They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Boomers and Kennedys

John told me that he thought Caroline Kennedy was a lousy speaker and that she was costing Obama votes every time she opened her mouth. I told him that her appearance was significant to people my age (although I agree that she appears uncomfortable and doesn't really have much to say -- she spoke for about 2 minutes at the rally on Wednesday).

I got to thinking about that and what has been written about the Kennedys and the baby boomers. It is interesting how history gets skewed. You would think that boomers swept John Kennedy into office, celebrated Camelot, were the first to join the Peace Corps and so on. Wrong. Do the math. Wikipedia tells me that the generally accepted definition of the postwar baby boom is people born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest boomers were 14 years when JFK beat Nixon in November of 1960 and some had not yet been born. It wasn't us that lived Camelot, it was our parents (not mine, they voted for Nixon), or at least our older siblings. My two sisters were born in 1935 and 1937. The Kennedy/Nixon election was their first opportunity to vote for President. I was 9 at the time of the election.

How about Bobby? When he ran in the primaries in 1968, the boomers who had been born in 1946 and part of 1947 could vote for him, the rest of us could not. Some were as young as 3. I was 17 and quite politically aware, but I did not support Bobby Kennedy. Chris Matthews has a "Coke or Pepsi?" "Letterman or Leno" type question for people who were young and liberal in those days: Bobby Kennedy or Gene McCarthy. I thought of RFK as an opportunist. Gene McCarthy was the true antiwar candidate. Bobby came late to the cause and was trading on his name recognition and relationship to a previous popular president, much like Hillary Clinton today, or so I thought at the time. There were a lot of enthusiastic young people supporting both Gene and Bobby. Remember though, that the voting age was 21 in most states in those days, including California. The 26th amendment was ratified in 1971, which changed that. The first election in which a large chunk of the boomers could vote was 1972, which ironically was a landslide for Richard Nixon.

Still, the Kennedys do mean a lot to a lot of people my age. I confess that I was almost as excited to see Caroline as I was to see Obama. I'm not sure why. One odd thing was the realization that she is 50 years old. She is supposed to be young. Older than she was in the 60's but certainly not 50. In some ways I think that I understand what Caroline talked about in her op-ed piece, although she was talking about younger people. I didn't experience Camelot or the excitement around Bobby's campaign. I saw glimpses but I was not really there. Obama maybe gives us the chance to be there.

1 comment:

John Benjamin said...

Thanks for this entry. I never quite did think about this aspect. I forget the 21 age-limit. Had it still been this way, I never would have voted for Nader, a vote I'm very proud of. I met him and worked on his campaign (for about 5 minutes). My first election would have been a catastrophic disaster.

Let's support Obama and make this the best election of both of our lives.

Yes we can.