Gary Hart and the Cycles of History
For The Hill’s Pundit’s Blog – 7/2/2008
Gary Hart made the point in a New York Times op-ed last week that we enter a true new cycle in American history with the rise of Barack Obama. He cites Emerson. He cites Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. on the cycles of history. Henry Adams, he says, believed that “a period of about 12 years measured the beat of the pendulum.” Given the visceral level of political ping-pong going on these days it is surprising that in the week since, there has been no countervailing refutation of this thought.
“If we somewhat arbitrarily fix the age of Franklin D. Roosevelt as 1932 to 1968 and the era of Ronald Reagan as 1968 to 2008, a new cycle of American political history — a cycle of reform — is due,” writes Hart.
Historical cycles have gates and gatekeepers. If Hart is right, George W. Bush will be remembered as a Gatekeeper, but Gatekeepers close as well as open gates and Bush’s fate is to close the gate which Ronald Reagan opened. But big historical and cultural cycles contain smaller cycles and countervailing cycles which interweave together like the ceilings of the mosque at
The cycles of history theme is most accurately explained and followed today by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their recent books The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy and Millennials Rising : The Next Great Generation. The authors re-animated a theory of Roman historians which describes autonomous four-generation post-war periods called saecula. The culture breaks and turns at the beginning of the fourth post-war generation, which is now.
An example of cycles of history can be seen when W.J. Cash, from
We are at that point right now with WW II history and its afterglow, Cold War. The country is ready to move away from seeing
It is good that Hart cites Emerson, New England’s celestial bard, who saw us Americans born free in nature and urged us to leave the Euro-past behind and find ourselves again here, free and independent; going alone, refusing even the good models, and “ . . . even those which are sacred in the imagination of men,” - perched and united in a central meeting place between East and West. The “center of the world” to the world’s
“Once elected, Barack Obama would have a rare opportunity to define a new Democratic Party,” writes Hart. “He could preside over the beginning of a new political cycle that, if relevant to the times, would dominate American politics for three or four decades to come.”
The new gate, the new century and the new generation opens now with Obama. Interesting that Obama is the political avatar who comes here from the East (
Note to Obama: The cycles of history quite often end in what some in TQM management culture call the Merlin/Arthur Syndrome; the combination of a visionary politician and a master manager who executes and completes the visionary’s purpose. Merlin, the visionary, sees the world inside to its center but needs an agent to bring this vision to the outside world and that is Arthur. Arthur, has the ability to execute a historic master plan but requires the inner vision of the sage to find the plan; he cannot go there by himself. In real life, the executor, Arthur, is usually a military General and that is how the last three historical saecula in