Old America vs New America

Peggy Noonan writes an interesting analysis of this year’s presidential campaign. The first several paragraphs are just about difficulties Barack Obama and John McCain have had this week. But then she describes this year’s campaign as a contest between the Old America, represented by McCain, and the New America, represented by Obama.

“In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should.

In the New America, love of country is a decision. It’s one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.”

There are several more contrasts. None of them are primarily about political issues, the usual defining differences between Republicans and Democrats. These are about values, about ways of seeing ourselves, our country, and the world. In most of them, I find myself more of an “Old American.”

Noonan points out that it’s not necessarily about age (“some young Americans have Old America heads and souls; some old people are all for the New”), although age is certainly an obvious difference between these two candidates. I am younger than Barack Obama, though only by a few months.

I don’t know how accurate her picture is of those people who support McCain (I would pick McCain over Obama but I’m also going to take a good look at third-party candidates) compared to those who support Obama. But it certainly is an interesting approach to the election, and likely captures how many people will make their choices.

She seems to suggest that this favors Obama: “America is always looking forward, not back, it is always in search of the fresh and leaving the tried.” Certainly Obama’s message of “change” resonates with many people who have become disillusioned with politics as usual. It is too bad that needed change often includes discarding much that is good from the past along with what is its less savory baggage.

2 Responses to Old America vs New America

  1. modestypress says:

    Loving one’s country means trying to make it as decent a country as one can.

  2. Pauline says:

    I agree, modestypress. Loving our country doesn’t mean not seeing its errors, or excusing or condoning them, but trying to fix them. I don’t think people I know who would be classed as either New or Old America would disagree with that – but there’s plenty of disagreement about what constitutes being decent.

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