John P. Avlon
Author, Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics
The McCain campaign's latest round of attacks on Senator Obama's association with Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers represents an unwelcome return to a constant distraction in American politics over the last 40 years – reigniting the culture debates of the 1960s.
The baby-boom generation's coming of age was tumultuous and at times violent. The counterculture chaos and at times outright anti-Americanism of the far left led directly to the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and the ascendance of the conservative movement that has won seven out of ten presidential elections over the past 40 years.
It's no surprise then when things get desperate the Republican Party tries to re-litigate the 1960s, sticking a knife in the cultural divide to reopen the wounds and air old grievances.
There was a time when this was appropriate: At the height of the cold war the conflicts between the far left and the right seemed at times central to determining our future as a free and independent nation. In the Presidential election of 2004, it was perhaps inevitable that the competing baby-boomers George W. Bush and John Kerry would escalate that debate seeing as how they were on opposite sides of that generational divide,
But the nomination of Barack Obama promised a break with the politics of the past. Born in 1961, he is not a product of those fights – and that is in part why he's been able to campaign as a candidate of change: not just racial, but generational. Senator McCain, for his part, is part of a pre-baby boom generation that came of age in the 1950s, not the 1960s.
These two men represent different philosophies of governing, but they have in the main been united by a desire to elevate our political discourse and take it in a more honorable direction outside of the gutter fights which have divided us for too long.
With our nation at war on two fronts, facing unprecedented global fiscal crisis, diverting attention to a despicable 1960s domestic terrorist who Obama has not seen or spoken to since being elected to congress, deserves to be seen for what it is – an attempt to distract us by reigniting cultural wars which long ago lost their ability to illuminate. They have become all heat and no light, and we need to move past them if we are to move forward as a nation.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with