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Issues of Two Generations

I started writing this as a comment in this blog, but decided it was getting long and off-topic so I'd move it to my own.

David raises the question of why Hillary Clinton does well with older voters, and Obama does well with younger voters. I'm going to make the radical suggestion that it's because she's fifteen years older than he is :-) ... but why are those fifteen years so significant?

Hillary strikes me as an "old-school Democrat", born at the start of the Baby Boom, at a time when the big conflicts within U.S. society were union-vs-management and socialist-vs-capitalist. The wars in Korea and Vietnam, seen through liberal eyes, were the U.S. supporting the wrong side of these conflicts against the right side. Hillary grew up in the glory days of the civil-rights and feminist movements, and those still shape the way she thinks about politics. It's not surprising that voters who grew up with these same issues, equating "Democrat" with "Union", would lean towards her.

Obama, by contrast, is 2-1/2 years older than I am, near the end of the Baby Boom. In our lives, both labor unions and socialist governments have developed a more corrupt image and become less influential, and less attractive to young idealists, than a few decades earlier. "Big business", to liberals, is still a synonym for evil, but the conflict of "big business vs. labor" has been replaced by "big business vs. consumers and the environment". Race and gender have remained important in U.S. politics, but they've retreated from the front page, replaced by environmental sustainability, separation of church and state, the power of the Presidency, and (health care/social security). Although Reagan, the quintessential geezer, continued to get into wars about communism, our more recent wars have been about oil and religion -- once again, as seen through liberal eyes, the U.S. fighting for the wrong side. (Not to say that Islam is "the right side", but focusing U.S. military force exclusively on Moslem nations suggests the ultimate failure of church/state separation, a Christian nation crusading against Islam.) After the Reagan and GWB deficits and the GWB power-grabs, the Republican Party can no longer, with a straight face, call itself the party of small government; instead, it's the party of big business and the religious right. A "liberal" or "conservative" born in the 1960's is a different animal from a "liberal" or "conservative" born in the 1940's; only by coincidence do they share a party label.



The truth is, there are two very different Democratic Parties. But no one wants to admit this fact. That makes reconciling the different factions impossible.
Although to be fair, I think this divide in the Democratic Party is much less deep than the divide between big-business, rich-get-richer Republicans and religious-right Republicans, who have almost no issues in common.