Barack Obama's inauguration as America's 44th president is more than a simple transfer of power. It is a generational moment. As the Associated Press noted, Obama is on the cusp of a new generation. His presidency is prominent acknowledgment that we are increasingly a biracial nation.
The baby boomer generation has given America two flawed presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. While it is true that Clinton left the nation in much better financial condition than Bush, Clinton wasted his appointment with history. He committed one of the worst political mistakes by cooperating in his own undoing. President Bush will reside among the lowest rank of presidents. To say Bush was a disappointment is being kind.
Mr. Obama has advertised himself as a postpartisan politician. He seeks solutions in the center of the political spectrum, borrowing from both liberal and conservative ideas to fashion solutions. The commentator Jonathan Pontell says Obama is "a practical idealist ... not a naive idealist of the '60s."
A lot of 1960s idealism was sparked by the soaring imagery of John Kennedy's presidency. Following Kennedy's assassination, the energy JFK had unleashed found its way into some strange places. Robert Patrick in 1974 wrote a play titled "Kennedy's Children," about the generation that bore the mark of his assassination. The larger truth was that this boomer generation became Nixon's children. That is, President Richard Nixon defined their world in many ways, good and bad, including the National Environmental Policy Act, which he signed, creating the Environmental Protection Agency and the environmental impact statement.
Barack Obama finds a nation in economic distress. In this context, America badly needs an end to the culture wars that have hamstrung our politics for way too long. We cannot afford the culture wars. They have little to do with staving off even greater economic calamity.
It is time to move to a new generation and new politics.