Skip to main content

In her excellent response to the President’s State of the Union speech last night, Kathleen Sebelius, Democratic Governor of Kansas, made reference to the new generation. Sebelius referred to Tom Brokaw’s "greatest generation" but made the case that the "greatest generation" is not behind us but ahead of us.

We are at that classic 60-year shift between the third and fourth post-war generation; a time, say historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, when the country falls apart and reformulates – saved by the bell – by the fourth and last post-war generation which begins the world again.

This week we saw the awakening of the new political generation when Caroline Kennedy and her Uncle Ted endorsed Barack Obama for President.

It brings to life an entirely new generational personality and organizational direction for the Democrats, but one which has been building for several years. Mark Warner, Governor of Virginia, who briefly considered running for President several years ago, first offered a fork in the road for the Democrats. Warner, Yankee-reared and Harvard-educated, ran successfully in the Old Dominion by ignoring and condemning the polarization that had occurred in small-town Appalachia since the 1960s; dividing people by class and religion.

We [Democrats] can’t take a pass on region or religion, said Warner.

"We’ve never believed that some people count and some people don’t," he said. "So we need to stop acting that way. That’s not who we are, and we’ve got to make that clear."

Warner and Sebelius were voted by Wall St. venders two of the five best Governors in the country. Warner pioneered what he began to call "across the isle" politics, working with Republicans, working with Democrats, working with everyone who would work. It was a new idea for the Democrats: Democrats with advanced management abilities and without ideology. My Governor here in New Hampshire, John Lynch, brought the same approach to New Hampshire with great success and was reelected in a landslide.

This group was joined with a new wave of Democrats in ’06, including Iraq veterans called the Fighting Dems, like Carol Shea-Porter of NH and Joe Sestak of PA. Jim Webb, the fierce new Senator from Virginia, was in the avant garde of this new movement. As Sebelius said last night, this new group in Congress has brought a new spirit of cooperation to Congress. Her speech last night has brought the "across the isle" spirit of the "New Democrats" pioneered by Warner and Lynch to the mainstream.

And in sequence with Jim Webb who did the post-State of the Union speech task last year, a theme begins to develop. No doubt Obama, who claims the mantle of "post partisanship," will be looking to Sebelius when he is thinking of a Vice President.

Warner was perhaps the first to breach the generational divide. He had a great appeal to a younger generation just rising to politics; Sebelius’s "greatest generation" just ahead. Jim Webb, novelist, warrior and former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, brought almost avatar qualities to the new generation. Political blogs like Daily Kos were given some large responsibility for his successful victory against big odds in Virginia.

But ‘twas ever thus: The old generation refused to move out of the way.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, who coined the phrase Fighting Dems and heavily promoted these veterans on his blog, suggested in an op-ed article in The Washington Post in May of 2006 that there were now two Democratic parties; old Democrats, and he mentioned Senator Clinton, and new Democrats, and he mentioned Russ Feingold, Senator from Wisconsin and Mark Warner, who had recently scored one and two in his monthly survey of readers. (Hillary hovered around zero.) In ’06 Moulitsas actively promoted the new wing of the Democratic Party, featuring a new Fighting Dem every week.

"Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination,"

wrote Moulitsas in the Post article.

"She is a leader who fails to lead."

She does not appear "electable." But most of all, he wrote, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem:

The New York senator is part of a failed Democratic party establishment -- led by her husband -- that enabled the George W. Bush Presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad.

Moulitsas was right then and he is right today. The Clintons, who claim to have offered a "bridge to the 21st century" now offer a bridge back to the 20th century. In fact, the ’08 race is rapidly becoming a farce because of the Clintons. For anyone who cared to look, it was then and is now always about Bill as has became crystal clear these past few weeks.

Peggy Noonan writes that John McCain makes the mocking, red-faced Bill Clinton "look old." The former President race-baiting Obama, is an embarrassment to the country. He could very well have lost the whole absurd drama for his wife (and himself) this week.

The older Democrats are rapidly coming out of "Clinton Denial." This week The Nation and key writers for The New Republic have turned against the Clintons, using phrases like,

"maybe the conservatives were right about Bill all along."

So have virtually every important Democrat - Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and most important of all Caroline Kennedy.

This week brought the major turning point for the Democrats. Ted Kennedy has found his status as a senior statesman: He was right about the war on Iraq from the beginning and now the fourth post-war generation is beginning to look at him as the Gray Champion; the Senior Statesman who stood up to Billary and a corrupt political machine and sent them into marginalia. This week endorsements for Barack Obama came in from every major newspaper in the country except The New York Times which endorsed Hillary but was trumped by Caroline Kennedy endorsing Senator Obama in the Sunday edition.

For people of the age which heard of the death of JFK over the loudspeaker in high school, nothing goes deeper than Caroline Kennedy. It goes to the beginning. We saw her and her brother as children in the White House at the time of our first awakening; the First Family was our family and the first children were our American family. And time is a savage: when C Span and The Jim Lehrer Newshour cut between the thin elegance and grace of Caroline Kennedy on the stage at American University with Uncle Ted, it held a dreary contrast to the Senator from New York, prowling the stage alone, cornered, like a predator cougar, as aggressive as Big Nurse, a commissar or party aparatchik, threatening and demanding her entitlement, and in defiance of party rules, virtually trying to steal Florida.

The contours of the New Democrats are now coming clear through a glass darkly: Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, Jim Webb and Kathleen Sebelius. A new party is awakening with a new generation. The old party is the Clintons and a couple of party-bound Kennedys, secondary family members whose names we can’t quite place.

The Democrats could finally push Elvis from the building. The question now: Is there time before Super Tuesday?

Originally posted to Bernie Quigley on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:16 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  YES. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    importer, rainmanjr, califdem, Tom Enever

    There's plenty of time. Don't forget that Hillary was leading Obama by double digits in SC.

    •  Please wake me up when the HRC bashing ends! (0+ / 0-)

      Great! Another HRC hate diary probably headed for the rec list.  All of this phony balony outrage about how "mean" she is. How "old school" she is. Clearly, I'm in the minority here, but I am very frustrated with Dkos this primary season. It could be renamed the "Why I hate Hillary Clinton blog."

      I see that even kos today tried to put a damper on it with his "Fraud in South Carolina" post.

      Talk about poisoning the Democratic well!  This sites constant carping and the Matthews/Olberman tag team have done more to tear a whole in the Democratic Party than big bad Bill Clinton ever did.

      Enough already!

  •  Nothing says "new" & "change" like Ted Kennedy (7+ / 0-)

    and that's spoken as an Obama supporter

  •  "New Democrats" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trinityfly, TennesseeGurl, Tom Enever

    I'm going to start using that phrase: New Democrats.


    Al Gore didn't lose in 2000. America did.

    by fink on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:19:45 AM PST

  •  Nice thoughtful diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trinityfly, rainmanjr, Tom Enever

    Thanks for the input

    I told you when I met you I was crazy

    by crazyshirley2100 on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:20:08 AM PST

  •  Agreed (7+ / 0-)

    I don't think people who are afraid of the supposedly centrist language realize that the antedote to Bush is NOT to govern for 51% of the country- as much fun as it would be.

    We need to have a real governing coalition- something we haven't had since the mid 60s.  Ever since then, despite times when we had HUGE Congressional majorities, our nation has been ruled by the center right.

    Bush will be impeached.

    by jgkojak on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:20:40 AM PST

  •  Gov Sebelius (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rainmanjr, TennesseeGurl, Tom Enever

    did give a mighty good response to the pisspoor sotu speech the idiot king delivered last night.

    Not to take anything away from her speech BUT a deaf mute would have had more pertinent things to say about the state of our union last night then we got from booosch


    by KnotIookin on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:21:25 AM PST

  •  RFK Jr is a name you cant place? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadRuth, oysterface, mrblifil

    lots of respect from obama supporters as usual.

  •  Snicker (7+ / 0-)

    Teddy Kennedy a "New Democrat."  I love Teddy and he's been a "New Democrat" for forty years.

    By the way, got any idea how ancient this meme is?  "New Democrats" comes around most every time.  Most of the people on your list have very different positions on the issues from each other.

  •  I've heard a lot of critique on the Gov's respons (4+ / 0-)

    mostly that it wasn't partisan enough, or that she wasn't animated quite enough.

    Personally, I thought she could have been a bit less robotic, but that it was a good message that is pure heartland. You don't get to be a popular Democrat in Kansas by being a fire breathing partisan who only seeks to assign blame.

  •  Excellent diary... (0+ / 0-)

    I like new Democrats and in the media coverage of SOTU last night, Webb was clearly articulating these themes.

    To answer you question, we are close to pushing Elvis from the building but he is very heavy.

  •  Mark Warner would make a great VP. (0+ / 0-)

    But Sebelius practically put me to sleep, though.  She may be a great Governor but she's not very dynamic.  She was briefly mentioned as a VP possibility, by CNN, before her speech but I seriously hope that doesn't happen.

    Being bipolar means that I sometimes lose control and speak in generalities. Sorry if I offended anyone. Most is just snark, anyway.

    by rainmanjr on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:27:32 AM PST

  •  hmmm (0+ / 0-)

    sounds like a kinder, gentler version of  Clinton Derangement Syndrome to me.

  •  No need to make it an either /or choice (0+ / 0-)

    The Democratic party is a big party, and likely growing.  I don't see why any of us has to choose between a particular faction. There is room for the Clintons, the Kennedys, Sebelius, Obama, Elliot Spitzer & Scott Kleeb.  

    I have chosen to support Obama; however, it would be a real loss to the party to choose his 'team' in the hopes of marginalizing the institutional knowledge, and yes wisdom, of the Clintons.  

    I am ready for change, and will vote accordingly. Thus a passing of the torch in now in order.  But I also respect experience and I hope all of the party elders remain engaged.    

    Dogs have so many friends because they wag their tails instead of their tongues. -Anonymous

    by gloryous1 on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:30:30 AM PST

  •  Sebelius' speech was just average (0+ / 0-)

    In all the years that I've seen responses, I've only seen one that was good, and it was damn good, which is Jim Webb's last year.

    Webb should be on the top of the list for VP candidates.

  •  Kennedy is a "new Democrat?" Seriously? (0+ / 0-)

    I thought Gov. Sibelius gave a great response last night. And quite a coup for Obama. The only problem is that presented a very thoughtful summary, based on facts. Which means that the media rat-pack immediately ignored it because it didn't feature anyone at someone's throat or didn't have the 15th horserace speculation of the day as a headline.

    But come on, don't pull anyone's leg. Teddy Kennedy is not a new Democrat, no matter how well he presented his 16 smash points. He is as old Democrat and as establishment as you can get. And whatever he gains from Kennedy, he may lose from the voters who want very much to see not only the lofty, great speeches, but some details about the future, which he eloquently emphasized post-South Carolina. But instead, in each news cycle since his great win, the media have decided that we have to put the future on hold for a while so that we can be stimulated by the Camelot story of 1960, and fitting Obama for the JFK Suit and Obama getting blessed by the Democratic Party establishment, Teddy at the head of it.

    Isn't that just what Obama and his staff were either rejecting or dismissing in importance just three weeks ago: the old establishment and dwelling on the past? There was one JFK. Obama needs to be a transcendent individual who is unique and consistent in his focus, not bouncing back and forth from past to future and being branded as the "new" JFK.

    •  Obama is (0+ / 0-)

      transcendant...contrary to conventional wisdom, some of us, old-TK included, have gone full circle. We need a renewal of the kind of energy and inspirational leadership for the future we experienced under JFK. Witnessed now, as witnessed then. The issues of course, will be different.

      One is not necessarily brain-dead and backward-thinking simply because one has survived 7 + decades on the planet.

      •  Thanks, Sybil . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        hope it goes well with you. RE Kennedy: Some people improve with age and their karma is to be great when they are old although they may be mediocre or even complete failures when they are young. As a Boston Irish person I have never really warmed to Ted Kennedy until five years ago although I was of course a JFK and Bobby loyalist. His was the liberal position on the war in Iraq and it was possible to look at it as something he would support in any circumstances. But I did not see it that way: I saw particular emerging character in Kennedy as a Senior Statesman and Pilgrim's Progress in Senator Byrd; direct clear and open fair-mindedness in Russ Feingold and straight-forward character in Wes Clark, all of whom had the same position on the invasion. These people formed a new coalition of character and I came to have new regard for them. People change, and the best of us even learn by our experiece. Cheers, Bernie

        •  I think we had better learn (0+ / 0-)

          by our experience, and most especially by our mistakes. (I'm not seeing quite enough of that to suit me.)

          It goes well, Mr. Q.

          I read you often, as always with a great deal of appreciation. (even tho I don't agree with you when it comes to my governor)


  •  Howard Dean needs to be on that list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The 50 State Strategy is what this "new" group of Democrats is supporting.  Run a candidate in every race, in every state, in every district and town.  Expand the party and take America back.  It's about putting a new face on our party, and spreading Progressive ideas at all levels.

    "Hope is that thing inside us that insists...that something better awaits us if we have the courage to fight for it." --Barack Obama

    by loree920 on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:45:34 AM PST

    •  Yes - Marcos mentioned Howard Dean - New Dems (0+ / 0-)

      in the Washington Post article and he was perhaps the first initiative . . . . there have been many New Democrats - the phrase was used last by the Fighting Dems two years ago in specific reference to Warner, Webb, Carol Shea-Porter, Joe Sestak and the Fighting Dems.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site