The post-babyboomer generation of American voters will exert its strongest influence to date in the 2008 presidential election, signaling the beginning of the end of party, Washington Insider and "good old boy" controlled politics. Governor Palin and Senator Obama are both examples of this changing tide.
This newer generation has the largest number of independent voters in U.S. history, reflecting the growing decline in major political party affiliations. Why this changing trend? First, the proliferation of mass communications permits American voters of today to access all the information they need to make an informed decision. Only 30 to 40 years ago, these sources, certainly not in today's numbers, did not exist--i.e., independent cable television networks, talk radio, the internet, etc. As a result, voters depended heavily on the two major political parties and their respective platforms to guide voter decisions. And, the candidates of each party adhered strictly to those guidelines. Voters no longer must depend on the political parties for their information.
Another reason for the changing trend is the growing disdain by this generation for Congress and other professional politicians. In all public opinion polls, Congress falls at the bottom, followed closely by lawyers and the mass media. The perception by a growing number of Americans is that these groups are prejudiced and unreliable sources who have their own agendas and clients.
A third reason, is that this younger generation of voters has grown weary of partisan politics where "the Party" always comes first, regardless of what is in the best interest of individual citizens and the nation.
So, what do these winds of change mean going forward?
For the first time in many national elections, this younger generation of voters has been energized by new faces from outside the Washington D.C. beltway--i.e., Palen and Obama. At this stage in the election, Biden, I believe, is viewed as "more of the same" and McCain, though a veteran of the Senate, has a reputation as a maverick against the status quo, including his own party. Who knows what all of this means in terms of the election results.
I believe a couple of things are for certain however--first, it will be a very close election that will be determined by this growing number of independent voters; and, second, Sarah Palen is going to make it damn entertaining. At the end of the day, though, what independent voters, and others as well, want is effective leadership that they can trust to keep them safe and solvent.
We have had non-Washington "outsiders" elected president and vice president before--Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The truth is, presidents, whoever they may be, simply cannot effect the kind of change today's generation of voters seek. That can only happen with a fundamental change to our approach at electing those in Congress and fundamental changes in legislation governing "guaranteed" tenures of bureaucrats who populate and control the very bowels of Washington.
In my opinion, we must return to the basic tenants of elective service as envisioned by our founding fathers. Simply put, Jefferson and his colleagues never intended that Congressmen and Senators would serve more than one term before going back home to work and make an honest living. They viewed elective office as a sacrifice for their country and not as a life-long gravy-train for a bunch of self-perpetuating politicians using pork barrel "give-aways" to buy the support of voters in their election districts and states.
I am encouraged by what I see from today's younger voters and believe they are in the best position of any generation to make decisions based on fact and to help right the ship of state.