Friday, June 23, 2006

Some thoughts on the Fourth Turning – 9/11, Katrina, Iraq – the Failure of Federalism:

(readers note: The Fourth Turning is a book by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe on the saeculum theory of history. The book describes a four-genertion pattern in post-war periods, the fourth generation being the generation which rises the culture out of the abyss and awakens a new historical period. These comments were sent to a forum which discusses Strauss and Howe's theory.)

The rise of the Daily Kos and blog journalism (“citizen journalists”) indicates a new generation rising to politics. Mainstream press (2nd and 3rd generation) has been in denial of its importance until this week. Daily Kos receives 20 million readers monthly, more than all political commentary magazines in history combined. Kos and the blog political culture are bringing in a new group which may be called “New Democrats” in opposition to “Old Democrats” which they look at as a traditional “political machine.” This represents a new generation with a distinct point of view, in opposition to Bush Republicans and in opposition to other Democrats. The mainstream press has Senator Clinton as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2008, but as the LA Times reported last week she has a 0% rating at the Daily Kos. Recently Marcos Moulitsas, first among equals at Daily Kos, had an op-ed in the Washington Post identifying the old “Democratic establishment.” He identified Senator Clinton and John Kerry. New Democrats who consistently rate high in Kos polls are Mark Warner, Russ Feingold and Wesley Clark. Kathleen Sebelius, Democratic governor of Kansas, is also highly regarded in the blog culture. The recent Yearly Kos event last week in Los Angeles was a “Who’s Who” of New Democrats featuring Mark Warner and Wesley Clark. One of the keynote presenters was a young woman blogger, 15 years old. Yearly Kos was a watershed event which began to bring the group to mainstream influence.

If you look closely, the opinions on issues presented in Daily Kos often do not appear to diverge greatly from mainstream liberals and often they are identical. What is different is the call for authenticity and straightforwardness of character and a disregard for the “on the one hand/on the other hand” Democrats. This is an innate reaction to 9/11 and the failure of government after Katrina. This group has sharp dissident opinions but strongly supports American troops in the war on Iraq and regularly features Iraq veterans who are running for political office as Democrats. Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran who once wrote a well-received novel about Vietnam (“Fields of Fire”) and who recently won a primary race in Virginia, was strongly supported by this group and he establishes the paradigm for the new politician. (Like Aragorn, he awakens the fight.) Likewise, Tammy Duckworth, an Army major who lost both legs in Iraq, running for office in Illinois.


Our current national scenario resembles the saeculum which preceded the last. Our country has been in a North/South paradigm for 400 years. We are changing to an East/West paradigm. But for now, division between Red and Blue states parallels contentions of the 1830s. Some writers, like political scientist Francis Fukuyama, have recently compared the Bush Presidency with the Jacksonian period, when the newly empowered Southern states to the west flaunted a new populism in the face of the Whigs in the Northeast. The analogy can be extended; the Jacksonians drove the northern Whigs to extremes just as the Democrats today are embracing issues which would have been considered esoteric just a few years ago; the Whig party in 1830 divided and formed the Republican Party just as the Democrats are dividing today; and in the 1830s the new movement ignored the mainstream press and started new forums, like The Liberator. Likewise, today, the blog culture completely ignores mainstream press, viewing it with suspicion (tool of “machine politics”) and going its own way.

The division today in the U.S. between Red states and Blue states is similar to the North/South contentions which arose in the 1830s (to coin a phrase, politics is war by other means). Richard Viguerie, an early organizer of the Christian Right, which led the Red state movement, said recently that the Christian Right will no longer support the President. But the CR is not going away. The CR has learned that politics cannot bring about what it wants. Its essential problem lies not with politics but with the nature of federalism; which federalism, Jefferson’s version or Hamilton’s? This has been at the core of contention since Washington joined Adams and Hamilton in opposition to Jefferson and Madison at Jay’s Treaty and was a root cause of the Civil War. Commentators on the Right have now proposed a Constitutional Convention. The CR is inherently Jeffersonian. The Christian Right could well abandon politics now and instead challenge federalism & Tom DeLay will lead the way. The new Kos generation is inherently Hamiltonian in its outlook. The new Kos generation will exacerbate this as its orientation in inherently liberal in a way that the Religious Right is not.

There is organic potential here for advancing internal division in the U.S., which is one of the 60th year (that would be this year) disaster scenarios suggested in the Strauss and Howe book. Katrina was a failure of federalism. So was the government response to 9/11 and the organization, conception and execution of the invasion of Iraq. Secession of northern states began to emerge as a political tool at the beginning of the war on Iraq. California, the Pacific Northwest and New England’s northern most states all developed regional strategies. These efforts were endorsed by the great ambassador George Kennan on his deathbed and Nation magazine called regionalism “one of the bold new ideas of the new century.” If the Democrat’s New Boss does no better than Bush, the net result could be an adoption of the Jeffersonian position and a regionalization of American culture.

But eventually we will leave the North/South paradigm behind and enter a new world of an American East/West paradigm – this will unite the world East and West and form a lasting pattern. It is the way of the new century & prelude to the millennium.

Primary Myth of the Period: Returning

The primary myth of our period is “returning to earth.” The popular “Survivor” TV series and all of its knock offs are “returning to earth” myths. The inventive TV show “Lost” is a “returning to earth” myth, even a Creation Myth (a parable of Awakening). In the late 1950s Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung wrote an essay about UFO dreams and popular culture and how these phenomena portended an awakening of the human spirit rising to the Universe. For 50 years thereafter most all pop culture was about space travel and the two great epics of the age, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” were of exploring the Universe. These encounters were fraught with anxiety and fear of the unknown but eventually union with the Universe was reached with movies like ‘E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” In the last few years people have been dreaming of returning to earth and even to the 12th century and the cave of the Earth Mother with the popularity of “The DaVinci Code,” Harry Potter and the Tolkien movies. Sci-fi today does not go to space. It goes into caves and to the core of the earth. “Lost” is just such a “returning to earth” story. We return to earth but are frightened and afraid as the earth has psychic potential with which we are unfamiliar. This is exactly like the encounters Jung described in his description of UFO dreams and in the pop culture of the 1950s. But this portends an earth age ahead, knowing the place for the first time. (For more, see “Returning” on Quigley in Exile.