Friday, February 03, 2017

Steve Bannon and the Fourth Turning

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Bozon said...

I enjoyed this reprise of the Bannon S & H matter you have previously discussed.

Although their thesis is not one I have looked at closely, it seems sad to me that Bannon has apparently already used it, and intends to use it in the future, to support his view, based almost certainly on several other grounds as well, of a major crisis that is here and now requiring a drastic response from us.

All the best

Frank Hawkins said...

Professor -- I have been thinking a lot about the Fourth Turning theory, and while I don't like to critique things where i haven't read the original source (a lesson you drummed into me back in the Harvard course in 1980), I must say that I think that I'm not as pessimistic as you are. All of the turnings took a lot of time to play out, and -- even if the turning began on or about 9/11 -- I think that it's far from certain that it is playing out in the GOP's favor. Rather, I think that the GOP is the institution that will end up fracturing and being destroyed, rather than governing structures.

In particular, I see a lot of parallels between what's happening now and the pre-Civil War era, and I actually think that the Bush presidency (both 9/11 and the financial crash) is more analogous to the 1845 to 1850 era in which seeds that would play out over time were planted than to the true cataclysm that reshaped the country. I think Obama will end up being more consequential than Bush, not because he himself changed policy directions during his term as much as you or I might have wished, but because he quietly planted a lot of seeds himself and consolidated a lot of things in the background that will play out positively after the chaos brought on by Trump's election subsides (e.g., renewable energy -- it's developed a market momentum that will be hard to reverse).

Bannon is definitely doing his best to be a world-historical figure, but I believe (perhaps because the system worked during Watergate) that his crazier ideas will be unable to get traction against naturally conservative institutions. And in particular, I think that the resistance to partnering with Russia -- and the suspicion that Putin is trying to manipulate the US and its allies -- will be the rock on which Bannon's schemes will founder.

I will try to write out my thoughts more fully at some point -- would be interested in your take.

I would view the Trump presidency as the equivalent of Buchanan -- the last failing gasp of the old order -- and the true turning as yet to come

José Antonio Vanderhorst-Silverio said...

Dear Professor David Kaiser,

Good afternoon!

For your information, I sent a letter to  Dana Forsythe with the subject "Interview request on Howe and Strauss with you, professor David Kaiser or both of you" just before I saw your blog. As you may be aware, after that I tweeted suggesting to please consider our #BrightGlobalization twittwer conversations.

Best regards,

José Antonio Vanderhorst Silverio

David Kaiser said...

Frank Hawkins--can you refresh my memory as to your identity? Your view of where we are is shared by younger generational watchers I know, but I'm not convinced. I think the Left missed its chance under Obama. The Democrats will come into power but the damage will be done by now, I think. But I could be wrong!

Jose Antonio: Email me at if you still want to interview me.

Frank Hawkins said...

Professor -- I was a student in your modern European history course in 1980. No particular reason that you would remember me -- we spoke at your office hours a couple of times, but it was a fairly large course and I was not a history concentrator. But I do remember the course well -- it was one of my favorites, and the analytical approach you suggested to me when I was writing my paper on the Suez crisis is one that I have used over and over in my business career and that has always served me well.

I do agree that the left missed a great chance under Obama -- he thought that in a time of crisis, the Republicans would put the interests of country over party, as I think he thought he was doing, and hence he tried bipartisanship. Unfortunately, the Republicans post-Gingrich were a very different party than the one that had responded positively to big national needs, such as civil rights in the 60s. Obama's failure to do something more aggressive with his brief Senate supermajority to counterbalance the public perception of corporate bailouts before pushing on health care -- a second stimulus focused on infrastructure, a foreclosure moratorium -- cost him the 2010 elections and also cost the country dearly.

As long as Trump doesn't do anything totally disastrous in foreign policy, though, I think that most things that will be done domestically on his watch will end up prompting otherwise passive citizens to protest and vote, and therefore can be fixed. Assuming, that is, that the "efficiency gap" approach taken in the Wisconsin redistricting case survives Supreme Court review. Otherwise, Democratic majorities will be the temporary product of revulsion with Trump rather than a foundation to build upon, because the built-in conservative bias in the districts will reassert itself when citizens return to passivity.