McGovern was stomped, yes, but not because he was a grassroots/outsider who was against the war. George went up against Nixon exhausted, broke and with no-one backing him. The AFL-CIO and many regional heavyweights essentially sat the election out. For a comparison as to what this would have meant in our modern times, imagine Kerry/Edwards '04 with no ACT or DFA of Internet Millions to draw on. That would have been a slaughter too.
There are two main things which I believe would have favored a national Dean candidacy which Kerry did not capitalize on:
1) The advent of Open Source and the internet, which would have really gone into a higher-order effect if he were actually the candidate. Kerry used what Dean's style of campaign created as a beachhead, but didn't extend the territory much. Joe Trippi would have had to have been replaced as campaign manager (a fact which even he acknowledges), but if his campaign were truly allowed to flourish, it would have been much more advanced than what we eventually ended up building.
2) The lack of an existing class of political burnouts. In effect, Dean would have been able to draw on the young professionals who drove McGovern, as well as the true radicals who got "Clean For Gene" (McGovern) in 1968 and forced Lyndon Johnson out of the race before getting stomped by the Hube/Daily Axis in Chicago, and thus pretty much lost as a source of energy for the square world.
The major Dean liabilities were conventional media illiteracy and organizational issues at the HQ level. Had he weathered the primaries -- which might have come down to having CNN not replay a 30-second sound clip 600 times in a 24 hour span -- these are problems that could have been solved.
You have to realize is that if Dean had won, he would have had establishment backing just as much as Kerry. ACT was going to happen. MoveOn was going to happen. MFA was going to happen, and the Democratic Party was going to fight for its political life no matter what. Unlike McGovern, Dean was going to lead a united party.
Did you know they were planning to have 200,000 people come to the convention!? Really take over the whole city and make it a grassroots networking bazaar rather than a cold bunch of vip-list cocktail parties and meaningless pap for TV... that shit would have been tight! It's a bit of fantastic indulgence, yeah, but when I think back on what might have been, it still gets me high.
Bush is much worse than Nixon -- a fact which Hunter wryly brought up on numerous occasions -- but there are electoral parallels there as well. Both faced sagging popularity in the midst of a festering war. Both aligned with cultural conservatives and big business. Both were willing to fight dirty.
On this count, Nixon went beyond Bush/Rove to a great degree. For instance, in 1972, Nixon's hatchet men actually burglarized people to steal secret documents. First they stole private medical records which they used to reveal that McGovern's running mate had received electro-shock therapy for depression. Then they stole the Democratic strategy guide from their Watergate offices, the crime (as opposed to, say, the carpet-bombing of cambodia) for which the whole house of cards would eventually tumble.
This is the other thing to realize about '72 vs '04; not only was McGovern left out to dry by the Democratic establishment, he was hit right off the mark with leaked press reports that his VP was insane. While Bush's message guys are absolutely brutal, medical reports proving your Veep is nuts is a damn sight more damaging to a campaign than an ad campaign attacking your service in Vietnam (e.g. the Swift Boat Veterans For (un)Truth).
Bush is much worse than Nixon, and looking back I think with Dean we could have beaten him. I believe Howard was a better candidate, personal weaknesses and all. I think primary-voting Democrats (urged on by talking heads, no doubt) cared more about his willingness to commit gaffes than the voters eventually would have. Bush screws up his speeches all the time, but you know what he means. This is something that people who are honestly engaging in the political process -- a.k.a. "trying to decide who to vote for" -- respond to, often positively. Our side needs to take to hart that our malapropos-happy present hasn't suffered a whit for his lack of silver tongue. He has a strong gut-level message and (usually) appears confident and unafraid. Kerry had a wishy-washy message and often appeared rambling, desperate, or orange.
Which is not to deny Kerry his due. I pushed for the man, and I believe he did the best he could. We all did, under the circumstances. It was close, but just wasn't enough.
I don't know where the Poltix train is running. I'm keeping semi-warm with leftovers and good-guy civic engagement, waiting for the road trip to clear the decks. The future says New York in the fall. Luke will be here, and so will work and I'll be pretty near dead broke when all's said and done.
I don't know what's coming next. The kids are still coming. If we hold the previous pattern on turnout, there should be between 8 to 10 million new voters (out of just less than 20 million people turning 18 between 2004 and 2008), and if we hold the line on popularity (let alone increase our edge) they'll break our way 3 to 2. That means a 2 to 3 million vote advantage next time around. That will have an impact.
But that's only if we can get it up. All I've heard any really excited talk about lately is taking out Joe Lieberman in 2006. Still no real idea what the call to arms will be. Will keep searching and let you know.