Millennial Makeover: Myspace, Youtube, and the Future of American Politics

By Morley Winograd; Michael D. Hais | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14

Rebuilding America's Civic
Infrastructure

HISTORICALLY, civic realignments have led to the renewal and expansion of American governmental institutions. The first civic restructuring that occurred during what Strauss and Howe call the Revolutionary generational cycle was led by America's first civic generation, born between 1742 and 1766, and included Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Paul Jones, and Abigail Adams among its members. After providing much of the leadership during the American Revolution, the voices of this republican generation were the key to the ratification of the Constitution. And their service in the nation's first cabinet turned that visionary document into living proof of the power and practicality of a democratic system of government.

Strauss and Howe maintain that there was no actual civic generation in the Civil War generational cycle that followed the Revolutionary cycle—the only incomplete cycle in our history. Nevertheless, the first two decades that followed the Civil War had many of the attributes of a true civic era: a major economic expansion accompanied by substantial economic equality, acceptance of large-scale immigration, and a lessening of concern with social issues such as women's rights and substance abuse. Unfortunately, there was no large civic generation in place to restrain the tendencies of the next generation, who came into power with the largest generational landslide victory in U.S. history. In the congressional elections of 1868, the generation of Ulysses S. Grant defeated onethird of the incumbent members of Lincoln's generation (Strauss and Howe 1997). The ultimate result of this generational transfer of power was the political compromise of 1877, which formally ended Reconstruction with the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and set back the

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