Generational Politics in the '96 Election|
by Robert Kraynak
Although the 1996 election lacks dramatic issues, it involves important judgments about generational leadership. Dole is the last of World War II veterans to run for president, Clinton the first of the `baby boomers' shaped by the anti-war politics of the 1960s. If Clinton wins a second term, a momentous generational change will be ratified. Are we ready for the younger generation to take over?
I have my doubts. Like many Americans, I concede that Clinton has youthful energy on his side but feel that Dole ranks higher on character, integrity and trust. Unlike most Americans at this point, I think this gives the edge to Dole. I am also more troubled than others by Clinton's weakness of character, lack of core convictions and absence of personal dignity, which I think are products of his generational experience and indications that the younger generation is not mature enough to lead the nation properly.
Yes, I too am a `baby-boomer'; but unlike my peers, I've never been very impressed with my generation and always had greater respect for the older generation. Our parents survived the Depression, fought World War II, rebuilt the country after the war, raised their families, endured and won the Cold War. Strangely, my generation claimed superiority to the older one in the 1960's, without experiencing either hardship or accomplishment. It rationalized its superiority with an ideology of liberation and rebellion, which more often than not excused its self-indulgence and left it aimless. From the confusion arose `the Clintonites' -- a liberal elite with a fatal attraction to state power and permissive morality. This, of course, will undermine responsible freedom in the long run. That is why we need to delay their ascendancy as long as possible, hoping in the meantime that the conservative virtues of our elders will be absorbed by the younger generation.