Triggering a New America
GENERATIONAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL changes that are sweeping the country will cause America to experience, in this decade, the third civic realignment in its political history. Indeed, the evidence from the last two elections suggests that the newest realigning era has already begun and is simply awaiting a decisive presidential election to be fully cemented into the dynamics of the body politic. Historically, an external event of major impact is the source of a major shift in the nation's psyche, and the realigning presidential election simply confirms the political implications of that change after the event has occurred.
Many Republicans, including Karl Rove, felt the attacks of September 11, 2001, would prove to be the triggering event for a realigning election in 2004 that would confirm Republican hegemony for four more decades. But while President Bush was reelected, it was by the smallest margin of any incumbent president in modern history; and more in-depth analysis suggests that if any realignment began to take shape in 2004, it was actually away from the Republicans and toward the Democrats. In fact, because the impact of 9/11 is likely to encourage the Democratically inclined Millennial Generation to vote in large numbers, the 2008 presidential election is more likely to be a realigning election that favors Democrats than one that keeps the Republicans in the White House.
The actual outcome of the next election, as well as the nature of the realignment the country will experience, depends on the nature and timing of the triggering event and the candidates' and the political parties' reaction to that event or series of events. We may be fortunate to find, in retrospect, that 9/11 was the only catastrophe the country needed to experience in order to set off the chain reaction of responses that will lead to the next realignment. Or Millennials, like other civic generations