October 4, 2010
Marching Toward Oblivion: Obama's Core Supporters and the Corruption of IdealismBy Frank Burke
The core supporters who not only facilitated the rise of Obama, but hijacked the traditional Democratic Party and have led it to the brink of electoral ruin need to be understood. To understand the psychology of Obama's core, it is necessary to define the development of the baby-boomer generation and the leftist segment in particular.
The GIs who returned home from World War II, and the women who married them, had high hopes for their children. In addition to their wartime experiences, many carried the scars of the Great Depression. Some were from first- or second-generation immigrant families, and the majority were determined that their children would grow up in security and eventually experience material and professional success through higher education.
The attractive houses and green spaces of suburbia, which these people pioneered, provided a sheltered environment isolated from the social problems of the cities and the new minority influx that had migrated there. The sheltered element is critical. Even at that time, authors such as William H. Whyte, Jr. (The Organization Man, 1956, Simon and Schuster, Inc.) commented on the way in which suburbanites (both consciously and subconsciously) identified both physical and psychological "boundaries" that segmented them from the larger suburban development.
The period from 1945 to 1964 was, in retrospect, a time of national idealism. Patriotism was highly regarded, especially when American's virtues were compared to the privations of creeping Communism and the Cold War. Traditional values were reinforced in houses of worship, schools, and social networks, and through the new medium of television. (A rigid code forbade depictions of sex or excessive violence.) Children's Saturday morning TV shows were morality plays in which good and evil were readily discerned, even in the details. (The Lone Ranger used silver bullets to avoid killing his adversaries, and Roy Rogers would shoot the gun out of the bad man's hand.) Idealized families were the norm in programs like "Father Knows Best." History was prominent in presentations such as DuPont's "Cavalcade of America" and "Victory at Sea." A robust economy supported the belief that virtue and success were intertwined.
Starting in 1954, the struggle for civil rights in the African-American community found increasing support and reinforced the notion that even where there was injustice, the American system would move to right the wrongs. The marches, demonstrations, and vocabulary of the civil rights movement would set the pattern for the protests to some. The demand for equality (equality under the law) would take on new meanings in a later context.
Yet as the first post-war generation approached late adolescence, another dynamic was manifesting. Because the war and the Depression forced many couples to marry later, parents were often significantly older than their children and their life experiences vastly different. This so-called Generation Gap was heightened by the fact that many young people were the first of their families to attend college. Ironically, parents who insisted on and encouraged higher education were frequently shocked at the changes that the experience produced in their sons and daughters. The mantra "Don't trust anyone over 30" sowed the seeds of what would become a perpetual pursuit of youth.
The Kennedy presidency appealed to the idealism of many young people. The assassination in 1963 was a cataclysmic event and marked a watershed. Kevin Starr, writing in Golden Dreams - California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (2009, Oxford University Press U.S.), states, "... the Free Speech Movement erupting on the UC Berkeley campus in the fall of 1964 inaugurated a new era ..."
Suddenly, there were protests everywhere. The Vietnam War, initially viewed as an attempt by America to aid a defenseless nation in turning back the Communist menace, became the focal point as it consumed more young lives. New authority figures -- ranging from entertainers and musicians to university-based drug advocates to Eastern mystics -- added to the confusion. Corrupted by the left-leaning academic establishment and an ever-expanding number of self-proclaimed "victims," the high idealism nurtured in a sheltered environment quickly hardened into a humorless self-righteousness. The word "equality" was expanded far beyond the legal sense. It was now applied to everything from individual abilities to income entitlement to lifestyle preferences. It was in this defective redefinition that the insidious seeds of political correctness first took root.
I'm OK - You're OK (Thomas A. Harris, M.D., 1967, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.), the title of a pop psychology book, supposedly summarized the new creed, even as fanaticism and unwillingness to tolerate opposing or divergent viewpoints became apparent.
Likewise, there was a blindness to selective self-contradictions. One of the most popular songs of the time was John Lennon's "Imagine" (1971). To hear the multimillionaire rock star intone, "Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can" truly stretches credibility, but it was taken seriously.
Only a percentage of the baby-boomers were protesters. Fewer still clung to the extreme beliefs in later years. But for the lifelong activists who seriously embraced the causes and the lifestyle, the effects would linger long after they shed the jeans, beards, and love beads. The political immaturity and stridently righteous viewpoints would become Democratic Party orthodoxy, supported by the material success the former rebels found in the "establishment" they once derided.
No recent generation has been as youth-obsessed as the baby-boomers. The past forty years have seen an unprecedented progression of workout-related merchandise, fad diets, wrinkle-removers, hair restoratives, and other products geared to arresting the effects of time.
Then, as the aging leftists were approaching retirement age, Obama came on the scene. As veterans of the Civil Rights era, they were enthralled by his race. His youth was a stark contrast to John McCain's age. Most important, his ideas were theirs. Though Barack Obama is ostensibly a young man, he espouses the Marxist-based radicalism that emerged in the '60s and '70s and, as Ikenga, D'Souza and, Cashill so ably demonstrated, was grafted onto him by his family, mentors, and associates. A young man with old ideas, he is the reincarnation of the leftist boomers' youth, and for them, his election marked the victory of emotion over reason.
There is a perverse karma in their protest march toward oblivion. Health care rationing, end-of-life counseling, and death panels are all contained within Obamacare. Fatuous and negligent economic policies have contributed to the destruction of home values and retirement plans. Energy taxes would severely impact retirees on fixed incomes. The radical Obama agenda threatens seniors most of all.
Despite this, the true believers remain. Unable to engage in rational argument, they fall back on slogans that mirror the protests of forty years ago.
One can only wonder if their youthful identification has blinded them to the fact that they are following not a heroic young leader to a new tomorrow, but a pied piper who leads them to their own destruction.