Frank Rich has an excellent column in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Rich points out the critical problem for the Republican Party in the upcoming election. They represent the past. The difference between the two parties is most clear when McCain’s campaign is contrasted with Obama’s.
Rich compares Obama’s speech after the Virginia primary with McCain’s
it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.
But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male. Such has been the inescapable Republican brand throughout this campaign, ever since David Letterman memorably pegged its lineup of presidential contenders last spring as “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”
For Mr. McCain, this albatross may be harder to shake than George W. Bush and Iraq, particularly in a faceoff with Mr. Obama. When Mr. McCain jokingly invoked the Obama slogan “I am fired up and ready to go” in his speech Tuesday night, it was as cringe-inducing as the white covers of R & B songs in the 1950s – or Mitt Romney’s stab at communing with his inner hip-hop on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the G.O.P. looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America. A cultural sea change has passed it by.
Rich uses a particularly apt story from his home state of Virginia as one example of this sea change.
I almost had to pinch myself when Mr. Obama took 52 percent of Virginia’s white vote last week. The Old Dominion continues to astonish those who remember it when.
Here’s one of my memories. In 1970, Linwood Holton, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a Richard Nixon supporter, responded to court-ordered busing by voluntarily placing his own children in largely black Richmond public schools. For this symbolic gesture, he was marginalized by his own party, which was hellbent on pursuing the emergent Strom Thurmond-patented Southern strategy of exploiting white racism for political gain. After Mr. Holton, Virginia restored to office the previous governor, Mills Godwin, a champion of the state’s “massive resistance” to desegregation.
Today Anne Holton, the young daughter sent by her father to a black school in Richmond, is the first lady of Virginia, the wife of the Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. Mr. Kaine’s early endorsement of Mr. Obama was a potent factor in his remarkable 28-point landslide on Tuesday.
I see this in the college students I teach. Ten years ago my students were apathetic. Politics only engaged a few. Today, they are activists. In most cases, it is Obama who inspires them.
If, as Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais claim, they are part of a “Millennial Generation”, it is easy to see why. This Millennial generation (born between 1982 and 2003) is the largest in American history, even larger than the baby boomers, and roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. They see McCain as a tired old white man peddling tired old ideas. Hardly good news for the straight talking maverick.