Friday, September 05, 2008

Wrong for 12 Hours

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 9/05/08

Directly after Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention I wrote a column saying that Obama would be the “fourth man”; the significant figure in a historical sequence that opens the last post-war generation and the figure which the country consolidates around. It is that figure who makes history. It is that figure who is remembered when the culture turns. Everyone else who came before is forgotten.

12 hours later John McCain nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President. History could well show that I have never been so wrong in my prognosis. But I have been wrong about things before and held on to the wrong for years, even decades. This time I was wrong for only 12 hours.

I came to the conclusion about Obama because of a system I use; a theory of generational sequences unfolding in history in an eight-part, four-generation pattern observed by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. The system combines business cycles and religious cycles together to create historical pictures in 80-year patterns. When I first studied the theory and corresponded with author Howe about it, I wrote to both John Kerry and John McCain and said that one or the other of them was likely to be the Gray Champion; the old soldier who restores grandfather’s old values and character and reawakens that character in the new generation. The question is, which one?

There had been two men in mid-century who had awakened new ideas and spirit in our post-war period, Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. John Kerry would come forth to materialize the spirit of Kennedy or John McCain would come forth to materialize the spirit of Reagan.

But when Obama appeared on the scene last year, the Kennedy karma was apparent although the trip to Germany (“I am a Berliner,”) was a little contrived; a little over the top. Nevertheless, McCain, looking to Lieberman or Romney for VP, was holding a bluff; he had nothing in his hand: Obama would open the gate to the new generation.

Then Sarah Palin happened.

“Happened” is a good way to express it because the Strauss/Howe ideas are actually based on the archetypal theories of C.J. Jung and work much like Jung’s theory of personality types, which alternate and complement one another. The cycle is predictable; the agent of change is not. As Jung wrote, the archetypes are based “ . . . in the Universe” – the endless Fibonacci swirl of the unconscious. They seem to come, “ . . . out of nowhere.”

What I get for being self assured. Looking more closely, Kennedy actually fulfilled an older path. His vision was an extension of Roosevelt and the New Deal. A system intended for a large European immigrant labor force which worked primarily in factories. Then Kennedy applied the old system to a variable labor force in a different age.

Reagan, on the other hand, was a new beginning to a new labor force with new business patterns and new populations, particularly in the West. It was a system beginning to suit itself to a continent that had finally become filled with people doing varied tasks, not laborers clustered together and doing related tasks in vast factories in Detroit, Fall River, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh and other Eastern cities.

Reagan began to bring new solutions to a new set of economic conditions and to a people less beholden to Europe as the pre-war generation of laborers. His was a “prequel” to something which would come ahead to find its fulfillment. Kennedy was a sequel to a labor period which had more or less already completed itself with Roosevelt.

The common misperception today is that McCain, if elected, will not run again in 2012 because he will be too old. McCain is a warrior – a Jedi – and it is not in the warrior’s nature to retire, but to die at the wheel. Retirement is not native to the soul condition of the Samurai or Templar; Samurai follows the path where duty leads. There is no good English word for this but the word to the Hindu is dharma; duty to the path; to nature; as the path opens before you. No rest, no retreat, no ordinary pleasures of the everyday. It is quite possible to see now with McCain/Palin a 16-year historical ride with the two working closely together; a ride to the end of the saeculum.

Strauss and Howe point out that the historical period ends with the singular man who fulfills the period and that is the person who history remembers. In the last three periods that will have been Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. If our historical period follows the pattern, the final figure could well be Sarah Palin.

Maybe not. I’ve been wrong about these things before, but only for 12 hours.