David Brooks has an interesting piece subtitled Is Tony Blair what Bill Clinton should have been? in the current Atlantic Monthly. What’s interesting to me is that Blair has been practicing “the third way” most of his life, most amusingly as a rock promoter on Saturdays and a religious proselytizer on Sundays in his college days. Also of note is Blair’s deep religiousity and his following of philosopher John Macmurray, an inventor of communitarianism.
The piece concludes with an interesting generational observation:
He risked his political career on a single moral proposition: that it was right to use U.S. and British strength to liberate the people of Iraq. Whatever one thinks of his specific policies, one has to recognize that this points to something in him deeper and more interesting than previously seen. In waging a struggle on behalf of such a widely unpopular cause, Blair has emerged as the world’s greatest Baby BoomerÃ¢€”the figure Bill Clinton wanted to be. Perhaps we are beginning to see in him what Baby Boomer gravitas will look like: a little self-righteous, in keeping with the generational mode; a little utopian, because Baby Boomers always did believe that theirs was the most gifted generation and was meant to solve the problems of humankind; a little self-absorbed and self-indulgent; but also admirably independent and self-confident. At least in the case of Tony Blair, the stubborn idealism compensates for and even redeems the annoyances.
Boomers grew up drunk on idealism and have always spent an inordinate amount of time congratulating themselves for this quality. As Blair’s example suggests, their idealism may mature, taking on a serious and productive form. Here’s hoping.