My generation (I was born at, to use the much more recent expression, the bleeding edge of the baby boom) demonstrated its arrogance and hypertrophied sense of its own importance young.
We started, back in the 60s, by occupying the President’s office (of Columbia University), and we will go out, it seems, with the dubious achievement of having occupied the President’s office (by dint of the same blustering, bullying, law-breaking bellicosity), aka the White House. It would appear that Hillary Clinton, so tantalizingly close to fantasy-fulfillment, yet so constrained and thwarted by the forces we have seen so little of in the 40 year interim—the forces of the hopes and enthusiasm and renewing energy of the generations just behind—is determined to effect a similar occupation.
Nevertheless, she seems bent on exercising the same spoiling (and spoiled) defiance that has characterized the administration of her confrère, George Walker Bush. His behavior, of course, has earned him the enmity of a record majority of Americans, across all generations, from the alter kackers who bore us, to the children just preparing to cast their first ballots. It has earned him, and America, the anxiety, antipathy, and contemptuous envy of the whole world.
Here’s what I fear. Even as she eschews the politics of brazen autocracy that colors the Bush tenure, Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to want to occupy the nomination of the Democratic Party in very much the same fashion he attained office—and it is probably not the ironic coincidence the media loves to babble about, that the state of Florida and its raggle-taggle constituency of misinformed, ignorant, racist elderly Jews, plus the politically powerful reactionary Cuban exiles that have had Florida politics in thrall for those 40 years I mentioned, that will play a significant role, if she gets her way.
The result, I predict, will be this, that the rejuvenation of American politics, and of good old-fashioned idealistic self-sacrificing American moral leadership, will be still-born. This is assuming Barack Obama, who seems to have all but attained, by right, and by law, the nomination Hillary Clinton still so desperately seeks, loses that nomination in some backroom arm-twisting swindle—carried out, paradoxically, right in front of our eyes. If she wrests the nomination somehow, despite the now widespread common wisdom, the concessions of the punditry, the professionals, and even the unnamed campaign advisors on her own side speaking in anonymity, that she has lost it, she will lose something else. Worse, it is America, and the world that will lose, and what it will lose is the fervor and idealism of not one, but two generations of America following—possibly, in some respects, the last best hope of the planet, given their potential influence, and given the potentialities their influence represent for righting all the wrongs we have perpetrated on the world, and inspired others in the world to enact, for the last 40 years.
Our generation, my generation, is kaput. William Jefferson Clinton, so full of promise and hope, and so full of compromising amoral self-indulgence, and George Walker Bush, of whom the less said the better—so challenging to the most vivid of sane imaginations is his character and behavior that it threatens one’s emotional stability to consider them—were the best we could do. And sadly, it was hardly close to enough. Hillary Rodham Clinton, using the tired tactics and strategies of politics as usual, of cynicism, and tough talk in the guise of realpolitik, of manipulation, and role-playing, of mask wearing, shape shifting, and playing the fears and anxieties of the public (rather than its hopes and finer aspirations) will, if she does nothing else, alienate those younger generations. Possibly she will assist in the realization of the final dissolution of American moral hegemony. The 20th century, the so-called American Century, will have indeed been our last.
I shudder to think of the implications. Though avowedly liberal, or centrist, or whatever she calls herself, Hillary Clinton, I’m afraid, is as much a pawn, a tool, and a player, in the grand game of American corporatized government. She is as much in the pocket of enterprise as any politician since Abraham Lincoln. And it is not grit, or courage, or stupidity, God knows, that impels her. It is the very same hubris, the curse of Western Civilization that the ancient Greeks dramatized and poeticized by way of warning, that put swaggering punks in the offices of President Grayson Kirk of Columbia University, and much later, in 2000, in the President’s office that belongs, in fact, to the people of the United States of America.
God help us if either Hillary Rodham Clinton or John Sidney McCain ends up sitting in that Oval Office, by whatever means, at the moment unimaginable except in a mood of outrage or abject submission.