My Generation

My Generation – The Who

So just as I was settling into the notion of supporting Hillary, I get this link in a comment from Michael Beckner on my Scar Tissue post. It’s Andrew Sullivan’s piece on Hillary vs Obama (and boomers vs my generation) in this month’s Atlantic Monthly.

I was born in 1961, 16 days after Barack, at the hospital at the US Military Academy at West Point. I lived through the vietnam era (my dad was there for a year in ’68/’69) but I am not defined by it. I do not consider myself a baby boomer although technically I suppose I am on the bubble.

Andrew eloquently argues that the US has been trapped in baby boomer politics since the vietnam war and it’s ossifying our country and forcing decisions around dimensions that are increasingly irrelevant. This is the single best argument for an Obama presidency that I have read, including a face to face meeting with the man himself several months ago.

It’s got me thinking again about Obama. Good thing I don’t have to go to the polls today. Look for my favorite quotes from the piece on a bit later this morning.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Erik Peterson

    This is, more or less, the same thing that keeps me coming back to Obama. Clinton is old blood- she’s got too many connections to old politics and all the baggage that comes along (corruption, lobbyists, special interest groups, hack consultants). While Obama isn’t perfect, the mere fact that he hasn’t been in politics for very long makes him a compelling choice. Add to that a gift for speaking and a clear and refreshing platform, and I personally think we have a winner.I think this video is pretty persuasive as well:

  2. S.t

    ‘the US has been trapped in baby boomer politics…that are increasingly irrelevant…’.’…best argument for an Obama presidency…’.Really?Dem. party heroes FDR, Truman, JFK, & prob’ly even RFK, would’ve off’d themselves if they knew what their party had become today. FDR & Truman would commit hari kari, and JFK & RFK would’ve blown their OWN HEADS OFF if they were told about what the Dems would represent in the year 2007.Fred, tell your kids about the ‘duck & cover’ drills we used to have in school. Then explain to them which party is responsible for reason schools don’t have them anymore. And explain Checkpoint Charlie.Then explain to them why daddy gets to make AND KEEP more money today then he would under a Dem regime’s tax code of 35-40yrs ago. Then try to explain this Hillary quote, “I’ll take those oil company profits…”, then explain why her husband’s economic policies are why we have 4 big oil companies now instead of eight (Chevron and Texaco is now ChevronTexaco, Exxon and Mobil are now ExxonMobil, etc.), & try to include in your discussion why there is more wealth today in countries like Russia, China, & India (hint: “W”)Then try to explain the difference b/t the Dems’ “nanny state” and communism (there is none).Or better yet, let you children get an email subscription to the editorials of INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY here…There is no candidate on The Left qualified to be President, and none of The Left’s candidates can win a national election.

    1. Michael J.

      In a parallel universe, the election contest would be Ron Paul/BarackObama – then we’d truly have a dialogue of ideas. Until then, it’s “least objectionable” voting.If you really want “free and fair” elections, then tow things are required: 1) federal mandate of voting machines per capita by county (equalizing lines and ability to vote and go to your job); 2) instant runoff elections. Bonus: federal holiday for election day. Until these two structures are put in place, the elections are subject to manipulation and money.

    2. fredwilson

      Too bad the right is worseFred

      1. Steven Kane

        in what way…?

      2. michael

        They are both lame…as is your political commentary on this blog. You act like you have a clue, when in fact you have this incredibly superficial position on everything. The worst part of it is that you have genuine clout, yet you essentially parrot the crap mainstream discourse on politics. “The right is worse”. Great analysis Fred. A thriving democracy is where we accept that our choices are the lesser of two evils?Spineless apathetic two party programming is what it is. If the “the left” sucks and “the right” is worse, how about you support something else? Here’s a theory: becasue you only do political posts to drive traffic (you’re probably staring at your numbers as we speak) and you don’t have a clue how fucked we are, nor how to be a part of changing it. For the second time I suggest you please stick to posting about venture capital or Internet memes.Meanwhile, listen to your son or do your homework. Kucinich and Paul are the only candidates who can make real change happen but without the support of influential types like you, they haven’t a prayer. Obama is brilliant, but a part of the machinery already. And if you doubt Washington is a machine run amok then we are back to my original point: you just don’t get it.

        1. fredwilson

          Michael -I am happy to hear your views that Kucinich and Paul are the only candidateswho can make real change happen. I’d like to hear more about why that isBut I don’t do political posts to drive traffic. I don’t do anything todrive traffic. I just write what I think. If you don’t like it, please tellme why, but don’t accuse me of blogging under false pretenses.Fred

  3. Jarid

    Interesting article. To me, Obama has the personal attributes to be president, but the big question is still on experience. Would you back a CEO with only a year or two of post grad school experience for one of your portfolio companies? If that CEO was intelligent, ambitious, well-spoken, and surrounded himself with the right people, maybe the answer is ‘yes’. Maybe.

    1. Michael J.

      A slip with my previous comment. Briefly: Time in Washington is not the only experience useful for the presidency. Community organizer, professor of constitutional law at Harvard, IL state senate, etc. I’ll take that over Washington politics any day.

      1. Michael Beckner

        And that is so much of my problem with Hillary — institutionalization to the point that I’m not sure she has scars so much as living wounds. In line with the dynastic argument — one of her people recently said that it takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush — I fear her candidacy will bring more of the same, tired ‘dirty hippie’ / ‘fascist bastard’ dynamic.There is a solid reason behind key GOP operatives floating her candidacy as the fait accompli: They know they can spend another four / eight years beating up on a Clinton (or both of them) and, quite possibly, relying on her tactical defensiveness to distract from the mountain of work that awaits the next resident of 1600.Obama has his share of criticisms, but he has a deep respect from many on the GOP side, especially those who have been disenfranchised by the operatives who’ve warped that party beyond recognition. I suspect that means he has serious potential to get things done. And I suspect that’s why he scares the living crap out of the 32 percenters.

    2. fredwilson

      RightScar tissue vs my generationThat’s my quandry

  4. Steven Kane

    Sullivan couldn’t be more spot on.

    1. fredwilson

      So are you voting for obama steve? I don’t share you party affiliation but if you were willing to cross the line for obama, that would speak volumes to meFred

      1. Steven Kane

        who says i have a party affiliation? does my lack of alignment with democratic party conventional wisdom automatically make me unacceptable to democrats? i don’t vote on party lines and i don’t support candidates or policies on party lines. i think such allegiances and robotic adherence to conventional wisdom and blue/red divisiveness is the single greatest problem we face. which is why i liked sullivan’s article so much…i am supporting obama and mccain equally. if it boiled down to a choice between the two i would be really stuck. the fact that they don’t agree on some big issues matters not a whit to me. they both represent non-alignment with the baby-boomer and other entrenched wisdoms in the political marketplace. that’s most important to me. also, on the big issues that do matter, either is sufficiently close to my positions for me to be comfortable, even though i may disagree a lot on some issues. most of all, i think both candidates have the charisma and integrity and basic honesty (yes, even for a politician) to lead. if they sometimes make choices i don’t like, tough cookies. at least i respect the person and the process.

        1. fredwilson

          That’s a very helpful perspective steveAren’t you troubled by McCain’s coziness with the current administration?I certainly amFred

  5. Druce

    My thoughts exactly. In the immortal words of George Costanza, we must go forward, not backwards. But I think Hillary has it pretty wrapped up unless she stumbles badly. I would love to see a Clinton – Obama ticket but the bad feeling may run too deep and she will nominate someone like Wes Clark to try to make herself more palatable to the neanderthals.BTW see if you can guess who said this – answer here nation has to either be with us, or against us. Those who harbor terrorists, or who finance them, are going to pay a price.-13 September 2001In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security. This much is undisputed.-10 October 2002

  6. ppearlman

    if i gave u the choice between an ass sandwich and a toe cheese sundae which wld u prefer? there is no good candidate on either side of aisle. and if u were truly gifted w all the attributes to be an inspired leader of u.s. u too wld be busy w more worthwhile endeavors? v sad….

    1. fredwilson

      An ass sundae of courseSundaes are simply better than sandwiches

  7. Syven

    First of all, need to clear up one thing. I was born in 1961 and Wikipedia classes us as Baby Boomers. Are we Baby Boomers if we are the last child of a family and Generation X if we are the first child of a family – or are we actually Generation X and therefore far removed from the Baby Boomer tag. In reality I certainly don’t want the baby boomer tag – they are the old guys.In terms of this race, there is only one thing that goes against all the positive attributes of Obama – history. Al Gore and John Kerry got beat by a better coordinated political machine rather than a better candidate, and the Clinton political machinery is strong this time around as it was the last time around, and this is a political campaign machine that knows how to win. One can have all the best attributes in the world, but the team that is best organized and experienced with running effective political campaigns that are going to win. No one wins in politics today with a crystal ball or even a great resume, they win with method, money and message management.M.

    1. Luke Archer

      If you remember, neither Al Gore or John Kerry got beat, they actually won the general elections. Bush simply bought and fraud his way to the presidency – twice. Kind of like lying the American public into two illegal wars. Does anyone remember that Bush’s grandfather, Prescott was a Director of the Union Banking Corporation that financed Hitler? War = more money lending (with interest) = more profits for the Bush family.

    2. fredwilson

      Unfortunately this is very trueFred

      1. Syven

        That is still a part of the political machine and whatever reality is in that machinery won’t prevent the repeat of such a reality – or as one might say “history does repeats itself”. There is also the idea of fool me once and fool me twice, so I am not addressing the political justice of the situation here, but my intuition says this transformation of this machinery is going to take one more election cycle. (And you are free to throw the Malcolm Gladwell book at me – I am merely thinking these things through out aloud).The idea of family members succeeding family members is not new to American politics for John Adams son also became President, but what does concern me is the presence of dynasties, for then there is evidence of institutionalized machinery, and if, by the time this exhaustive political process is over and a new President Clinton is sworn into office, then that simply supports my hypothesis.Such machinery succeeds because it follows the contours of political strategy – a machinery that becomes so adaptive and self-absorbed about “how to win”, that at the next election cycle after this one is complete, is the promise of machinery being fixed more important than raising the bar of societal intelligence?Are we merely raising the bar on our own personal intelligence or are we witnessing a wider societal transformation of freedom from fads, tomfoolery and superficiality. I think we are moving towards an intelligent direction but I can only see what it is I see and no more. All I can say right now is “We the People…”.M.

  8. Ted Dintersmith

    What a great debate on the candidates for President!I’ve worked hard in a volunteer capacity for Obama during the past nine months, and have spent considerable time with him directly. He’s thoughtful, smart, strategic, and someone committed to uniting the country. He may not be a soundbite master (which shows from time to time in the debates), but he’s very deliberate in reaching his conclusions, and always has a well-formed logic behind his view.I saw some of the comments about experience, and relating it to a CEO. Well, experience is a means to the end (good judgment), not the end. Would you hire a CEO with lots of experience who always seemed to get the big issues wrong? I hope not. Look at Barack’s speech on Iraq that he made in October, 2002, (…, and ask yourself if this person is someone you’d have confidence in when faced with an important decision. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and everyone on the Republican side had Iraq all wrong, and Obama had it exactly right.Whichever candidate you support, though, I’d encourage all of you in venture and entrepreneurial roles to think hard about your involvement in this process. I used to think no single person could make a difference, and that the future of the world wouldn’t be all that influenced by who was in the White House. Then, along came George W. Bush and the 2000 election, and those views of mine flew out the window. GWB will go down in history as the worse President in the history of our country, and the least American. We can’t afford another botch, and this would be a great time to elect someone inspiring.For what it’s worth, my wife, two children and I have traveled since mid August, and I’ve spent every single night in a hotel room. Yet I’ll be flying to Iowa on December 26th and live out of a hotel in Iowa City while working hard for Barack Obama’s campaign. Helping him get elected is the best gift I could ever give to my children, or yours.Ted Dintersmith

    1. Hockeydino

      Ted you are working hard at insulting me and my children. No thanks. I prefer more freedom, more money in my pocket, less taxes, and the defense of my country here, not overseas. You know the things our founding fathers wanted. A detail that has apparently escaped you.Screw the status quo.

    2. fredwilson

      Your commitment is inspiring ted. I wish I could get worked up that much in this campaignFred

  9. riozen

    If you are over 40 – you are one of the old guys. If you were born before 1965 – you are a boomer. My daughter is 35 – she’s Gen X. My son is 18 – he’s a millennial. If you are in any group or any age over 18 and you don’t vote – you don’t count. The right to vote – which people around the world are still fighting and dying for is what made the U.S. possible. Your democracy demands your participation. If you think your ability to make money is seperate from your responsibility to educate yourself on the issues and vote you are a fool. Bone up on the wrirtings of Alexander Hamilton. He created the Central Bank, the Stock Markets and oh yeah – he helped out on that thing we call the Constitution.

  10. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    That is a great point. My parents were at the early side of the baby boomers. There are pros and cons to Hillary and Barack. I know that one of the negatives thrown out about Barack is his lack of experience but to me (as an entrepreneur) that is not a negative. In fact in many cases it is a positive because he won’t have a bunch of preconceived notions of how things should work. It might make it harder for him to get bills initiatives passed and in action but hey look at our ‘seasoned’ pres now and what a hard time he is having. At any rate, I would love the opportunity to meet either of them in person some day.

  11. Doug Redding

    Here is another strong argument in favor of Obama from WSJ:Judgment Trumps ExperienceBy WARREN BENNIS and NOEL TICHYNovember 29, 2007; Page A19As these late November days fade away, the critical Iowa caucus looms ever closer — less than six weeks away. Which explains why the rhetoric of the two leading Democratic candidates is becoming more shrill but also more clarifying.Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have taken off their gloves. In one corner stands the champion of experience, with the best executive coach in the free world at her side and a dog-eared playbook of strategies that have won in the past. Standing in the opposite corner is a young contender, fairly new at the game, underweight and probably overmatched, but a natural, as they say. Mr. Obama and his handlers are putting their money on his judgment, disdaining the experience card as a stale rerun of earlier campaigns, skewering Mrs. Clinton’s twisty judgments about Iraq, and subtly pushing the present over the legacy of the ’60s, destiny over dynasty.One newspaper article on Mrs. Clinton’s latest TV ad noted that it mentioned her experience five times. Bloggers also highlight the themes of experience and judgment whenever they describe the ever more heated fight between the Democratic front runners.Where do we put our money? First, let us cite Ted Sorenson, one of John F. Kennedy’s closest advisers and speechwriters. When asked about his former boss’s judgment, Mr. Sorenson responded, “I cannot emphasize how important that elusive quality is; far more important than organization, structure, procedures and machinery. These are all important, yes, but nothing compared to judgment.”After a five-year study of leadership covering virtually all sectors of American life, we came to the inescapable conclusion that judgment regularly trumps experience. Our central finding is that judgment is the core, the nucleus of exemplary leadership. With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters.Take any leader, a U.S. president, a Fortune 100 CEO, a big-league coach, wartime general, you name it. Chances are you remember them for their best and worst calls. Can anyone forget that Harry Truman issued the order to drop the first atom bomb? Or Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis? When Nixon comes to mind, so does Watergate. The first George Bush: “Read my lips.” Clinton? Monica. George W.? Iraq.Leadership is, at its marrow, the chronicle of judgment calls. These will inevitably write the leader’s legacy. Don’t get us wrong. We are not discounting the importance of experience. Seminal and appropriate experiences must be drawn on and understood before judgments can be informed. But experience is no guarantee of good judgment. There is a huge difference between 20 years of experience that advances one’s learning and one year of experience repeated 20 times.In fact, there are numerous times when past experiences can prevent wise judgments. Barbara Tuchman long ago observed how generals tend to fight the last war, refusing to face new realities, almost always with disastrous consequences. And often, especially in today’s dizzying world, we need to understand what Zen Buddhists call the “beginner’s mind,” which recognizes the value of fresh insight unfettered by experience. In this more contemporary view, the compelling idea is the novel one. Perhaps no one articulated the nature of the beginner’s mind better than the composer Hector Berlioz when he said of his more popular rival Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns: “He knows everything. All he lacks is inexperience.”Judgment isn’t quite an unnatural act, but it also doesn’t come naturally. And speaking from decades of experience, we’re not sure how to teach it. (We know it can be learned.) Wisely processed experience, reflection, valid sources of timely information, an openness to the unbidden and character are critical components of judgment as well. As David McCullough reminds us over and over again, “Character counts in the presidency more than any other single quality.”Yes, Mrs. Clinton, experience is not without value. But judgment, fed by solid character, should determine the choice of our next president.Mr. Bennis is distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California and Mr. Tichy is professor of business at the University of Michigan. They are the co-authors of “Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls” (Penguin Group), published earlier this month.

  12. greenskeptic

    Interesting perspective. As part of your gen (one year behind you and Barack), I’m curious about this line of thinking. Is it time for our generation to step up?And who among the Republicans represents us? I’ve been wondering if Obama doesn’t have more to offer a moderate Republican such as myself (registered Independent, as I don’t like party lines).Good food for thought. Thanks. And thanks, too, to commenter mtbeckner, who gets at so many of my concerns about Ms. Hilary…Thanks for generating the dialogue.

  13. Luke Archer

    Let’s get real here. If you believe in freedom, the constitution, and civil liberties Ron Paul is the only choice.Two hours eye opening hours http://www.zeitgeistmovie.comYou can cry conspiracy and you can cry wolf. The truth hurts, huh?If I didn’t thing radical change was absolutely necessary, I would vote for Obama. But drastic times require drastic measures.

    1. greenskeptic

      Does anyone remember that Ron Paul beat out Frank Zappa for the Libertarian candidacy back in the 80s?

      1. Luke Archer

        It was actually Russell Means that he defeated for the 1988 Libertarian candidacy and he finished 3rd in the popular election that year- Yes behind Dukakis…I know. Still he is the only candidate that seems to make any sense to me (a moderate Democrat).

      2. fredwilson

        I miss frank zappaFred

        1. greenskeptic

          I saw Dweezil’s show at the Warner Theatre in DC last month, Zappa Plays Zappa. Didn’t know what to expect, but he was amazing. Weirdest part of the evening — but also pretty amazing — was Dweezil playing a dueling guitar solo with his father, who was projected on the video screen. I don’t know how they got the soundboard to mix so well, but it sounded like Frank was backstage. Remarkable.But I couldn’t help wondering, is it a “tribute band” when your son performs the music?

          1. fredwilson

            It’s a tribute of a different sort, more authentic for sure

  14. Bill

    I had not seen Sullivan’s article before. Thanks for the pointer, Fred. To be honest, I had a hard time stating why I was coming around to Obama and this explains it perfectly, as well as why I’ve never been really happy with Clinton.