A fascinating article at Salon.com on whether the election of Barack Obama represents the beginning of a new segment of American history, within the context of the Three Republics model:
George W. Bush was not only the final president of the Jeffersonian backlash period of Roosevelt’s Third Republic, but the last president of the 1932-2004 Third Republic itself. The final president of a republic tends to be a failed, despised figure.
The First Republic, which began with George Washington, ended with James Buchanan, a hapless president who refused to act as the South seceded after Lincoln’s election.
The Second Republic, which began with Abraham Lincoln, ended with the well-meaning but reviled and ineffectual Herbert Hoover.
The Third Republic, founded by Franklin Roosevelt, came to a miserable end under the pathetic George W. Bush.
Unlike most of the hyperbolic editorials I’ve read on Obama’s victory this one gives a technological and economic historical context:
…what causes these cycles of reform and backlash in American politics? I believe they are linked indirectly to stages of technological and economic development.
Lincoln’s Second American Republic marked a transition from an agrarian economy to one based on the technologies of the first industrial revolution — coal-fired steam engines and railroads.
Roosevelt’s Third American Republic was built with the tools of the second industrial revolution — electricity and internal combustion engines. It remains to be seen what energy sources — nuclear? Solar? Clean coal? — and what technologies — nanotechnology? Photonics? Biotech– will be the basis of the next American economy.
This presents an interesting historical framework to the United States. As to whether it’s true, only time will tell.