Obama and The Fourth American Republic

Michael Lind comes out and says what I hypothesized back in April–namely that Obama might be a harbinger of the fourth republic in America.


As I see it, to date there have been three American republics, each lasting 72 years (give or take a few years). The First Republic of the United States, assembled following the American Revolution, lasted from 1788 to 1860. The Second Republic, assembled following the Civil War and Reconstruction (that is, the Second American Revolution) lasted from 1860 to 1932. And the Third American Republic, assembled during the New Deal and the civil rights eras (the Third American Revolution), lasted from 1932 until 2004.

In Philip Bobbitt’s terminology, the shift from Republic I to Republic II was the shift from state-nation status to nation-state status.  The shift from Republic II to Republic III was the shift from the early nation-state to the full flowering of the nation-state.  Republic III to Republic IV is the move from the nation-state to the market state.

Lind again:

The first three American republics display a remarkably similar pattern. Their 72-year life span is divided into two 36-year periods (again, give or take a year — this is not astrology). During the first 36-year period of a republic, ambitious nation-builders in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton strengthen the powers of the federal government and promote economic modernization. During the second 36-year phase of a republic, there is a Jeffersonian backlash, in favor of small government, small business and an older way of life. During the backlash era, Jeffersonians manage to modify, but never undo, the structure created by the Hamiltonians in the previous era.

And on Bush a point I’ve made repeatedly, calling Bush the Right’s Carter (or perhaps LBJ, the president who presided over the end of the first half of the 3rd Republic):

The final president of a republic tends to be a failed, despised figure.

Buchanan, Hoover, Bush.  Ouch.

Lind also points out that each period is framed by the techno-economic base of the society but the actual contours and ideology of the period can not be determined in advance (in integral terms the LR sets the condition limits for the LL but does not determine its outcome).

So the precise outline of how this is going to go is up in the air, but it seems likely that we are headed for a (in Lind’s terms) Hamiltonian expansion of federal power.

Lind’s thesis (which he doesn’t mention in this article) also talks about the power racial relations during each period with each republic (in his mind) having a deal that sells out blacks.  During the first slavery.  During the second segregation/Jim Crow South.  During the third, multiculturalism with elite black pols mostly in urban areas (so-called “race hustlers” in right-wing terminology) with out-sized power and influence in these communities but basically in a devil’s bargain for the scraps from the white man’s table.

The Fourth Republic hopefully opens up a new potential and the end of the multiculturalist era.  You have many races/cultures in the 4th Republic interested in a common goal (a theme of Obama’s campaign).

I should add for those interested in the discussion around what the next conservatism will be, should look to its place in response to the coming growth of centralization and find a new way to operate (Poulos’ evolving critique of unified religio-politico-cultural ideology is central here) within this new environ.

I don’t like the term backlash as it makes conservatism sound only reactive.  I think a better way to describe it is as seeking to conserve the gains, conserve and honor the space that is created and comes to be.  (In Integral language, translation with progressivism/liberalism always seeking transformation).

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 10:56 pm  Comments (10)  
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  1. Bullshit on stilts. Well done; I think in this post, every single one of your sentences is pure crap.

    You look constantly for these sort of “meta patterns” that include a hefty amount of predicting the future — and I ask you, fucking why? Seriously, why? What good comes from any of this? Name one fucking thing that comes from this line of thinking?

    A better family?

    A better way to raise children?

    A better way to relate to family? Friends?

    A person finding knowledge?

    A person unearthing enduring truth?

    The answers to all those is clearly, No. Why do you bother with this rank guesswork clothed in your trademark rhetoric of authority?

  2. Great post Chris. I’ll have to move Bobbit and Lind’s books up on my amazon list. As someone who came of age politically during the Bush years it will be interesting to see the new forms all of this will take. Exciting times.

    MD: “What good comes from any of this? Name one fucking thing that comes from this line of thinking?”

    I often wonder the same about your invective comments.

  3. […] up fourth republic & conservatism I wanted to add a word onto last night’s post re: conservatism ‘cuz I don’t think I fleshed what I was trying to […]

  4. Exposing the idiocy of an articulate verbalist, is the point.

    Funny how you say the post is “great” without a single reason why it has any practical and genuinely useful impact on a single thing in the world.

    Dierkes specializes in mental pretensions, is the alpha and omega of his work.

  5. Nice. Chris is employing the Obama jujitsu strategy of non-reaction to Matthew’s caustic ranting. Let your opponent fly by in their violent rage. As said actor lies heaped in a tangle of broken limbs and tarnished appearance, let others intervene with comments of astonishment at what a mess the now exposed shitbird has become. We saw the planet’s two largest political machines dismantled gruesomely via this tactic. Dallman, hardly daunting as he embraces increasingly smaller shards of broken truth, is beginning to look like a chump. Rock on, numbnuts.

  6. Um, Jumawood. What you call “caustic ranting” has caused Herr Dierkes to correct and alter numerous of his “posts” over the years (and it has been years been the Herr and I); as well as at least two in the last week or so. So I thank your perspective and wish you well. I don’t care, and have never cared, whether the Herr responds to my comments. He sometimes has chosen to, and sometimes has not. That choice doesn’t effect the sheer amount of question begging, illogic, presumptions of his own authority, rampant raping of the style of TMBarnett for sheer rhetorical purpose, and huge lies that he knows shit from shinola when it comes to a) classical liberalism, b) what America is all about in the non-progressive, non-postmodern universe.

    Rock and roll!

  7. Comment on the topic at hand left by the Caustic Ranter at my pal Bill Harryman’s blog. Again, don’t care if anyone responds:

    Hey Bill,

    I’m slightly hesitant to wade into these waters with you, given your expertise in all things psychology; however, I don’t agree that “human seek patterns whether they are there or not”. Or more specifically, I think the matter is deeper than that.

    Basically, what in my view is fundamentally operative in the human psyche is not patterns, but instead ideas. Ideas such as the 104 ideas meticulously catalogued by Mortimer Adler, through his scholarship in the great works of western literature.

    The key thing is this: given an idea, a predisposition to various patterns, determined and shaped by the idea itself, arise. Patterns within ideas. Like plants within a garden. Alter the garden, the plants change. Alter the idea, or ideas, and the patterns one might detect (whether illusory or not) change.

    In other words, the idea is the medium which is the message.

    Dierkes’ is operating largely within the realms of the ideas of “progress” and “metaphysics” and “history”. These ideas bring forth possible patterns, one set of which is the kind of developmental framework he superimposes (via the authors he’s citing) upon the rise and fall of, among other counties, America.

    So to say that finding patterns is simply what humans do doesn’t cut the matter deeply enough. One must rewind one’s thinking to a) realize what ideas have been the main operator of one’s thinking, b) absorb other ideas, and live into the possible patterns that emerge and color the surface of one’s thought, c) learn to witness the whole damn thing, and d) finally weigh which ideas are the best to work from in one’s day to day life, which includes political analysis and voting.

    As far as whether thought should be tied to practical impact on human affairs, and the human condition, is certainly as assumption I’m making. I find it hard, upon deep reflection, think that requiring thought to impact the human condition (which includes the practical impacts I named and you quoted) is not a kind of prime imperative that acts as a necessary limit on the otherwise unwieldy human brain.

    But, I would stipulate, the assumption could be debatable.

  8. […] to Dallman re: Ideas/Patterns Well my post on Obama and The Fourth Republic has started to generate some good discussion. Thanks to Bill Harryman who had some kind words for […]

  9. Matthew,

    I told you what the guidelines here were I warned you on a number of occasions that you were close to abusing them–specifically no personal attacks–and you violated that with that last comment, so I’ve deleted it.

    In the future please do not comment here any longer.

  10. Yeah Juma I had to delete it.

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