While watching the election coverage last night with my wife, I heard Tom Brokaw say something that stopped me in my liveblogging tracks: “Obama could be the first postmodern President.”
At the time, Obama and McCain were still slugging it out for electoral votes. Now they’re not. Now it’s over. Brokaw’s “could be” can be replaced with an “is”:
Barack Obama is the first post-modern President.
Obama is also the first African-American President, which is a breath of fresh air for a country that, historically speaking, has only recently given people of color the right to vote. This is nothing less than stunning in the best sense of the word, but it is a separate post altogether.
I do believe that Obama being the first post-modern President could have as great of an effect on this country as him being the first African-American one. Maybe an even greater and sustained one.
“What exactly is a post-modern President anyway?” you might find yourself asking. Valid question. Defining postmodernism has been likened to trying to nail Jell-o to a wall, so I’ll spare us the agony of trying to accomplish that task. But for the sake of discussion, and in Brokaw’s context, it means a President who is not a Boomer. “Post-boomer” was the word Brokaw used. (Or perhaps Chuck Todd? After four hours of coverage, the voices kind of blend together!) Obama, at 47, while officially belonging to the “Boomer” demographic, functions as a “post-boomer”, the analysts said.
What does this mean?
Answer: A lot. This has implications for every area of life, from the workplace to the pew and back again. The fact remains that Obama, regardless of where you stand on his political stances, has mobilized younger voters to actually show up at the polls, something that campaigns in the past have been powerless to do. (Remember all the hype for MTV’s “Choose or Lose” and “Vote or Die” campaigns aimed at 20-something voters in 2000 and 2004? They largely failed. They generated much excitement, but little voter turnout for Gore or Kerry in their respective elections.)
Younger voters (and thereby younger Americans) turned out to not only vote, but to vote for Obama and propel him forward into the White House. He did this by speaking their language. He utilized communication tools like Twitter and Facebook. He bought ads in video games like “Madden 2009”, effectively reaching a demographic (18-25 year old males) that is notoriously hard to reach. He spoke to the heart of young adults by saying, “Your voice matters. It matters to me and it matters to the future of this country. I’m listening.“
What does this mean?
It means that if you are an older American and you are in a place of authority and leadership, you will need to pay attention to the younger voices around you. You will need to listen or your company/church/organization will not have anyone to pick up the baton after you’re gone. It will die.
Shane Vander Hart notes: “Generation Y/Millennials will be in positions of leadership and influence soon.”
It means that young people will desire to move into places of leadership not because they feel entitled, but because they feel empowered. There’s a huge difference between the two.
It means that churches, for instance, need to study the way in which Obama reached a younger generation. A generation that is typically non-existent in the church. Obama reached them and he reached them well and it paid off. Big time.
It means that the stagnant security of the “same ol’ way” of doing things is less appealing than the riskiness of change.
This is not so much a political take on Obama’s election but a sociological one. Paul Stewart rightly notes:
“By 2050 the “minorities will be the majority” in this country and those young “millennial” voters will be running it. For better or for worse our nation will never be the same, and the church had better pay attention.”
What does this all mean? It means you don’t have to be a democrat, or even an Obama supporter to realize that his election into the White House is causing a lot more people to stand up and say, “Yes. We. Can.”