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The Seattle Times

Time to Ditch Legacy Politics and Chart a New Direction

Ryan Blethen

Five presidential contests in 16 years is a span of time and political cycles that should present a voter a variety of political choices.

For me, and anybody near my age of 35, it has not happened and will not if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.

My misgivings about Clinton have as much to do with her name as they do her politics. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, a Clinton or Bush will have been on every ballot since my first presidential vote in 1992. This royal succession did not start with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. My peers and I became politically aware in the 1980s during the vice presidency, and presidency, of the elder Bush.

Why stop the trend with the current generation of Bushes/Clintons? Chelsea Clinton for prez in 2016! She will be 36 by 2016, making her technically eligible to be president.

My generation has been called a lot of things, including Xers slackers, cynics. I propose the Bulinton Generation. We have weathered Lewinsky, impeachment, record deficits and the Iraq war - all formative events with the Bushes and Clintons at the core.

A comparison of the presidential choices for voters in their early to late 30s of our parents' choices is a sad statement on how stagnant the two-party system has become.

The Gen Bulinton ballots have looked like this: 1992, Bush/Clinton; 1996, Clinton/Dole; 2000, Gore/Bush; 2004, Bush/Kerry; 2008, McCain/Clinton or Obama.

The first five elections my parents voted in started with Johnson/Goldwater in 1964; 1968, Nixon/Humphrey; 1972, Nixon/McGovern; 1976, Ford/Carter; 1980, Carter/Reagan.

This familial fatigue is wearing on voters. It is playing out in the Democratic contest with younger voters coming out in droves for Sen. Barack Obama.

Curious what others my age are thinking about this election, I turned to a living political encyclopedia, all-around good thinker and occasional Seattle Times op-ed contributor, Matt Zemek.

I shared with Zemek, 32, my worries about the future of the United States, and asked him how important he believes this election is for the nation. Via e-mail he responded, "Before we attain all the urgently needed reforms that will get our country back on track, we need a campaign and then an election result that will put our country in position to be healed."

Zemek, an Obama supporter, was first eligible to vote in the 1996 election. He supported Sen. Bill Bradley in 2000, and Gov. Howard Dean in 2004. While the Obama/Clinton dynamic cleaves along age fault lines, Zemek believes this election offers an opportunity if the candidates break away from the campaigns we have grown up with.

"Younger people ... see how politics (like other aspects of life) can be - and, one could say, needs to be - conducted in an outside-the-box manner that can substantially change the subculture in which political battles are waged," he wrote. "If this underlying subculture can be changed, and if long-prevailing Beltway methods can be removed from 'The Way The Game Is Played,' the whole nature of politics - its possibilities and its guiding principles - will be entirely reshaped. This is the hope of young people and all who long for the kind of complete, systemic overhaul that would transform our country for the better."

I could not agree more, and feel that Zemek's comments deeply resonate with many voters.

A great nation of 300 million people should be able to come up with a non-Clinton to replace another Bush. How did the idealism of the baby boomers we hear so much about translate into the Clintons and George Bush in the White House? Is Obama the answer? I do not know. I do know that more of the same is not needed.

I believe Democrats have a chance to escape the family dynamics of the past two decades, and choose a candidate that truly offers a view different from the calcified politics dating back to NAFTA.

Ryan Blethen's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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