Who Will Lead the Realignment?
BY MID-2007, Gallup survey research data suggested that the nation had reached a crisis in civic confidence of historic proportions. Reflecting frustration with the inability of the new Democratic leadership in Congress to accomplish more in ending the war in Iraq and the antipathy of the Republican base to the GOP congressional leadership's support for a bipartisan proposal on immigration, the job approval rating for that institution sunk to 14 percent, the lowest ever recorded in modern-day polling. President Bush's job approval ratings also continued to drop, damaging, as columnist David Broder put it, the “brand of the entire Republican Party” (“Meet the Press” 2007). In June 2007, just 19 percent of the public thought the country was headed in the right direction, close to the all-time low of 14 percent, recorded almost exactly fifteen years earlier (McKinnon 2007).
In their book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997), William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted with uncanny accuracy exactly this scenario occurring at precisely this time period. Reflecting back on the eighty-year cycles of American history, they point out that, ironically, hostility to the nation's political system has always reached its peak right after a decade when the country is richer, more technologically sophisticated, and potentially more powerful militarily than ever before. In both 1860 and 1932, the country was pushed to examine its fundamental social contract by the force of a large and diverse generation, when a catalytic event triggered the two most significant political crises the country has ever faced. Strauss and Howe further predicted that during the first decade or so of the twenty-first century a crisis of similar magnitude would once again produce a “sweeping political realignment, as one faction or coalition capitalizes on a new public demand for decisive action. Republicans, Democrats, or perhaps a new party will decisively win the