Ruben  Navarrette Jr.,

"This is the bypass generation," Liu said. "People in our cohort have learned to embrace politics by other means. There are a lot of people in Generation X who just decided that traditional politics was too broken, too boring, too irrelevant and that they needed to channel their energy, passion, idealism in other directions."

Obama's challenge is to bring them back into the fold. He might do just that.

Consider Obama's recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." The day after, all my media colleagues wanted to talk about was Obama's admission that he's thinking about running for president in 2008. The real question is what Obama would bring to the table should he run.

Moderator Tim Russert asked Obama about a passage in his new book where the senator laments that -- whenever baby boomers lock horns -- "you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the '60s." Obama responded that, yes, he believed that many of our political arguments -- over civil rights, abortion rights, foreign policy -- were "shaped by the '60s and ... the (influence of) baby boomers."

Hallelujah. Someone finally said it. I mean, does the country really need another debate over Vietnam?

Obama also said that while baby boomers like to argue the benefits of big government versus small government, "the current generation is more interested in smart government" -- that is, just enough government to get the job done but with a willingness to try a market solution if that makes sense.

It's one reason that Liu thinks Obama is uniquely positioned to do more than simply run a campaign -- that he can help start a movement.

"I look at someone like Barack Obama," Liu said, "and I think here is a person who can tell a story about the original purposes of American politics that will make people stop and think and hear it again for the first time."

I don't know about you, but that's one story I can't wait to hear.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.,

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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