Obama-Palin And Generational Shifts

One thing that is interesting to watch in this election (AP–After Palin) is the confluence in both parties of the old guard giving way to the new guard (either in the McCain camp of blessing a possible heir apparent or with Biden giving up his own Prez dreams to be Obama’s wingman).

Neither are Boomers though both have been used to try to re-ignite Boomer culture wars (e.g. Obama’s Ayers [non]connection, Palin with abortion) and are not tempermentally Boomerish.  Both have to pay their respects to the old guard–Obama with the Civil Rights pioneers (e.g. John Lewis) and Palin with McCain but both clearly think their days are passed.  Palin recall wasn’t a vocal McCain supporter in the primaries.  And Obama talks about the Joshua Generation taking over from the Moses crew (MLK, Lewis, etc.).

In religious terms we also see the coming of what Olivier Roy calls globalized religion.  Religion that is no longer passed through traditional cultural affiliation–dependent upon and almost entirely predicted by one’s place of birth, ethnicity, and that’s ethnicity’s traditional religious connection.  Roy calls this process “deculturation and “de-territorialization”.

Obama has elements of it left with his classic Black American Christian background as well as his Niebuhrian 50s/60s liberal theology, but he is an adult convert.  Palin was baptized Roman Catholic but really grew up as an Assembly of God Pentecostal (classic denomination of this description) and now is in an independent (so-called non-denominational) church in Alaska.

Diana Butler Bass describes this as the shift from a culture of introversion to extroversion.  From traditional religious affiliation to personal conversion/commitment, from top-down authority to personalist and communal forms of legitimation.  Or in Roy’s terms, from religion to religiosity. If you want a term for this shift, you might call it American postmodernism.

The shift according to Bass is primed, such that the future oriented/extraverted individual who speaks the language of authenticity would inevitably triumph over the alternative.  Think Obama’s speech and the stagecraft and the brilliance of that versus introverted, uncomfortable McCain in front of a green screen.  So the election was–minus some black swan–Obama’s.  McCain in choosing Palin has injected his side with this same cultural shift.

But a conservative version thereof versus Obama’s liberal.  This has shaken up the race quite fundamentally and could neutralize Obama’s inherent advantage.  Might not however.  But if McCain had clearly picked someone of the older guard mentality trying to act like a guy from the newer cultural shift (i.e. MITT ROMNEY) then McCain would have been headed for a substantial even possibly landslide electoral defeat.

Now I”m not so sure. But in an era of 6 hours news cycles, how long will Palin be the focus?

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