President Elect Obama and the Transition to the Shift Age
We are now in the transition from the Information Age to the Shift Age. In recent columns I have positioned the recent financial melt down and global economic collapse as the beginning of a painful transitional restructuring between ages. Just as the 1970s with all its stagflation and unprecedented turmoil was the transitional period between the Industrial Age and the Information Age, so is this time a transitional period between the Information Age and the Shift Age.
The election of Barack Obama, predicted by this observer over a year ago, is the political manifestation of this transition to the Shift Age. In just one week, there has been a palpable shift in America. On several deeply significant levels there is the beginning of a sense of something new taking root across the country. The immediate point, made universally by all observers, and most poignantly represented by the tears streaming down the face of Jesse Jackson- who witnessed Dr. King’s death – in Grant Park on election night, was that a black man has just been elected President. [As someone who attended Dr. King’s funeral, and actually marched part of the way to the cemetery with Bobby Kennedy and for whom Dr. King was a great hero, I too wept at this triumph begun more than 40 years ago in the South] Maybe, just maybe America, after more than two centuries of racial trauma is beginning to move on as we move into this new century and this new Age. That in itself is a major shift, and it amplifies the sense of change felt around the country and around the world, but is just part of what is going on.
Making the assumption that President Elect Obama and his team bring the intelligence, focus, discipline and cultural and technological insight evidenced in the campaign to the actual governance of the country there are several major shifts that are underway.
I predict that the 2008 election begins a major shift in the political and governmental landscape of America and that this shift will last into the 2020s. This election is like the ones of 1932 and 1980. The election of FDR in 1932, amidst a similar economic disaster, initiated a fundamental shift in the definition of both the U.S. government and the Democratic Party. This shift lasted for 20 years until the election of Eisenhower, who won because of the waging of an unpopular war [Note to all future Presidents: WWII will be the last war that will ever be called popular or necessary.]. The 1932 election initiated governmental policies that became amplified through the 1960s. Only after the 1970s transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age did this era come to an end with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan used the bad economy and failed welfare state legacy of the New Deal to initiate the conservative arc of government and politics that have lasted until last week.
We are now entering a 15-20 years long progressive, globally oriented, technologically driven political and government landscape that will create an entirely new America. The terms of the last century no longer apply. Only by speaking historically can one use the term Liberal or Conservative with any sense of meaning. New definitions will emerge. Jettison past definitions as that is what they are. In addition, I sense that the institutions called the Democratic and Republican Parties are about to undergo a transformation. They feel out of date as functioning entities.
The Obama campaign was one of the most successful campaigns in American history. A fundamental part of that success was the way it understood and used the Internet. This example will transform presidential politics forever. It rendered the political party to secondary status. When a candidate has a direct, immediate and personal relationship with more than 3 million citizens on a daily basis it does not need a political party to get the message out. In an article I wrote more than two years ago I discussed the disintermediation of the political party in America. I will reprint that article here in its’ entirety as upon rereading it I am struck by how some of it so accurately predicted the 2008 Obama campaign.
So as we move into the Shift Age, we are about to witness a shift in American politics and government that will, in 2025 be looked back on as the beginning of a new definition of the promise of America. Look backward at your peril, hold onto the past at the certainty of being obsolete. To once again use a favorite quote:
“We must be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past.”