Is Obama a harbinger of heightened tolerance?


A number of writers have positioned the 2008 presidential election as a generational watershed, not least because of the dynamic personal quality that helped Obama to emerge at the top of the Democratic pack. (Of course, there's still plenty of politics as usual, on both sides).

George Packer recently wrote about this in the New Yorker, looking at why conservatives are worried.

A lot more can be said about all this possible tectonic shifting of electoral politics. But for now, it's worth noting two divergent trends:

1) We've heard a lot about how Obama's race will affect his chances, and how some white voters, even if they won't tell this to pollsters, don't plan on voting for him because he is black.

2) On the other hand, the rising generation of young Americans is said to be generally more tolerant, as with issues of sexual orientation. And a recent Pew survey found broad tolerance in the US regarding matters of religion.

So what happens when the rubber meets the road?

Does tolerance persist or fade as people age? Does the lesser degree of concern among young people over racial differences negate subtle and overt bigotry?

Or does the congenial atmosphere for Democrats in 2008  make all this moot?

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